A Muslim convert’s reaction to the upcoming US elections
I am an American 100%, born and raised. At age 16, after much exploration, I decided to convert to Islam. Thankfully, I was born in a country that allows each individual to choose their beliefs. I have now been a Muslim for more than half of my life. Since I am white and do not wear the hijab (headscarf), my Muslimness goes unnoticed. In other words, I rarely encounter prejudice or profiling.
When I heard Trump’s comments about forcing Muslim Americans to carry special ID cards and putting all Muslims into a national database, I was truly shocked and saddened. Hearing that a presidential candidate wants to infringe upon my First Amendment right is extremely disturbing and problematic for a number of reasons.
First, he is implying that any Muslim is a suspect. This means Muslim American citizens, whether born Muslim or converts like myself, will be scrutinized and singled-out as ‘different’ or less than American, a possible problem. I think about myself, a university professor, and my Muslim friends who are doctors, mothers, nutritionists, and journalists. Are we not good citizens? Should we be set apart from others solely based on our beliefs?
Second, Trump’s idea is ominously reminiscent of historical discrimination against others. How is making a list of all Muslim citizens and forcing them to carry their religious affiliation for all to see any different from Hitler forcing the Jews to publicly identify their faith, wearing the yellow star? It is now and was then a dehumanizing tactic that is the beginning, not the end, of terrible policy and action.
And third, through singling out a group as dangerous or unwelcome, he is leading a campaign that incites fear in order to gain support rather than one that encourages future prosperity. This is similar to Netanyahu’s campaign ad featuring fake ISIS terrorists driving to Jerusalem, something only he can prevent, or his calls to Israeli voters urging them to go and vote since Arab Israelis will be flocking to the polls in large numbers, implying that Arab Israelis are an invading force that will negatively impact the outcome of the election.
Trump’s comments are degrading and disheartening, and I am troubled by the support he gained and maintained after saying these things. Some, my fellow citizens, agree with him, saying that it is a good idea. Because of the actions of a few, all should suffer. Trump’s comment suddenly made it okay to be openly prejudicial against a religious group.
I often remember the act of King Mohammed V of Morocco. When King Mohammed V was approached by the pro-Vichy government to hand over a list of his Jewish citizens, he replied, “There are no Jews in Morocco, only Moroccan subjects.” This saved more than 250,000 Jewish Moroccans from certain death in the concentration camps, a more than heroic act. But beyond this was his refusal to discriminate between the citizens of his country based on religious affiliation. This is how I see America. There are no Muslims, Christians, or Jews, only American citizens who should have equal rights and treatment by the government. A vote for Trump would be a vote for permissible alienation of others. In this coming election I hope America rejects Trump’s ideas of discrimination and segregation, and votes for unity and democracy.
Nawal is a guest blogger who is a university professor and an American convert to Islam.