Muslim Americans Grapple with a Trump Presidency

American Muslims fear not only for their safety, but that their most prominent organizations could get shut down under Trump's rule.

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Nov 10 2016, 7:05pm

Throughout Donald Trump's campaign to become president of the United States, he's made it clear to many American minority groups that they are his targets. Groups like Mexicans, immigrants, and black Americans have all felt the brunt of his vitriolic rhetoric.

Another one of his biggest targets has been Muslims. Since 2015, Trump has made promises to ban and deport all Muslim Americans should he be elected. Trump's anti-Muslim stance only hardened as the race went on. In November 2015, he was quoted saying he "absolutely" would create a register for all Muslims. More recently, his campaign manager revealed Trump has a five-point plan to defeat the entire religion of Islam.

Even without acting on his threats, Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric still causes harm. A Georgetown University report published in May revealed his comments have already caused a significant spike in Islamophobic attacks. "Data suggests that acts and threats of anti-Muslim violence increased in 2015, and that it has escalated further during the presidential election season," the report reads.

Muslim Americans have seen sharp increases in Islamophobia since 9/11. According to the Washington Post, hate crimes motivated by Islamophobia are nearly five times more common than they were before the attacks. Before 2001, between 20 to 30 anti-Muslim hate crimes had been reported per year with the number rising to over 500 after 9/11. Now, each year there are about 150 to 200 attacks against Muslims—with the number of annual assaults climbing.

Read More: How Islamophobia Hurts Muslim Women the Most

If Americans are looking at the UK's Brexit referendum vote as an example of how things will unfold for minorities, there's plenty to fear. The rhetoric surrounding Brexit was largely rooted in xenophobia, and many pro-Brexit voters saw the vote as a way to oppose immigration and foreign populations. Shortly after the vote, the UK saw a staggering increase in racially-motivated hate crimes. According to a report by the UK Home Office, "the number of racially or religiously aggravated offences recorded by the police in July 2016 was 41 percent higher than in July 2015."

According to Namira Islam, executive director of the Michigan-based Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, an organization that fights racism alongside Islamophobia, many American Muslims are fearful for their future post-election. With Trump in power, some believe their safety will be more at risk than ever.

"Overall it's going to make day-to-day experiences difficult," says Islam of Trump's win. One example is that Muslims could be less inclined to travel to regions that have voted for Trump. "People are telling me, 'This makes me not want to leave the city' because they're looking at electoral maps from county to county. We had one person mentioning the fact that she's nervous about leaving a certain county because, looking at the maps, you see which county has voted for Trump."

Additionally, at an official level, the very existence of Muslim organizations could be at risk. Islam explains that, as the results were rolling in on Election Day, Trump brought Ben Carson up on stage. "Ben Carson went after CAIR [Council on American and Islamic Relations], saying they were a terrorist organization and should be investigated or should be shut down." CAIR is currently the biggest Muslim American advocacy group.

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Islam also points out that Trump's damage has been done. Just last month, a group of men from Kansas plotted to bomb multiple Muslim establishments if Trump didn't succeed during this election. "There are so many people where we just don't even know if they have plans, they could still technically do it," she says. Trump also never went on the record condemning the plans of his supporters who, according to their criminal report, "chose the target location based on their hatred of these groups, their perception of these groups represent a threat to American society, a desire to inspire other militia group, and a desire to 'wake people up.'"

Recently, some Muslim Americans have been taking more practical steps to defending themselves against Islamophobic attacks. Two women in New York City created self-defense classes specifically catered to Muslim women.

Regardless of whether or not Trump will backpedal on his most harmful remarks, Islam believes, "Trump can't just flirt with these Islamophobic entities or individuals and expect to put that in the bag once they outlive their usefulness. It's certainly bad, but I feel like we're not fully exploring how bad it could get."