Ok, so I was all contented to go along with the usual posts I have had scheduled for these next few weeks without changing them at all, and I was determined to move past this election and keep it out of my writing radar. After all, I do not blog about politics, and it only has slightly to do with the niche of convert issues. And admittedly I am not really feeling emotionally up to writing about this quite yet.
But I have realised that there is much that needs to be said, and maybe it can be not only beneficial to you, but cathartic for me, to get it all out on paper (or a WordPress post, as it were).
So this post is going to be in two parts today: the first will be about my personal thoughts about the election, and some actionable items that we as Muslims can do to begin to take control of the situation and not get lost in despair. For the second, at the request of a non Muslim friend, I would like to write about some ways our non Muslim neighbours can support the Muslim community in such a dangerous and trying political climate.
To begin, let me say this: whatever you are feeling, whether that be despair, anger, sadness, hurt, whatever, give yourself time to feel it. Don’t sweep the emotions under the rug; give yourself a day or two to feel and process. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are overreacting or being dramatic. Your feelings are entirely valid.
After hearing that Donald Trump was ahead in the elections around fajr time here, I didn’t sleep very well at all, until I found out the result was certain. I’m not going to lie, I tried to do some reading or embroidering, but I ended up spending that day mostly in my bed. I had no willpower to do anything. And I cried when my husband came home and hugged me, because as much as I miss my mom and my family and my home, now I am very uncertain if it is a place I can return to with my husband.
The next day didn’t get any better, when I woke up to a Facebook newsfeed filled with attacks: young Muslim and African American girls, Muslim and African American women, the LGBTQ community, anyone who was different.
Those of you who know me, know that I hate crying, especially in front of people. But this time instead of trying to fight all of that and keep it inside, I let myself feel it. Which I think helped quite a bit to give me some clarity and help me move on to the next step.
While giving yourself time to feel whatever you are feeling, you also need to make sure that you are constantly remembering God in this process. Remember that He has a plan, remember that He is the best of planners. Remember that though you hate a thing it may be good for you. Remember to keep praying five times a day, keep asking God for exactly what it is you need, whether peace, protection, strength. It is all in God’s hands and He will give it to you. Though we may grieve for the horrible time we have entered, to pass this test we need to put our trust in God.
“The eyes shed tears and the heart feels grief, but we say only that which will please our Lord.” Bukhari and Muslim
So what are some actionable steps you can take to get your hands working for something good in these times?
Firstly, take steps to protect yourself. Do whatever makes you feel empowered: carry pepper spray, take a self defence class, don’t stay out after dark and travel in large groups. This step really depends on you as an individual: for me personally, I feel just as safe in my hometown during the day as I do at night (the rednecks are out at any time really), so what I would really feel good about doing is taking a self defence class, and making sure I had the means to protect myself if something should happen.
Another part of this is don’t engage. Especially if you have got a big group of men around you calling you names or shouting; now is not the time to play the hero. Your safety is first. If you are in a non violent situation, and aren’t in fear of your personal being, maybe that would be the time to speak up, especially in a group. But don’t try to start an argument with someone who you know is looking for an excuse to hurt you.
Get out of the situation.
And once you are out, call the police and report the incident to organisations like CAIR. Yes, this may not do anything in the immediate moments (or maybe it will), but at the very least your report will contribute to a body of data about the things that are happening.
All of that being said: don’t live your life in fear. The reason we take such precautions is exactly so we can live our lives in the most normal manner possible. Don’t closet yourself in your house, don’t stop doing the things you love.
Another great step you can take is to get involved, and get moving. First and foremost, always keep educating yourself. Educate yourself about who is in the government, about how things work in your state, about how people are getting involved, about what you can do that will make the most impact.
A friend of mine lives in Alaska, and as such doesn’t have any big marches or protests to go to. So she has decided that her first item on the to-do list is to stand up to bullies, and get victims out of bad situations. Another goal she has made is to draft some persuasive articles with some colleagues of hers from university regarding how Trump’s policies are going to negatively impact certain environmental issues, using peer reviewed academic publications to help.
This is a great example of not only educating yourself, but putting that directly to use to make a positive contribution to a movement.
If you are in a place where you can attend demonstrations, remember the above points: keep yourself safe, and make sure you are demonstrating in a respectful and legal manner.
Update: I have just read an article from another site that deals with many of the same points and is worth checking out here.
As for the second part, what you can do as a non Muslim to support your Muslim friends and community members, I have asked many of my sisters in the United States what they would feel most supports them in this turbulent time, and the overwhelming majority of them said simply speaking out.
This could look like many things: speaking out just to tell a Muslim hello, or ask how they are as you pass down the street, speaking out on social media to let them know that they have your support and you will help add to their voices, speaking out when you see someone being bullied or assaulted and lending them your aid or simply putting your arm around them to get them out of the situation.
I think what many Muslims, especially women, want these days is to know that they are not being demonized by everyone that sees them, that people still recognize them as human, and as such deserving of respect and care.
Also, if you are someone with any degree of influence or power, use that to make your voice heard on behalf of all marginalised communities that may not have the same privilege. Get in touch with them, see what they need, and then use whatever platform you have to give that a voice and put it in the spotlight.
For me personally, I would love to see even more people standing up on social media and in person at protests to say that “we aren’t going to take this.” I think many of us feel isolated and alone, and especially for me as a convert with a non-Muslim family (some of whom even voted for Donald Trump ) it feels good to know that there are other people out there that have my back.
Another form of support I have been asked about is wearing the hijab in solidarity with us Muslim sisters.
I asked some of the sisters in the US that I am friends with what they think, and they said that it would be a very welcome gesture. I have come across some sisters that do not support this idea for various reasons, but the overwhelming majority of those that I have talked to love the idea. We need all of the love we can get in this world, and feeling like someone is trying to promote solidarity and understanding by actually walking in your shoes for a day or two can be a very powerful gesture.
If you would like to do this but you are unsure about how this would be received by those in your community, I think that the best way to go with this one would be to try to get in contact with some women from your local community, and see how they feel about it. If they feel good about the idea, go for it! But if they are uncomfortable with it, maybe resort back to the first topic and speak out on behalf of the Muslim community in whatever ways you can.
I think the key in all of this is for us to get involved with each other. Muslim, non-Muslim, African American, Asian American, white, and anything in between, LGBTQ and straight, we all need to work together to make sure we are doing all we can to put as much positive energy out into the world as possible. Working in isolated communities with isolated goals will not get us anywhere. We need to all be communicating our needs and responding to the needs of others, in order to succeed.
For my part, I plan to keep using my blogging to its fullest extent to not only carry on with the mission I started it for (convert awareness and support) but also to show all those who may randomly come across it the best picture of a Muslim woman that I can. I may be physically in Algeria, but many of my readers are in the United States. I hope that by using my voice to promote positivity and humanity, I can contribute in some small way.
As for the rest, we will just have to wait and see what God has planned for us.
Wishing you all peace.