By Raye Weigel
According to a Syrian student, when it comes to prejudice in the United States, “we have been fighting a ghost.”
With the outcome of the election, according to Aiyah Sibay, a senior English major, it is now impossible to ignore this prejudice.
One year ago, her grandmother put her name on a waiting list for a retirement home in Syria in case Trump became president.
“Imagine how dangerous she thinks it is for Trump to be president that she’s willing to move to Syria and live in a country that many are fleeing from because she doesn’t want to be in this country with Trump as president,” Sibay said.
Despite this fear, Sibay said she thinks Trump winning will have positive consequences.
“If we woke up to Clinton being president this morning, I really don’t think that anyone would have aggressively or proactively addressed the millions of people that voted for Trump.”
When she heard Trump won, she said, “I was more scared for my family than I am for myself; more scared for the people in the Middle East that I know: my fiancé in Palestine, my family in Syria.”
She said to her fiancé in Palestine: “You say bye to your country. That little section of land that’s still left to you in the West Bank, you say bye to it.”
If Clinton had won, Sibay emphasized, there would have been a national sigh of relief. People would have thought their activism work was over. But now with Trump, it’s different: “It’s a terrifying wake up call, and we need it.”
Manar Dajani, a senior business major, seems to agree that this is a wake-up call. If she were to address the people who thought racism did not exist in our country, she said she would say “good morning” in reference to them having this realization.
Dajani started wearing her hijab in high school where she donned it skeptically, worried that she would receive a negative reaction from her friends. It turned out they were overwhelmingly supportive and even defensive of her.
Under the new presidency, she plans to continue wearing her hijab.
“I, thank the Lord, have always been a strong person to the point that I knew nothing ever ever would make me take it off,” she said.
She referenced the aftermath of 9/11 when her mother’s best friend who wore one was held at gunpoint and told: “You’re lucky I don’t blow your fucking head off.” Her mother stopped wearing her hijab.
“If they want to shoot me, let them shoot me,” she said. She feels differently about the people she loves, such as her mother. “I see anyone else that I love I’m like ‘take it off, take it off’ … I care if they shoot someone else that I love.”
According to senior economics major Samad Husain, president of the Muslim Students Association, “We view this as a larger phenomenon of Islamophobia that’s a growing feeling in the country.”
However, he said, “it’s not something that we can’t get through with the right support and the right encouragement from all our allies in other communities.”
The MSA is building a program that has been in the works for years: the Center for Muslim Life. Though the timeline of development will not be changed due to the political climate, it will provide mentoring and leadership developments in the upcoming years.
Tarif Shraim is the chaplain for Muslim students. He is an alumni of this university, where he has been serving for the past 10 years.
His first reaction to the election outcome was deep concern, in what he called a “climate of bigotry and fear that has been spawned by the rhetoric of politicians.”
His attitude, however, in the midst of what he described as an intensification of already prevalent violence towards Muslims, and a “spectre of fear and hostility,” was one of hope.
“The question of leaving this country shouldn’t even be brought up,” he said. “I remind everybody that this is home.”
Sharim emphasized the importance of community outreach and education, something he says his community has been active in since 9/11.
“Every person bears a responsibility to reflect on and see how far or close they are to embodying the principles and values of our country . . . our thoughts, actions and words have an impact,” he said.
Featured Photo Credit: Samad Husain, president of the Muslim Students Association, stands inside of the Stamp Student Union. (Josh Loock/Bloc Photographer)
Raye Weigel is a sophomore multiplatform journalism and English major and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.