During the 2016 campaign season, Donald Trump notably called for a total shutdown of the immigration of Muslims to the US, said he would “not rule out” the idea of a special ID to identify Muslims, and falsely accused New Jersey Arabs of “cheering” during 9/11. This week, following Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the presidential election on Nov. 9, we asked American Muslims to write about their experiences and feelings right now.
Within hours, we received an overwhelming number of responses, describing the fear and anxiety that has followed Trump’s election. In particular, we heard from many young Muslims — some as young as 17 — who wanted to share their thoughts and concerns. With each writer’s permission, we have excerpted some of these stories to try and capture what it feels like to be young and Muslim in America right now.
1. Dinanda, 21
“When Donald Trump was elected as our next president, I was in disbelief. All the sacrifices that my parents made in order for me to thrive in this nation don’t feel like they were worth it. How can we expect to live in a country that hates us for the way we look?”
2. Medha, 21
“It took me so long to get to feel comfortable with who I am, comfortable with praying in a public space. (I knew) that everyone around me could see that I was different and knew that I was Muslim. It took me years to become comfortable with the color of my skin and my own Pakistani culture. It took me years to get back up after being put down so many times by people making fun of me for the smell of my clothes or my ‘un-American’ home. It took me so, so long to feel comfortable with who I was, who I am, and who I will be, but this past year, I honestly felt as if I had come to accept me, just me.
“But yesterday. Yesterday’s results rattled my insides and shook the confidence that took so long to bloom.
“I am ashamed today because friends from South Africa and cousins in Pakistan are wondering, ‘How can your people elect this man?’ or ‘How did America let this happen?’
“I know that all I can do for now is make dua and pray, pray, pray that God does have a plan and will protect us from whatever comes next inshallah.”
3. Anonymous, 17
“It’s great to see how wonderful and supportive my friends are of my religion and me compared to others. But I’m scared of all the other misinformed people that are living in the US with hatred for Muslims. I’m absolutely scared for my life and of being deported, not only because of religion, but also because I’m undocumented. I’m stuck in the US and can’t go back to Pakistan due to harsh monetary circumstances and Pakistan’s unsafe environment.
“As a Muslim female, I am the epitome of what Trump hates, yet I am fighting for this [election] to not dictate my future. There is no way that I will let anyone take away my freedom of religion, of opinion, and of speech. All that I’ve gone through has only strengthened my resolve to bring change for our future and the best way to do that is to let my voice be heard.”
4. Amal, 20
“Never, not even in my worst nightmares, would I have imagined that I’d have to ask myself if someday my family could be put into an internment camp.
“I’m 20 years old and I’m sitting on my bed in Doha [on election night]. I’m thousands of miles away from my family, but I’m clutching my phone like it’s my lifeline to them. I am watching the numbers stack up. It’s 6 a.m. and I decide to turn off the TV and go to sleep. I wake up as my phone buzzes. It’s my sister.
“‘Hello. What. Is. Happening? I’m dead. I have an exam tomorrow. I’m going to fail because of a racist dictator.’ I’m crying, alone in my room in Doha. I don’t understand what’s happening, I can’t make sense of it.
“I’m 20 years old and I know that America is not great, and it’s never really been great. It’s always had problems, since the very first day that Europeans violently colonized this land and its people.
“But call it luck, call it fate, call it a strange alignment of history and economics and sociopolitical currents: This messed-up, problematic country is the only place I’ll ever be able to call home.
“’Now people can’t tell us we’re making it up,’ my friend says. ‘All the cards are on the table. He’s the embodiment of the racism and sexism and xenophobia that we’ve known all along. Now we can fight it.’
“I put my fists up, and a small smile tugs at my lips.”
5. Narmeen, 19
“This is my America, too, but I [have] never felt welcomed in it. I convinced myself that if I never stated my discomfort, it wouldn’t be real. In my naive desire to fit in, I spent years holding my tongue.
“I have spent years being silent, but I will be silent no more.
“I will be loud for the Latinos, Muslims, black people, war veterans, disabled, and more he demonized and attacked.
“I have spent my whole life staying silent out of fear of becoming an outsider, but this election has shown that I have been one all along.
“They want us to stay silent, but this is no time to concede. This election shows that the fight is far from over. Our nation needs us more than ever. We must stand up. We must persevere. We must speak out.”
6. Shukri, 20
“We migrated to this beautiful place in search of peace and the American dream, but let me tell you something: The Republican presidential candidate doesn’t offer those hopes for me.
“The other day, he came to Minnesota and said that Somali people are what is wrong with Minnesota. When he said that comment, spectators were cheering him on. Hearing that makes a person wonder what sort of country Trump would be offering for people like me.
“I have three sisters … and I have called them and texted them paragraphs about how to tread easily, not to be afraid, and to keep their heads held high after last night’s results. ”
7. Kayhan, 22
“I wrote this around 1:30 a.m. on election night. I was at the library here at Indiana University, and seeing joy on some people’s faces at the results hurt like no other. I had a huge exam in the morning and it was just a mess. This is how I felt.
“‘Tonight, you reminded me how little you think of me, and I guess I just have a lot more work to do. I still love you, but tonight you’ve left me broken, America.’”
—Kayhan (excerpted from a poem)
8. Shahrin, 19
“I’m a 19-year-old hijabi Muslim and Tuesday, Nov. 8 was my first time voting. … I was beyond excited and proud to have voted for the first female candidate. [When Trump was elected], I sat in disbelief thinking that it was a joke or a mistake, but no matter how many times I refreshed the Google polling page, it still said ‘Trump wins.’”
“In my four years of wearing hijab I have never endured such discrimination [as the last few months]. A couple months ago, a middle-aged woman stopped and told me to ‘take that rag off your head.’
“I fear for myself, my sisters, my mother, and every Muslim woman. [After the election,] I am ashamed to call myself an American. How can a country that values ‘freedom of religion’ stoop so low to ridicule people of other faiths?
“[But I still have] hope that this country will continue to stand strong despite the results. Despite being afraid of getting out of my house and having to constantly look over my shoulder, this will not silence [me]. We need our voices heard more than ever. Fear will not silence us, but [it will] push us for a better tomorrow. In the words of Michelle Obama, ‘When they go low, we go high.’”
9. Rana, 33
“Yesterday, our 7-year-old asked us if she would have to leave here if Trump became president. If her dad would be taken away since, unlike us, he was not born here. She said, ‘Maybe we should leave. It’s okay, I can make new friends.’ Listening to our daughter grapple with the reality of her Muslim identity at her age was and will forever be heartbreaking.”
—Rana Sharif, Los Angeles
10. Omer, 20
“[I’m a commuter and] for the first time, I was scared of going home. I saw [my] county’s results — Trump may have not won, but a large percentage of my county voted for him.
“So, I’m on the train, I hear a young man sitting across from me talking to his dad on the phone. He’s clearly in favor of Trump. He’s so ecstatic. … I realized, he’s allowed to say whatever he wants because at the end of the day, the new president of the United States has his back, not mine.
“I call my friend who’s also Muslim. We’re venting to each other about what’s happening and we’re just both so scared. We’re scared for ourselves, our family and friends that have beards or wear hijabs, and those scattered masjids across the South. I [worry] about everyone. “
“On my way to school I see that the NYU Engineering School MSA’s prayer room has been vandalized. Someone decided to write ‘Trump!’ on the front door. Our fears were validated.”
“However, quickly after we posted about it on Facebook, so many people reached out to us offering support. So many people went to Brooklyn to check up on those students. I realized there was some good. We came together and hopefully we’ll rise together. I’m still scared, but at least we’re in this together.”