Donald Trump doesn’t give a damn about Muslim women.
I demand The Donald to not feign any interest in the status of Muslim women after he has spent an entire year trying to convince the country that we should ban Muslims from entering the United States. He has played one of the most pivotal roles of our American public figures since 9/11 in flaring up anti-Muslim sentiments.
Immediately after he made his comments about a Muslim ban in December 2015, Muslim women feared for their lives again before stepping out of their homes. A sixth-grade Muslim girl had her hijab ripped off her head before she was beaten and called “ISIS” by a group of boys on the playground. A Muslim woman was shot at as she was leaving a mosque in Tampa. Tensions rose so sharply that our staff at MuslimGirl.com felt forced to publish a Crisis Safety Manual for Muslim Women just to help them navigate—no, survive—Trump’s media frenzies. His comments perpetuate the Islamophobic attitudes that compelled us to advise Muslim women at the time to carry their phones charged at all times, know which numbers to call or apps to use to record a hate crime, and consider less conspicuous hijab styles in areas of extreme threat.
Muslim women are the lightning rods of our society’s rampant Islamophobia—and Trump’s response to Ghazala Khan exploits as well as directly attests to that. He misattributes Khan’s silence beside her husband Khizr onstage at the Democratic National Convention to cultural oppression rather than a Gold Star mother’s grief at losing her son to war. Ironically, the oppression Muslim women fear and that poses the largest threat to our lives in the U.S. today is the one that Trump instigates.
The truth is that Trump’s comments about Ghazala Khan may be the most telling of what would come under his leadership. After all, much of our country’s foreign policy in the Muslim world for the past decade and a half has rested on our society’s perception and misrepresentation of Muslim women.
In 2001, our last Republican president’s wife, First Lady Laura Bush, delivered a historic radio address in which she urged the nation to liberate Afghan women. To rally public support for America’s war in Afghanistan, she called on “civilized” people to rescue Afghan women from the Taliban, speaking on Afghan women’s behalf and insinuating their voicelessness, docility, and passivity. This effectively silenced the Afghan women on the ground taking an active role in civic society and their own autonomy. In doing so, we laid the foundation for a reckless military intervention in the Middle East that, in retrospect, disproportionately impacted women and children.
These are the wars that claimed the lives of Humayun Khan and hundreds of thousands more Muslims in the Muslim world.
Trump’s comments are not surprising. They speak to his complete and unrelenting ignorance of Islam. He has invoked radical Islam as a rally cry, will consider removing “heebijabis” from the TSA along with his ban on Muslim immigration, and attributes terrorist attacks to the Muslim community-at-large. His entire campaign has rested on kicking our generation’s scapegoat—a marginalized community that has already had to deal with its fair share of hardship, adversity, and racism, much at the expense of Muslim women. Set aside the “moral compass and empathy” that Khizr Khan says is required of any leader; Trump is also lacking a very rudimentary understanding of the issues—as well as the Constitution—that is required for this office. It’s a testament to our country’s politic that he has been able to get this far in the election.
At the very least, it makes me content to know that if Trump were to lose his Islamophobic, racist, sexist, and fear-mongering campaign, it will be thanks to an old brown Muslim immigrant with a funny accent and the proud, strong, resolute Muslim woman standing by his side, as unflinching, unrelenting, and upright as a pillar.