It’s hard to believe that this election is the first election I have been fully aware of. I can’t recall much from the 2008 or 2012 campaigns; I just remember the excitement across America for the election of President Obama. He ushered in a new era for America. In 2008 we believed that the United States was truly the land of opportunity and tolerance where anyone, regardless of his or her race, could become the President of the United States. I looked on in awe. I saw that patterns could be broken, and I saw endless opportunities for myself.
Things have changed. Eight years later, I’m seeing America move backwards. The election of Donald Trump has taken away the America where anyone can become anything they aspire to be. It has made me realize that the election of President Obama was not an indication of our future, but merely a blip in the cycle of white men in the White House.
November 8th, 2016 has been forever etched in my memory. To start, it was my 17th birthday. Things couldn’t have been better. I was surrounded by friends and family who love and support me. The day was filled with birthday wishes, and I’m not going to lie, I loved the attention. Still, I understood the importance of that day. It was time for America to make a tough decision.
That night, as I watched the results come in, my heart sank. I saw a man who didn’t believe in compassion and understanding win the Presidency. I couldn’t believe what I had seen unfold in front of me. What disappointed me was knowing that many of the people that voted for him also subscribe to his xenophobic, racist, misogynistic ideals. My vision of coexistence and cooperation in America melted away, and all I could do was watch. I frantically turned the TV off and ran out of the room. Then I saw a painting in my home. It is from Pakistan, and the word “Allah” are painted with intricate calligraphy. The letters swirl and dive, but the message is clear. I took a moment to appreciate the beauty of this painting because I knew that the election of Donald Trump would not be so elegant for the Muslim community.
I have grown up as a Muslim Pakistani-American, and for the most part I’ve felt included as an American. My race and my faith have not been much of a problem until about eighteen months ago. As soon as the hateful rhetoric surrounding the Muslim community began to unfold, I began to understand the hardships of being the son of immigrants. In the new political rhetoric, I wasn’t American, I was the other. I started to understand what it feels like to be a minority in the United States. I live in fear of what the President-Elect says, and what his supporters believe about me. Islam is a beautiful faith rooted in a strong connection between humans and their creator. I wish other Americans saw it that way too.
Every minority in America faces a new struggle: the racial discrimination against the Irish, the internment of innocent Japanese-Americans, and the systematic racism and oppression of Black Americans, for example. Now, Muslim-Americans are in the same situation. The demonization of Muslims has put us behind, and that is not what we deserve. We are leaders, friends, and American citizens, and I will not let anyone, not even the President, take that away from us. We will use our voices to fight bigotry, and we will stand strong in the face of hatred.
People tell me I can’t hate the President, and I don’t. I only wish the best for President-Elect Donald Trump, but the Muslim community will be watching. We will observe his administration and supporter’s actions, and we will not hide because we lack in numbers. Our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will not be trampled on because of our faith.
His election marks a moment in my life where I don’t see myself as completely American. I have realized that people truly see me as different. I will not let my differences hold me back though. I will embrace those differences and use them to achieve my American Dream. I know there are struggles to come for me and my Muslim brothers and sisters, so I hope the Muslim community stays strong and heeds the words of our creator, “So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief” (Quran 94:5).