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American Muslim’s Reflections on Inauguration Day

American Muslim’s Reflections on Inauguration Day
Artist Shepard Fairey, who created the 2008 "Hope" poster of Barack Obama, has produced a new set of images in time for Donald Trump's inauguration. RNS photo by Lauren Markoe

WASHINGTON – The inauguration and swearing in of the 45th president of the United States Donald J. Trump was marked by a mixture of fear, ambivalence, and a bit of the surreal as in, “Is this really happening?”

Many opted out of attending, including a number of Democratic lawmakers. Many more opted out of watching it at all, including Professor of Islamic Studies at Evergreen State College, Sarah Eltantawi, who said that she had her emotional limits and couldn’t watch.  “My energy will go to fighting fascism, not watching its spectacle,” she says.

Islamic school teacher, Jaime Banyalmarjeh from Kansas City, watched the inauguration along with her entire classroom through the White House live feed.

“We talked about respecting others with different opinions. We talked about the position of President and its importance.

I explained to my students it’s best to read, research, then form your own opinions- don’t fall for media and its hype (on both sides). We discussed the “middle way” the SURAT AL MUSTAQEEM (the path in the middle- neither extreme),” says Banyalmarjeh.

I personally tuned in expecting to hear an inaugural address and heard a more polished version of a Trump style campaign speech; a populist “we shall overcome the establishment” kind of rhetoric.

Although his speech was aimed at invoking pride in our American ideals, many felt like Trump’s speech was just another episode of political theater. It was a kind of a rallying cry against everything from the establishment to Islamic radicalism.

Putting ‘America First’ was the central theme of his speech.

“We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first.”

Trump also drew upon the many other themes that won him the election by launching an attack on Washington.

“The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. ”

The elites of Washington have profited at the expense of the little man and Trump promises to overthrow the old order in exchange for a new one made up of a different kind of elite club. Trump’s promise that he will dismantle the establishment was peculiar given that he has fortified himself with a cabinet made up precisely of the very kind of elitism he bemoans.

New Political ClimateAmerican Muslim’s Reflections on Inauguration Day - About Islam

Trump is a man of instincts, and what has driven those instincts is not a desire for non-conformity, but a dependence and conformity to a sub-culture which demands less of him that the current establishment. In spite of all his power and money, he has never been truly welcomed here, there, or anywhere.

Although it was the establishment principle that has allowed men like Trump to traditionally rise to power, he has never really been allowed in as an insider- in any meaningful way.

Sadly for the American people, big business cannot only leverage the power of government to give themselves an unfair advantage over their competitors, but they can now afford to chop off the hand that feeds them. They no longer need to buy government because they are the government.

The new establishment, with Trump at the helm wants the American people to understand that we were betrayed, but not by him, but by those who served and bowed to the likes of him. If we find him appalling, we have to ask ourselves why we were not equally appalled by those who enabled or have been enabling his brand of corruption to move unchecked for so long.

We now can expect a new political climate designed to give privileges to some, not based on the system of meritocracy, but a system of plutocracy.

Thankfully, the majority of Americans are not buying into that narrative. Today hundreds of thousands are marching all across the nation in protest to this new administration.

In light of all the positive moves taking place to bring people together to protest the hateful rhetoric and despotic tones of this new administration; it bears remembering that as Muslims we should always be optimistic.

And perhaps this is an opportunity for Muslims to articulate the truth of Islam and to advance an agenda of peace and reconciliation.

In the words of one of America’s favorite celebrity Imams Omar Suleiman:

“Now is an opportunity to mobilize against fascism, racism, and xenophobia like never before…. Alliances will be formed that should existed long before. This will force us to be organized like we’ve always said we should be. Business as usual would’ve bred complacency. Since this is anything but, may we proceed with wisdom and courage.”

And to that I would like to add- God bless America!


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