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After shock of election, Muslim community stays strong

November 30, 2016

The recent election results came as a huge shock for almost everyone at South, but especially for Muslim students, who make up a significant portion of our school’s population and who contribute greatly to the diversity of our community. Most of South’s Muslim students are Somali or Oromo, but there are Muslim students of other races and nationalities as well.

Throughout his campaign, President elect Donald Trump made many statements that were viewed by many as hurtful and derogatory to various groups of different people, Muslims in particular. In light of Trump’s hate speech directed specifically towards Muslims, it is important to hear what the Muslim students at South have to say in response to the election results.  

Many students talked about the different ways that Trump’s campaign stirred up fears about immigrants coming to the U.S.

“It’s human nature to fear what you don’t know… Trump’s campaign was beautifully crafted the way he exploited people’s fears, it’s extremely disgusting and disruptive, but that’s what his whole campaign was run on,” said junior Abdurahman Adan.

One of the scariest things about the election to some students is that no one really knows what it might mean for them or their families. “I was watching the election with my grandmother, she’s an immigrant,” said sophomore Amira Abukar. “… and when he won, she was so terrified and sad, she was like, ‘How in the world did he win, he was saying so [many] bad things about people… what could happen to me?’ … and that hurts me so bad… there’s no way he could actually send people back, but they’re still terrified… they don’t want to live here because of [Trump] and what he says.”

“My parents came [from Somalia] during the war of the 1990s,” shared sophomore Sagal Aden. “My mother and father came to start new… to grow, to start from the bottom and make their way back to the top again, and I feel like… all their [hard work] might be torn down by Trump… they risked their lives coming here only to find that Trump might be kicking immigrants back out.”

Abukar went on to say, “I have no clue what he’s about to do… I am just so mad and terrified for what could happen to my family members.”

Trump’s most well known statement concerning  Muslims was a call for a “Total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” He later said that he wanted to require Muslim Americans to register in a government database and carry special religious identity cards.

“Even before Trump became a candidate, the media was bashing Muslim people, calling us terrorists and this and that, and Trump just used that angle to say, ‘completely ban the Muslims,’” said senior Elias Salad. Because of the stigma surrounding Muslim people, Trump’s  statements are much more impactful than they would be otherwise. As Aden said, “[It] scares me knowing that if we do end up getting a special tag it’s easier for others to target Muslims, especially Muslim females.”

Islamophobia has been a big problem for the past ten years, but it has become more apparent in the final months leading up to the election. According to the New York Times article “Hate Crimes Against American Muslims Most Since Post-9/11 Era,” hate crimes against Muslims have risen in conjunction with the growth of Trump’s campaign. Trump’s repeated statements connecting Muslims to ISIS and invoking more fear of ISIS has normalized the stereotype that all Muslims should be suspected as terrorists.

“Prior to Trump being elected, I’ve always been Muslim, I’ve always been a woman, I’ve always been black… I feel like my struggles have always been there… but now it’s just a matter of how crystal clear it’s been… it’s more obvious than ever that I have struggles that some people just can’t relate to,” said junior Naheli Ahmed.

Many students expressed that they feel their religion is misunderstood and stereotyped. “Not every Muslim is a terrorist and when a Muslim comes to the U.S. it’s not to tear the American culture down… it’s to build and bring in our culture and our perspectives to grow with the community,” said Aden.

Sophomore Hanad Ali pointed out that “the KKK say they’re Christian, but they do un-Christian-like things to black males… other Christian people might say that they’re not Christian.”

“It’s the same thing… like ISIS, they’re not Muslim, I can tell you that right off the bat” continued Ali.

As Ahmed said, “When Fox News is your only source of information on Muslims, you’re not getting a whole perspective, and I feel like if you really want to learn, if you really want to be educated on people that don’t look like you, that don’t have the same beliefs as you, it’s a matter of putting yourself out there and wanting to learn… if we’re ever going to want to have love, if we’re ever going to want to have peace, we’re going to have to tolerate each other and understand one another, and it’s a matter of really opening your eyes… [so we can] all coexist.”

When you do put yourself out there to learn, it’s easy to see that Islam is a beautiful and complex religion that cannot be defined by any stereotype. “If you look into [Islam], it’s so beautiful… the peace, serenity, harmony, throughout everybody’s hearts… once we hear the Quran, once we’re praying, it’s just beautiful, and it has a lot of meaning to me,” said Ali.

Without hesitating he went on to say: “Islam is a beautiful religion, Christianity is a beautiful religion, and Judaism is beautiful… all of these are just beautiful.” And as Adan simply said, “there’s so many nuances to every religion, [so] it’s super hard for someone to understand completely how one religious group thinks.”

“[Trump] sees a single story of what [Islam] is from seeing the news, the statistics,” said Salad.

“But that’s a single story, he doesn’t know my life, he doesn’t know my brother’s life, he doesn’t know my neighbor’s life… everybody comes from different places and [perspectives],” said Salad.

And as Ahmed pointed out, “Once you forget that someone’s a human being it’s really easy to [accept] all these hateful things people have to say against Muslim people, [but] at the end of the day we are all human beings, we are all just trying to succeed- I’m not that different from you.”

The Sunday before the election, Trump also specifically targeted the Somali community in Minnesota during a speech at the MSP airport. He accused them of being in league with ISIS, declaring, “Here in Minnesota, you’ve seen first-hand the problems caused with faulty refugee vetting, with very large numbers of Somali refugees coming into your state without your knowledge, without your support or approval… Some of them [are] joining ISIS and spreading their extremist views all over our country and all over the world.” He then added, “Everybody’s reading about the disaster taking place in Minnesota.”

This came as a blow to many Somali people throughout the country.

“I feel like he was singling out [the Somali community] when he called us terrorists… he was trying to get everybody to turn on us,” said Salad.

As Ali stated, “There’s Somali police officers, Somali teachers, Somali doctors, Somali pharmacists, Somali athletes, Somali musicians, Somali everything in Minnesota now. So I mean, Donald Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about… we gel together here. If white people came to [Somalia], it would be the exact same thing… we’d gel together.”

It is clear that the hate targeted towards minority people is a serious problem, as it has been for a very long time. Many believe that the bigotry needs to stop, no matter who it’s directed at: immigrants, Muslims, Somali people, and people of color in general. And in light of the election, this has been even more pressing.

Salad stated that, “I wasn’t surprised [that Trump won] because I knew he could win from the get go… I knew [America] was going to vote for him and it was just going to show how racist the world really is.” He went on to say,“[A lot of] people will tell you… to your face… they’ll help people of color, minority people… but when it comes to things that actually matter like the election, they actually go the other way, just helping themselves.”

From Ahmed’s perspective, “Donald Trump isn’t really a threat to me, I think it’s more the 59 million people that voted for him. I think that there’s a strength in numbers, and to me it was love versus hate on this ballot, and hate won, and to me that’s very sad.”

Yet despite the reactions of fear and anger, most students believe that the Muslim and black communities will stay strong. “Even in the Muslim religion, we’ve been through worse than this… and black culture, African American history, we’ve been through stuff way worse than this… if we can handle hundreds of years of being in chains and being whipped and picking cotton, we can handle four years of [Trump],” said Ali.

And even though it’s easy for liberals to get angry at Trump supporters for their choices during the election, it’s still important to remember that they are human too and that democracy requires that we respect the electoral results and those with differing viewpoints.   

“We should treat Trump supporters as human beings… if I liked someone that no one else liked, I’d want somebody to treat me the exact same way… that’s just the basic principles of life,” said Ali. “There are racist individuals, there’s individuals that have a narrow mindset, but it’s all about showing these people [who we are] through how we act and how we speak.”

Adan added, “[Trump] won the presidency and we have to respect him for that, that’s just the way it is.”  

Overall, many Muslim students agree that the way to fight the hate should not be with more hate. In Ahmed’s words: “I’m a firm believer in killing with kindness… I feel like love trumps hate, and as corny as that sounds, I value that so much and I really do believe in it.” She went on to say, “I’m just really hoping that there is light at the end of the tunnel… and I feel like love [will] guide that.”

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