|Eeman Abbasi speaks during a protest on the University of Connecticut campus against the election of Donald Trump. Photograph: Pat Eaton-Robb/AP|
Arab and Muslim Americans have many good reasons to be fearful of the Trump presidency. Donald Trump made fear and xenophobia a central part of his campaign. This was a valid reason for Muslim and Arab Americans to be apprehensive of his victory.
Even though a minute number of Muslim and Arab Americans voted for Trump on Nov. 8, hoping that his offensive language and radical proposed policies would be obliterated once he was victorious, a majority of the community is fearing the worst– mainly for two reasons.
First, it is a gross violation of the U.S. Constitution to grant or prevent entry to the country based on religion, race, sexual orientation or color. Second, Muslims, like the rest of those who were insulted and threatened by Trump’s offensive remarks, were hoping that after his victory speech, he would embark on a mission to unite the country and erase the divisive overtones of his campaign.
Muslims also know very well that the U.S. system of government is built on check and balances. The power of the presidency is important, but is not exclusive.
More than half of American voters cast their votes against the president-elect. It is safe to assume that most American Muslims are among the majority.
Even those who voted for Donald Trump didn't necessarily agree with all of his policies and rhetoric. The goodness of the American spirit didn’t surrender or die on November 8. In fact, it is exemplified in the outpouring of protests against his actions. It has spurred advocates across the nation to pledge to fight for the dignity of all Americans.
Residents in Lansing told their Muslim neighbors they reject Trump's bigotry. Dozens of female students at a high school in Minnesota stood in solidarity with a Muslim student who was feeling outcasted by showing up wearing a hijab. Arab Americans and Muslim aren't alone and can’t sit on the sideline of this fight. They must be at the center and the forefront of the battle to reclaim and protect our rights.
It is a sad fact that our nation is divided. It is also true that the division is deeper and more dangerous than we have ever seen since the American civil war era.
The demonstrations that swept the country after Trump’s victory wasn’t orchestrated by political operatives, like he insinuated. It was a popular movement in reaction to systematic corruption and policies that placed Americans in a predicament to select "the lesser of two evils" as their president.
And for many, Trump has become the face of a distorted nation.
Yes, Trump is the president-elect; and Americans, including Arabs and Muslims, must bow to democracy and to the will of the voters and abide by the result.
But, that doesn’t mean that we should surrender to bigotry, xenophobia and fear. We must not succumb to an administration that intends to strip our rights and drive us into hiding and humiliation. We owe it to America to stand up and join the fight.
Trump’s initial pick to his administration rapidly eradicated any hope that the campaign talk was just a rhetoric. It is already sparking fears that we are heading into uncharted and dangerous territory or –perhaps – setting us back 100 years.
A Trump advisor is pushing for a Muslim registry. Another surrogate claims that the forced internment of Japanese Americans during world War II sets a precedent for the Trump administration to create a registry for Muslims living in the U.S.
These are challenging times. We the people know that the Constitution protects all of us.
Arab Americans and Muslims have a greater responsibility today. They should redouble their efforts in building coalitions with other minority and ethnic groups, locally and across the nation. It is imperative that we search for common grounds with African Americans, Jewish Americans, Latinos, Asians and others.
The community must strengthen its relationship with civil rights advocates and civil rights organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the NAACP and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) among others. Also, Arab Americans must shoulder the responsibility for supporting their own civil rights organizations while holding them accountable to protect their rights in the difficult times ahead.