Since Donald Trump was elected the country’s next president on November 8, the United States has been in turmoil. While some citizens are celebrating the victory of the candidate they wanted, many others are frightened that the xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, and misogyny that Trump expressed throughout his campaign will take a devastating toll on our country.
Indeed, some bullies have already used Trump’s victory to justify acts of hate and aggression against vulnerable groups. According to an article on CNN.com, “The Southern Poverty Law Center has counted more than 700 cases of hateful harassment or intimidation in the US since Election Day.”
Trump’s choice of advisers and cabinet members have reaffirmed his stance on Muslims. His pick for national security advisor, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who once tweeted that fear of Muslims is “rational” is one example.
Stephen Bannon, former Breitbart News executive turned campaign CEO, is Trump’s choice for chief strategist and senior counselor in the White House. According to an article in USA Today, “The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned Bannon’s appointment in a statement, calling him an ‘anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist and White nationalist alt-right extremist.’ The council pointed to the alt-right news website he used to run as proof of his views on Muslims and other minorities.”
Many Muslims have expressed a heightened sense of fear for their safety in the past weeks. A large number of hijab-wearing women are signing up for self-defense classes, and some are even considering removing their scarves in an attempt to look less conspicuous.
Despite all of the bad news, there is a silver lining to the cloud of Trump’s imminent presidency. Many Americans, aware of the fear that is in the hearts of some of their compatriots, are displaying noble acts of compassion and solidarity. They believe in freedom of religion and respect for humanity, and they are stepping up to support, defend, and protect neighbors from all walks of life, including Muslims.
Although acts of kindness do not usually get as much press as hate crimes, it is important to report that Muslim Americans are receiving encouragement and kindness from non-Muslims in their communities. Starting on November 9 – the day after the election – I started receiving emotional messages from some family and friends whom I hadn’t heard from in ages.
“Reaching out to you and your family with love,” said one simple but encouraging message from a high school friend I haven’t seen in nearly two decades.
“You are safe. And I love you, and the world loves you. Good will prevail. I will protect you,” said a heartwarming text from another high school friend who happens to be a veteran of the U.S. Navy.
“I’m so happy and proud you’re my cousin. I love you, and we’re behind you 100%,” a dear cousin who lives across the country took the time to tell me.
Their kind words kept me from the brink of despair after the news of Trump’s victory. I went from feeling scared and alone to feeling loved, supported, and hopeful.
Several other Muslims have had similar experiences. “There is a Jewish father who always cheers me on, as well as his son, at swimming classes,” says Victoria Caldwell, a Muslim and Director of Marketing at Teamimpress.com. “After the election, he took the time to tell me, ‘I’m so sorry. I can’t believe this. I never thought he’d actually win.’”
Another non-Muslim friend told Victoria, “We are so upset about this. My boys and I woke up crying. We are in this together.”
Teyebeh Bashir received a great deal of support from non-Muslims in her homeschooling community. Some of them sent supportive messages, like this one: “I’ve been thinking of you today. Love to you and your family. I hope you know how valued you are by so many.”
Another non-Muslim friend told Teyebeh how she had recently defended Muslims in general, telling a critic of Islam, “Stop generalizing and stop giving people misinformation!”
A Jewish friend, who is familiar with the dangers of being attacked for religion, told Teyebeh, “You know I will create a safe place in my house for you.”
In addition to all of the individual messages of compassion, several kind-hearted Americans took the time to deliver caring messages to masajid around the nation. At the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley, this note, accompanied by a potted plant and an American flag balloon, was left in an envelope addressed to “My Muslim Neighbors”:
“I stand with you. We are stronger together. I believe in you and I believe in the USA, land of the free, home of the brave, with liberty and justice for ALL. Peace and love will prevail.”
This letter was left at mosque in Round Rock, Texas:
“Dear neighbors, As this nation is currently going through rough times, my family and I wanted to reach out to your community. Although we do not share the same religion, I know we share the same values of love, and respect for all mankind. As your neighbors we want you all to know we are here for you in any way necessary. We will stand by you and support you. Please call on us anytime you wish. Much love . . .”
Finally, this inspiring letter was addressed to the imam of the Islamic Institute of Orange County:
“My name is . . . and I’m a resident of Anaheim, not far from the IIOC. In the wake of the elections, I was worried that perhaps you and/or the people who attend the IIOC may have heard or been victims of harassment because of your religion. I simply wanted to say that, as a neighbor, my family stands in solidarity with all of you, our Muslim friends and neighbors. Any viciousness you may hear from residents of Orange County (and I hope there is none) is not indicative of what this country stands for or what it was founded on. If there is anything at all that I or my family can do for the IIOC, please let us know. I will also email the volunteering email address I found on your website. We are a stronger country when we are together, and I pledge to stand shoulder to shoulder with you.”
It is extremely heartening to know that, despite the anti-Muslim sentiment that undeniably exists in the U.S., many Americans have open minds and hearts. With cooperation, interfaith dialogue, trust, and human decency, I truly believe this country can overcome its challenges. This is our home. We must all learn to live in it together, peacefully.