Written by Saeed Khan
As the prospect of a President Donald Trump on Nov. 9 is a dangerous possibility, American Muslims find themselves an unlikely political issue in the lead up to the elections. The demonization of Muslims by the candidate of a major political party has created a ripple effect throughout the nation, with supporters of Trump emboldened and empowered to echo his venom against an entire community. The decisions made in the polling booth this November are perhaps the most pivotal in recent political history and certainly with the most far-reaching effects for Muslims in the nation.
The toxicity of the political debates this year is unprecedented: Nearly no group has been exempt from the black tongue of Trump. Muslim women are a particular focus for Trump because they represent a dual target: He has demonstrated his hatred of Muslims time and time again, with his call for a Muslim ban and even a pledge to have all American Muslims placed on a national registry.
But his bigotry toward Muslims is matched only by his contempt for women. He never misses an opportunity to demean and disparage women by commenting on their appearance, their weight and even their intelligence.
The demonization of Muslims by the candidate of a major political party has created a ripple effect throughout the nation, with supporters of Trump emboldened and empowered to echo his venom against an entire community.
The Trump bullying effort comes at a crucial time for women and Muslims – and especially Muslim women – in America. So much has improved in recent years. It’s a triumph of 21st century gender rights that Americans will have not one, but two women — Clinton and Stein — on the ballot on Nov. 8.
It is also a testament to perseverance that despite unprecedented levels of Islamophobia, there are now two comfortably incumbent Muslims in Congress, and that one of the most powerful political staffers in the country, Clinton’s Chief Aide, Huma Abedin, is a Muslim woman.
The greatest enemies to the tremendous progress Muslims have made in America are apathy and making symbolism a priority over substance; unfortunately, the American Muslim community faces both challenges. Apathy may explain the reality that most Muslims are still not registered to vote. A focus on symbolism appears to be driving many Muslims to consider third party candidates like Jill Stein.
Muslim women needn’t worry about the Trump campaign trying to court their votes. That leaves a choice between two candidates in the mind of many Muslims: Clinton and Stein. At the same time, the real question is whether it is really a choice between two viable candidates. While Jill Stein may be appealing to some based on her policy positions, and may represent an attractive protest vote for those seeking a symbolic statement, the implications of a Stein vote go well beyond the individual decision to vote based on one’s conscience.
Déjà vu is an unsettling prospect. In 2000, George W. Bush won Florida with only 537 votes. Many Florida Muslims did not vote and yet several others voted for Ralph Nader, the third-party candidate and the equivalent of today’s Jill Stein. There are currently 200,000 Muslims in Florida. That is a number that could easily decide not only the winner of the state, but the future occupant of the White House.
Only a smart, unified support of one viable candidate can defeat Trump and avoid a result similar to the disastrous 2000 campaign. Polls show the election this year could be as eerily close as it was 16 years ago.
Trump has developed a base of support that exploits those who have already lost faith in the ability of the political process to make a difference. He won the nomination by growing his base to those desperate for holding onto an America that either doesn’t or never did exist. He has appealed to the basest of emotions, impulses and fears of people who seek to blame others for their own condition, through hatred, bigotry and anger.
It is imperative for all Americans, Muslim and on-Muslims alike, to register to vote immediately, as the deadline to do so is fast approaching in many states. It is critical for them to participate in this very important election and push back on a juggernaut of destructive policies and attitudes.
A victory for Trump would be a victory and vindication for those who will feel empowered to hate anyone who does not look like them. Now is the time to stand united to stop Trump and reject hate.
Saeed Khan is a supporter of STAMP: Stop Trump with American Muslims and Patriotism.