By Maggie Cai and Samantha Salomon
More than 75 members of the Muslim community filed into the basement of the Islamic Center of Long Island (ICLI), hoping to leave with a sense of clarity after they learned the results of the presidential election. A sign in sheet was passed around as a host introduced the speaker of the event, Dr. Nasar Shahid.
The 45-minute discussion, held in Westbury, NY, on Nov. 13, covered topics such as civic engagement and addressed concerns of some of the audience members. It was followed by a 15-minute question and answer segment. “The conversation was just to deal with the post-election jitters in a minority community,” Isma Chaudhry, the President of ICLI, said.
Since Donald Trump was announced as the President-elect, there have been more than 300 reported hate-induced incidents across the country, according to a report done by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit organization that tracks hate groups and hate crimes.
“I think he has polarized the country a lot by some of the negative promises and negative comments he has made, which made him very popular and maybe was the source of some of his strength in the election,” Dr. Qamar Zaman, a founding member of ICLI, said.
As a minority and as citizens of the United States, the open forum allowed the members of the Muslim community an opportunity to discuss the political process and to learn more about it, Zaman said.
Trump’s campaign has included anti-Muslim rhetoric and has been one of his topics of discussion since the beginning of the election.
“Just like anywhere else, there are a lot of people who are Muslim who voted for Trump, there were a lot of people who are Muslim who voted for Clinton and there has been, from both sides, a lot of irresponsible things that were said,” Chaudhry said.
The American Muslim Women PAC was founded in opposition to Trump, so that American Muslim Women could have a political voice, Mirriam Seddiq, founder of the American Muslim Women PAC, said. “We started after Trump said Ghazala Khan maybe wasn’t allowed to speak.” Khan is the mother of Veteran Humayun Khan, who was killed during the Iraq War.
Moving forward, the members of ICLI are focusing their efforts on positive ways to unite themselves as a community. Recommendations have been made to implement a debate forum to discuss political issues and social injustice.
“[We] can help each other at the time when people are thinking that [we] are the problem. You should know that we are not the problem, but our voices cannot be heard unless we are organized and we become one entity,” Shahid said.
“We have to move on,” Chaudhry said. “This is the time for healing on so many levels because the campaign from both sides was run in a very divisive way and that is something that we have to address moving forward as a nation – what this election took away from America.”