HOUSTON – To say Islam, its adherents and so-called faith-based terrorism has been one of the main focuses of the US presidential election is a bit of an understatement.
Political rhetoric surrounding “radical Islamic terror” has been rampant this election cycle, ranging from some candidates urging American Muslims to be vigilant and “on the front lines” of defeating terror to others advocating for a complete ban on all foreign Muslims attempting to enter into the United States.
In short, it’s been a wild and strange ride, and it’s not over yet.
On November 8, millions of Americans will take to the ballot box to choose their next head of state, be it Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or her Republican opponent Donald Trump.
Over the past decade, Muslim Americans tend to lean Democrat and this election cycle seems no different. However, in talking with Muslims living in Houston, Texas, it’s apparent that the frustration and feeling of having to choose between the lesser of two evils when it comes to voting are as prevalent amongst Muslims as they are within the public at large. As a result, that angst is manifest in how many will vote for and why.
For example, Rami Sadiq told AboutIslam.net he is willing to break with many of his friends and family and vote for Donald Trump.
He said he’s aware of the billionaire businessmen’s controversial and, in the opinion of many, hate-filled campaign particularly when it comes to Muslims.
Sadiq said he can dismiss most of what Trump spews as simply tough-guy talk to excite and motivate his base because he knows that imposing a travel ban on an entire group of people simply on the basis of their faith would never pass muster with the American government.
Instead, Sadiq said he is hedging his bets that Trump, with no known ties to lobbyists and his business acumen, might just be the shake-up the American government needs.
For others, including Sadiq’s wife Elizabeth, Trumps words are not so easy to ignore and yet she can’t stomach the idea of a Hillary Clinton administration, whom she said is not progressive enough. Instead, she will be writing in Clinton’s former Democratic opponent Bernie Sanders for president.
To Vote or Not
For Mona Sahir, a Lebanese American who’s lived in the United States for 11 years, the choice is clear.
“I hope Hillary Clinton is the winner,” she said. “She has the most experience, and she cares about women and children.”
Sahir also stressed the importance of voting and lamented that many Muslims Americans she knows are “lazy and they don’t care” about exercising their rights to participate in the election process.
“We are here in this country, we are present, and we have to vote if we want to be represented just as other people are,” she said.
Noor Hannach Idrissi will not be among those voting, but it’s not for lack of conviction or interest in the presidential race.
Not yet a citizen, Idrissi has lived in the United States for six years and only recently relocated to Texas from Oregon.
She said the difference is stark.
“People in Texas are very different from those in Oregon,” she told AboutIslam.net.
“Here people look at me as if I’m going to take something from them or even like I’m from another planet.”
Idrissi said she doesn’t expect things to improve should Trump win, particularly given his talk of preventing foreign Muslims from coming into America.
“I was shocked the first time I heard him say he wanted to ban Muslims,” she said. “That is just racist and has nothing to do with making America great again, as he says.”
In fact, Idrissi said the opposite is the case.
“Muslims are already here making it great. There are so many doctors and engineers who are Muslim.”
Idrissi said if people are so afraid of Islam and Muslims then they should take the time to educate themselves rather than listening to and believing hate speech from the mouths of power-hungry politicians.
“All of what (Trump) is saying is just a game to get attention and people to vote for him,” she said.
“And people who do vote for him are not intelligent and they know nothing of our religion.”
Still, despite her worries over a possible Trump presidency, Idrissi said she doesn’t think he’ll emerge victorious and expressed the now-familiar frustration with the alternative.
“I think Hillary Clinton will win, and if I could vote I would vote for her not because she’s great but because at least she’s not racist.”