For Southern California Muslims, the election of Republican Donald Trump was the worst case scenario. Trump’s campaign centered around scapegoating illegal immigrants and Muslims, and predictably his electoral success has unleashed a wave of racial attacks. At the last count, the Southern Poverty Law Center had documented more than 800 incidents across the country of people being targeted for racial and religious harassment. These incidents include Muslim women who wear the hijab (head scarf) being threatened, Black people being told to “go back to Africa,” and Jewish property being grafittied with swastikas.
Ojaala Ahmad, communications coordinator at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)-LA, said California Muslims have been subjected to abuse. She said a Muslim woman was refused service at a gas station and three California mosques have received hate letters urging Trump to “do what Hitler did to the Jews.” In addition, the same letter was received by a mosque in Savannah, Ga., suggesting this is a coordinated effort.
Ahmad said CAIR is encouraging Muslims to report all of these incidents and refer them to law enforcement authorities because that will make it easier to build a case.
According to Ahmad, CAIR has decided to take a proactive approach to the Trump administration by laying out clear action points. Apart from encouraging Muslims to report all racist incidents, CAIR has also set up “Know Your Rights” workshops so Muslims can fight back against illegal action taken against them. Another step taken by CAIR is encouraging mosques and Muslim Student Associations to create a guide book of best practices on security and how to report attacks.
“If the community is educated, they are one step ahead of the game,” said Ahmad.
CAIR is also conducting a school bullying report where they are interviewing almost a dozen 18-year-olds to find out how the rise of Trump has affected high school-age youth. Several teachers and administrators have reported increased incidents of children being bullied because of their racial or religious background.
CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush detailed these points in a letter posted online.
“CAIR-LA will continue to be a fearless and principled defender of the Muslim community – and of the rights of all Americans. We will hold the new president and his administration to the highest standard in defending and protecting the rights of all those residing in our nation,” said Ayloush, who also encouraged Muslims to become citizens so they could vote.
One of the more disturbing laws that Trump plans to implement is a registry of Muslim visitors to the United States. However, Ahmad thinks this would be unconstitutional. She pointed out that all visitors to the U.S. are required to be registered and documented anyway, so requiring a separate registry for Muslims would be blatantly discriminatory.
Margari Hill, a Muslim activist who lives in the Inland Empire, said she was not surprised at Trump’s victory. Before the election, she had a sense of foreboding that he would win.
“At lot of us had deep anxiety that people (Democrats) were complacent,” said Hill. “The worst in America was confirmed.”
She said that Trump tapped into many of America’s fears, xenophobia, racism, sexism, to fuel his campaign. And she said many Americans fell in love with the image of him being “the powerful White male,” who could say and do anything.
Trump also appealed to fears of middle and working class Whites, who were more concerned about their pocketbooks than his race baiting.
Hill said Trump’s message of “make America great again,” is particularly disturbing, because he wants to return to a past when America was great for White men, but not anyone else.
She added that Muslims are apprehensive of the idea of a registry.
“There is deep anxiety at the idea of a registry,” she said.
Muslims are also concerned about Trump enforcing his proposed ban on Muslim immigration.
Hill said this has the potential to split families because many Muslims have family who live overseas and want to come to America. According to Hill, many Black Muslims are married to foreign-born Muslims, so the immigration ban could also affect them.
Hill said the Muslim community is now focusing on educating itself and collaborating with organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU,) who plan to issue legal challenges against some of Trump’s proposals claiming many of the laws violate the Constitution.
“Many of us are talking of ways to organize and build coalitions to put pressure on our representatives,” said Hill.