The campaign for the 2016 US presidential elections began against a backdrop of already rising Islamophobia with hundreds of incidents of anti-Muslim violence and vandalism being reported in the country.
Republican candidate Donald Trump’s rhetorics on Islam and Muslims have raised concerns among American Muslims and added to the anti-Muslim sentiments.
With barely a few hours remaining to the polling, Hindustan Times contacted some prominent American Muslims through email asking them about their views on Trump and the elections this year.
Here’s what they had to say:
Wajahat Ali is a writer and former journalist at Al Jazeera America. The 36-year-old is also the director of Affinis Labs, an award-winning social entrepreneurial hub in Virginia. He lives in Washington DC.
Growing up a Muslim in America, my life, for the most part, has been privileged, safe and I’ve lived and thrived with diverse community members. I never thought we’d live to see a day where a Republican presidential candidate will advocate a ban of 1.6 billion Muslims and promise to have the rest of us undergo “extreme vetting”. It is sad, discouraging and bit frightening - especially with the rise in anti-Muslim incidents, assaults, violent, vandalism against mosques and harassment and bullying of Muslim kids.
Shadi Hamid, 33, is a senior fellow in the Project on US Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution and author of Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam Is Reshaping the World. He lives in Washington DC.
To be a Muslim in the era of Trump has, sadly, become a more fraught thing. We have become an object of concern and fear. I remember walking into a cafe in a rural part of Florida after Trump announced his ban on Muslim immigration. There was something almost surreal about it and I’m not sure I ever felt anything quite like that before. I wasn’t me. I was part of this inchoate collective - a collective that was apparently a threat to the country I loved.
Murtuza Husain, 29, is a New York-based journalist and political commentator. His work focuses on human rights, foreign policy and cultural affairs.
It is uncomfortable to witness the rise of anti-Muslim populism in the country as exemplified by Trump. We are hoping he will lose in the election ... He has unleashed negative passions in the society that are going to be with us for a long time. As Muslims, I think that most of us feel relatively secure and confident, but things can change quite quickly particularly when an economic downturn happens. His candidacy is a wake-up call for our activism and advocacy for the future.
Omer Aziz, 26, lives in New Haven. He is a student at Yale Law School and a writer who publishes in various magazines. He formerly worked for the United Nations.
In one awful respect, I am glad for Trump because he has brought the racism and xenophobia underlying our society to the forefront. Trump is not this foreign monster who has come out of nowhere; he is a representative of a large part of the American people; he is the winner of 14 million votes in the Republican primaries — the largest victory ever. Donald Trump is to America what the RSS is to India - a chauvinist and nationalist who exploits people’s worries by scapegoating others.
Ambarien AlQadar is an award-winning Indian filmmaker teaching at The Rochester Institute of Technology Film Program. She lives in Rochester.
At a local church event, the morning speaker sometimes asks the question: “Why are Muslims so violent?” It is a deeply discomforting moment because it forces me to speak as a Muslim in a moment when I am trying to find my new bearings. I am aware that Mr Trump might be the next president. If that’s the verdict of the American people, then I respect it. In the same moment, I feel the need for a grassroots movement lead by peace loving Muslims who can spread love in times of hate.
Dr Sayed Ammar Nakshawani, 35, is from London now settled in Washington DC. He is a professor and the Imam Ali Chair of Shia studies at Hartford Seminary as well as an Islamic subject matter expert, scholar and author. He is listed as one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World.
It is an honour to be an American Muslim. There is more free thought in the United States of America than in many Muslim majority countries in Asia and Middle East and we live either as brethren in faiths or equals in humanity. Yes, naturally there may be some politically motivated people with prejudices or bigotry but the Muslims are not the first to face this in the United States, this period will pass and we shall overcome to live in peace.
Abbas Kadhim, 48, is a senior foreign policy fellow, FPI-SAIS, Johns Hopkins University. He lives in Washington.
The fears about “Donald Trump’s America” are exaggerated. We are going to elect a president, not an emperor. There are institutions and the constitution of the United States of America guarantees that it will preserve the rights of Muslim Americans no matter who the president will be, whether Hillary or Trump. Both candidates have merits and shortcomings in all political, social and economic fields. The election should focus on these and balance them on all aspects, not just the issue of their views on Muslims and Islam.
Dr Zaineb Hussain is a clinical pharmacist and a member of Baqee Organization, a coalition of American Muslim citizens. She is in her 40s and lives in Chicago.
I’m deeply concerned about my sisters in faith who have had their hijabs snatched due to religious discrimination in current times. Although I say as a Muslim woman I always take the opportunity to point out the difference between Wahhabism and Islam and hopefully more Muslims will jump on this bandwagon to seize this opportunity. I uphold the optimistic torch that maybe Mr Donald Trump’s racial discrimination will force the world to realise that there is no such thing as “Islamic terrorism”, rather the correct term is “Wahhabi terrorism”.
Zahra Khan, 58, is an accountant and lives in San Francisco. Her name has been changed on her request.
America is a multi-cultural country where everyone loves each other, cultures are respected, people respect each other’s faith, and most importantly for Muslims Americans, for Hijab wearing Muslim American women, the workspaces here have always been welcoming and with great warmth and respect. When Trump says, ‘Make American Great Again’, he actually means ‘Make America White Again’. Let us remind him that America was and is already a great country. It does not need people like Trump to add to its greatness.
The author tweets at @rizviuzair