Roqayah Chamseddine is a Lebanese-American writer based in Sydney. She writes the Sharp Edges column at Shadowproof and politics at Paste Magazine. She tweets at @roqchams.
The shock of Donald Trump’s electoral college landslide has brought pollsters and pundits to their knees, and yet despite this, Hillary Clinton’s devastating loss has produced little, if any, internalisation on the part of the Democratic Party and Clinton campaign surrogates.
As Americans continue to process the very unsettling reality that Donald Trump is now president-elect, right wing ideologues, energised by his achievement, are feeling emboldened enough to unleash all-out hell upon minority groups.
The Southern Poverty Law Centre has already amassed over 200 reports of discriminatory violence ranging from ‘anti-Black, to anti-Muslim, to anti-woman, to anti-LGBT incidents’, all in the few days since the election. In the case of anti-Muslim violence, there have been reports of Muslim women being physically assaulted, intimidated, and discriminated against.
19-year-old Fariha Nizam, a student at Hunter College in New York, was harassed by a couple who asked her to take off her headscarf during a bus ride in Queens. “[They were] yelling at me and telling me to take off the disgusting piece of cloth on my head, saying that it wasn’t allowed anymore,” Nizam reported. According to University of Michigan police, a Muslim woman was threatened by a man who said he would set her in fire if she did not remove her hijab.
These incidents are harrowing, but they are not new to the Muslim-American community. The global war on terror, ushered in by the Bush administration and expanded to new heights by the Obama administration, was one of the main points of unification in the American political arena after 9/11.
Even the most ‘progressive’ lawmakers would go on to support deeply invasive and violent provisions, including the notoriously dystopian Patriot Act, and the flawed “terror watchlist”, which has little oversight, and whose victims are outright denied due process, and thereby left without any legal recourse to have their names removed.
The deportation of Muslim-Americans isn’t a fantastical threat spun by Donald Trump and his most ardent supporters, but an existing reality. According to Worlds Apart: How Deporting Immigrants After September 11 Tore Families Apart and Shattered Communities, a report by the American Civil Liberties Union, the government deported thousands of immigrants because they were from Muslim countries and “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
While internment and deportation jokes are now part and parcel of anti-Trump criticism, the truth of the matter is that Muslims have been forced to cope with this material reality for many years.
The security state has been closing in around Muslims long before Trump announced his candidacy, and long before Barack Obama raised his hand before the nation and pledged to serve the United States—discriminatory policies became a way of life for many Muslim-Americans after 9/11.
A covert war was waged on their houses of worship, they were isolated by their communities, and, in what many called a fit of hysteria, at least 762 Muslims were detained “in solitary confinement 23 hours a day with regular strip searches” and made to wear hand and leg shackles for months at a time, entirely due to their religion and race.
After a lawsuit was filed on behalf of these detainees the second US district court of appeals found, in a 2-1 ruling, that their constitutional rights were violated. The majority wrote that “the suffering endured by those who were imprisoned merely because they were caught up in the hysteria of the days immediately following 9/11 is not without a remedy.”
The NYPD’s Intelligence Division started a “suspicionless spying program” in 2002 that swept “throughout New York City, as well as every mosque within 100 miles of New York, and extended to Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, and more.” In 2014 the program allegedly ended—a NYPD official later admitted, under oath, that their covert surveillance operation “had not led to a single terrorism investigation”.
If we’re to even begin to challenge Donald Trump’s administration and his supporters then it is imperative that we come to terms not only with the world as it has existed, but the impact of policies employed by previous administrations against those already exiled to the edges of society.
We are not just fighting Donald Trump and those enamoured by his bigotry, but the very idea that things are fine, that the state of things should return to the way they were before November 8, that “America is already great”.
Photo: Getty Images.