How Islamophobia helped Trump's 'movement'

Muslims around the US have reacted to Trump's win with a legitimate fear for safety of their lives in a country many have called home. From beginning to end, his toxic Islamophobic campaign saw him gain ground contributing to his shock win.

How Islamophobia helped Trump's 'movement'

World Bulletin / News Desk

At a Starbucks cafe in Dearborn, Michigan, 25-year-old Mona Musid was glued to her laptop, watching a YouTube video of President-elect Donald Trump's victory speech.

This Detroit suburb is home to one of the biggest populations of Muslims and Arabs in the United States, and Musid was among many in her community on Wednesday trying to make sense of the brash Republican's election. 

"I'm just interested in what he has to say, and where it's going to go," she said, listening for clues in the victory speech of what her immediate future might look like. 

Musid said many in her extended family, who are of Yemeni ancestry and trace their US roots back to the 1940s, are in a state of shock and worry. 

"They don't know what's going to go on. They came here for opportunity. They're just worried if he takes it away from us," she said. 

Trump's campaign rhetoric included calls for a ban on Muslim immigrants entering the US, followed by promises of "extreme vetting" of immigrants from countries affected by terrorism. 

Across the country, Muslim Americans are now wondering what a Trump presidency might mean, said Hazem Bata, head of the Islamic Society of North America, a national advocacy group. 

"What I'm hearing is a mixture of fear and concern," Bata said. 

"Many people feel vulnerable. Many Muslims here are not necessarily US citizens. They're here legally, but they're not US citizens. They're concerned. Some are outright scared." 

Trump: The Islamophobic President

Back in October during a presidential debate, a Muslim-American voter asked Donald Trump a pointed question about the anti-Muslim rhetoric that has cast a pall over this election: "There are 3.3 million Muslims in the United States, and I'm one of them … With Islamophobia on the rise, how will you help people like me deal with the consequences of being labeled a threat to the country after the election is over?"

In response, Donald Trump looked her in the eye and repeated the same Islamophobic conspiracy theory he’s been pushing throughout his campaign:

You're right about Islamophobia, and that's a shame. One thing we have to do is we have to make sure that because there is a problem, whether we like it or not — and we could be very politically correct — but whether we like it or not, there is a problem and we have to be sure that Muslims come in and report when they see something going on. When they see hatred going on, they have to report it.

In San Bernardino, many people saw the bombs all over the apartment of the two people that killed 14 and wounded many, many people. Horribly wounded. Never be the same. Muslims have to report the problems when they see them. And you know, there's always a reason for everything. If they don't do that, it's a very difficult situation for our country because you look at Orlando and you look at San Bernardino and the World Trade Center. Look at Paris. The horrible — these are radical Islamic terrorists.

'Hard times' coming

During his victory speech, Trump offered a conciliatory tone. 

"I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all of Americans," Trump said. "All races, religions, backgrounds and beliefs." 

But those words rang hollow for three sisters at The Lava Lounge, a popular lunch hangout in Dearborn. 

Television news blared in front of the three fifth-generation Americans of Lebanese descent. Alyse, one of the three, who didn't want to give her full name, said Trump's ascendancy exposed "how much hatred there is within our country." 

"The damage is irreversible," she said.  

"I feel like hard times are gonna come," added her sister Nadeen Hider, 24. "Within one night, 60 years of progression was wiped clean." 

Trump's victory was also as much a source of confusion as fear.  

At the Muslim American Youth Academy in Dearborn -- an elementary and middle school -- children in the morning were asking questions of each other and their parents. 

"How could they elect Trump over Hillary Clinton?," asked one youngster to a group of peers and adults, who offered no answer. 

'Four years of nothingness' 

"Four years of nothingness," a young girl exclaimed as she entered the school with her parents. 

For some, the consequences of Trump's victory were direct and immediate. 

Hiba Nasser, 19, a sophomore at Wayne State University in Detroit, said she was afraid to leave her home Wednesday morning. 

Nasser wears a hijab, the traditional Muslim head covering, and was concerned that Trump's victory would embolden those who might target her. She said she already endures occasional harassment. 

"People tell me I'm a terrorist, that my being in this country is wrong, that I should go," Nasser said.  

However, there was also a counter-narrative among Muslim Americans in Dearborn -- many of whom have lived in the US for decades and are less concerned about immigration issues. 

Often not wishing to be identified by name, several told AFP that they were happy with Trump's victory, because they did not trust Clinton. 

While buying breakfast at New Yasmeen's Bakery, Hassan Elhassani, 33, said Trump was the lesser of two bad choices. 

"I am not concerned by (Trump's) rhetoric," said Elhassani, who emigrated from Lebanon 17 years ago and is a US citizen. 

"If you are a citizen, he can't change nothing." 

A movement on fear pays off

Long before election night, earlier numbers indicated that Trump's deployment of Islamophobia as a primary campaign strategy would pay dividends and register votes.

An NBC poll conducted in December 2015 found that 25 percent of Americans supported Trump's Muslim ban. A March 2016 poll indicated greater support, with 51 percent favouring Trump's Ban " until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on".

Trump interpreted these staggering figures, which rose as the campaign progressed, as strong support for his Islamophobia campaign.

Instead of adopting George W Bush's or Mitt Romney's cautious Islamophobia, or Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton's exclusive mention of Muslims from the lens of national security policy - Trump went all the way.

He stripped any mitigating rhetoric, aimed to placate liberals and moderates, from his message. He did away with staple qualifiers like "peace loving" and "moderate" when talking about Muslims.

In fact, Trump swept aside every political platitude and carefully crafted talking point for a blatantly hateful grassroots framing.

Instead of "Islam is peace", Trump declared that, "Islam hates us", giving disaffected bigoted voters exactly what they wanted, and they took that bait.

This presidential campaign foreshadows what is sure to follow. Hate crimes against Muslims rose considerably in 2015 and statistics show a similar trend in 2016. If a Trump presidential campaign resulted in an unprecedented number of hate crimes against Muslims, one can only imagine what a Trump presidency will bring.

AFP/Vox/Al Jazeera

Last Mod: 10 Kasım 2016, 09:05
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