For Muslim Americans, Trump’s Defeat Brings Cautious Optimism

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Protesters gather outside the US Supreme Court against President Donald Trump’s travel ban on people from Muslim-majority countries in Washington, DC in 2018. — Reuters

The President-elect has promised an inclusive America, including repealing President Trump’s ban order that blocked the entry of Muslim travellers from seven countries, on the first day of assuming office in January 2021

Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India

NEW DELHI — Critics have branded President Donald Trump a fascist. He has been lambasted for hobnobbing with world leaders who are dictators, right-wing nationalists and demagogues and for the way he ran administration. He was at odds with the media, rights activists, scientists, marginalised communities, and so on.

Under him, Muslims, who form just over 1 %–3.5 million–of the total US population, endured rising violent Islamophobia; his ‘Muslims ban’, his frequent statements demeaning the community and their religion, ridiculing Muslim Congresspersons and much more.

The news of the victory of Joe Biden in the US Election 2020 evoked a sense of relief among the community as they look forward to the next four years with a lot of hope. The President-elect has promised an inclusive America, including repealing President Trump’s ban order that blocked the entry of Muslim travellers from seven countries, on the first day of assuming office in January 2021.

Activists say the Trump administration was the “most Islamophobic in US history”. Amina Mirza, a community activist who originally hails from India, recalls how the past four years have been “challenging”, beset with policy changes, immigration issues to separating children from their parents at detention centres, etc.

Biden has pledged to change all that.

“On day one, I’ll end Trump’s unconstitutional Muslim ban,” Biden said in October during his campaign. He said he will work to “rip the poison of hate” and “honour your (Muslim) contributions. “My administration will look like America with Muslim Americans serving at every level.”

“Millions of American families will be reunited when President Biden ends the Muslim Ban. Mothers will be able to hug their children again,” Muslim Advocates, a civil rights group that works in court rooms, stated on Twitter as the news of Biden’s win was announced.

Donald Trump’s defeat brings great relief for the millions who were reeling under his relentless onslaught of racism, Islamophobia and almost daily falsehoods.

Nausheena, founder and director of Rise Sisterhood, a collective of Muslim women, expressed her emotions on Twitter in these words: “My heart is so full because for just a few short hours, I felt so much joy, happiness, love and safety. What a wonderful celebration!”

An association of Indian Muslims in America put out a statement congratulating Biden and his Deputy Kamala Harris. For Indians, they have much more to savour as Harris has her roots in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Kaleem Kawaja, executive director of the association, stated, “It is a proud day for India and Indians that a second generation Indian-American has been elected to the No. 2 position in the US, the only superpower in the world.”

For Mirza, a woman of Indian origin who dons hijab, Harris’s win not only brings a ‘I-can-also-do-it’ type of inspiration but also encouragement in ‘I-am-not-alone-now’  .  “How many times have I walked in conference rooms filled with all white men and myself being a person of colour, Muslim, woman, and hijabi at that, I know how it feels,” she says and hopes that they will “rise together for a better and kinder America”.

While Trump’s defeat may have brought relief for Muslims, the hope is laced with wariness amid the talk of ‘heal America’. They know that Islamophobia in US is deep rooted where money in millions is spent to demonise Muslims. Secondly, the baggage Biden carries from his years as Vice President in the Obama administration, especially on foriegn policy front, adds to the caution.

“Without reparations, without reunification of separated families, without ending surveillance of Muslims, and without ending sanctions/sponsoring coups elsewhere, an old white man asking America to heal is code for white people to get along at the dinner table,” wrote Middle East Eye journalist Azad Essa on Twitter.

Moreover, the fact that Trump did receive widespread support in the election means even when he is no longer the President, Trumpism is alive and well in the US. For Biden to give credence to his  words of inclusivity and win Muslims’ support in his new path to healing and unification in America, then the sooner he recognises this reality, the better. Biden needs to walk the talk meaning to institutionalise policies against institutional and structural oppression being done to the marginalised communities.

At the same time, the battle against Trumpism, a narrative of hate, begins now and it requires forging alliances among social communities such as the Blacks, women of all sections, the Latinos and the Muslims. A glimpse of such a united effort  was witnessed in elections rejuvenating hope. “This electoral unity should be converted to social and political unity to continue the struggle to the very end in upholding complete social justice,” says S Karthik, Secretary, Ambedkar King Study Circle.

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