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Boiling blood and four years of fear

A view from abroad: Munawar Rahman writes about what it feels like being Muslim-American after Trump's election

The gripping sensation in my chest has yet to dissipate.

I am betrayed. I have betrayed.

Two years before 9/11, a young Muslim couple arrived in Queens, New York. They flew all the way from Bangladesh with their son of two years to establish a foothold in a country where they stuck out with their copper-tinged skin and fragmented English.

I am where I am today because they suffered and were willing to endure such pain as they were so sure that son of theirs would achieve some level of stability and identity in this nation.

My duty is to ensure their remaining time spent in the United States is joyous, peaceful, filled with pride.

With naivety, I failed. I cast my ballot with the hopes that citizens would weigh their priorities, cast aside their prejudices, just for this one moment, so we can at the very least prevent the rollback of progress and emboldening of bigots. I expected my humanity and citizenship to be acknowledged.

Should’ve known better.

I am already accustomed to the Otherization of my kind. I appreciate the fortune of living in the Northeastern blue state bubble where the likelihood of experiencing bodily harm due to Islamophobia is diminished.

Now, however, I feel the same as I do during Eid and during the anniversary of 9/11. On both days I am drenched in fear, anxious about my parents in public spaces, regardless of whether or not they were wearing their traditional garb.

I tell them not to take my brother with them, if possible. I tell them to stay in large crowds and not to drift around too much. Just this year Eid -ul-Adha fell very, very close to September 11th, I was not inclined to leave home. Even when the NYPD was there to assure the neighborhood gathering wouldn’t crumple under a hailstorm of bullets from a demented and vengeful attacker, I felt a gripping sensation in my chest.

Miles away from my parents’ house, when I found out the man who, among an array of unpleasantries and threats, endorsed violence and vitriol and mistrust directed towards people of my race and heritage, was now President. My chest tightened.

It’s still tight.

There’s no comfort in knowing Clinton won the popular vote. Even had she won, I would’ve feared the backlash. Now that fear is heightened exponentially. Even after a few days, bigots are empowered, they have already committed violence against minority groups with the knowledge that the current government might look the other way. These individuals might have always had these tendencies and beliefs, but now they are imbued with courage.

So now, it seems, we who are threatened must do the very same.

After the results, I have been told to ‘get over it’ and be more optimistic. I say no.

At the point where my brown body is no longer my own body but policed, under surveillance, then I’ll use it as a vessel of rageful activism.

I am frustrated and tired with reaching across the aisle to bigots, asking them to recognize my humanity when they won’t even look at me. I am drained with being expected to appreciate my seat at the table when nothing I say is heeded. I am weary of being the teacher to the oppressor when the oppressor will not carry the favor.

And I most definitely am not the only one who holds these sentiments, if anything, I am infinitely grateful of the privilege to voice this anger. Grateful for my campus space where even with a majority white student population, I feel safe. Grateful that my socioeconomic status grants me and my family a certain level of security, no matter how tenuous.

Grateful for each shade of brown lighter I am, granting me invisibility.

And at the same time, so heartbroken, reading stories of Muslim women afraid to wear their hijabs outside their home, gay couples hesitant to display their affection, people of color not wanting to walk alone at night. All of these are reminders of a necessary perseverance, of requisite dialogue and asserting our rights through prominent force, done with care.

For each morsel of empathy the other half of the population lacks, I will exude. Buckling down under the fear will only benefit them in the long run.

So no, I am not over it. This isn’t your milquetoast Republican in office, this is a man whose platform – easily accessible to read, by the way – has made it very clear how he will frame policy for the years to come. Turning a blind eye to that is rendering yourself complicit in the violence. As for optimism, I know my personal optimism has rendered me oblivious to the reality of the United States’ misguided, fucked up priorities. I knew racism was entrenched, what I didn’t know is that the country was very willing and eager to cut off its nose in spite of its face.

Now I know better.

And I will give a hug to anyone need of one.


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