By Abdullah Antepli
In a few days the nation goes to the polls in what has been a contest marred by scandal and controversy. Whatever the polls say between now and then, the chances are that it will be a very close battle. For Muslim Americans, the Donald Trump campaign has unleashed a new tidal wave of hate and Islamophobia on a completely different scale. In fact, Trump has practically targeted most minority groups in the country. Muslims have been struggling to come to terms with the popularity of Trump and what he means for wider American society. But there is another very important reality about this election; whilst the Trump campaign has constantly targeted and vilified Muslim Americans, the truth is that Muslims yield considerable influence in this election. They are very ideally placed geographically, and they have been very strongly incorporated into the architecture of the Clinton campaign. The Muslim factor in this contest could quite possibly prove decisive – but only if Muslims choose to exercise it come election day. Another very significant thing we must keep in mind is that Trump’s targeting of Muslims is not something that should be treated in isolation, it is something that threatens every single community in the States, in fact it threatens the core of our social fabric – the very way we interact with wider society is under threat.
Muslims must keep all of these things in mind when they go out to vote. Despite so many Muslim Americans feeling besieged by Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric often being targeted at them, and the fact that Hillary Clinton has consistently reached out to Muslims and made them a core part of her campaign strategy, there are an alarming number of Muslims who are simply not comfortable with the idea of voting for Hillary Clinton. For many, Hillary Clinton is untrustworthy and has a checkered political past. Many Muslims intend to vote for Jill Stein come November 8th.
The harsh reality however is that Muslims who are disinclined from voting Clinton are simply demonstrating apathy to the dangers and risks that the Muslim community, and indeed other faith-based minority communities, face under a Trump presidency. Voting for Jill Stein, particularly if you are a Muslim living in a swing state, is to simply vote for Trump. But it is more than that, Muslims who think that voting for Stein is the principled way to vote in a contest that has otherwise been filled with obscenity or scandal are simply ignoring the realities that our community is faced with. A Trump presidency is more than just about Trump – it will bring about severe stresses on our society from dark and bigoted forces who will find themselves empowered, legitimized and vindicated. Forces which are inherently racist, xenophobic, misogynist, and which have remained sidelined in our society for decades will creep back into the mainstream. And the backlash for Muslims will be substantial, and we will not be alone – the same forces will target their hate at the African American community, the Jewish community, and the Latino community. The Muslim community has constantly been fighting an uphill battle to progress in America without constantly being littered with the debris of Middle Eastern problems, and a Trump presidency will compound this to an unprecedented level – we will be targeted for practically everything that goes wrong in the Middle East. Muslims will be vilified and delegitimized in all quarters of our society.
So the notion that a vote for Jill Stein is the principled route in a messy election simply does not stack up to any scrutiny. For Muslims in swing states to do so would in my opinion be a gratuitous and parochial act of selfishness that betrays the collective in pursuit of an ostensible individual act of righteousness. Hillary Clinton is by no means a perfect candidate, but there is far too much at stake in this election, we are facing the prospect of our social fabric being punctured and replaced with something insidiously unpleasant. This is the time when the collective has to be put before the self. That means resisting the urge to vote for a third party candidate and resisting the urge to abstain, and turning out in force to vote for Hillary Clinton on Election Day.
For all her flaws, the Clinton campaign has consistently reached out to Muslims, and before dismissing it as a campaign tactic, it is important to remember that being inclusive of Muslims and other minorities has been a key feature of Hillary Clinton throughout her political career. And the relationship the Muslim community has enjoyed with Clinton has been a success story within the US, amounting to significant incremental change over the years.
Imam Abdullah Antepli is Chief Representative of Muslim Affairs at Duke University. Imam Abdullah Antepli joined the DOCE in 2015 as senior civic fellow and has contributed to the work on the civic engagement and faith series. Born in Turkey, Antepli is recognized and celebrated as one of the leading American-Muslim public intellectuals who has been richly contributing to various local, national and international conversations. His bridge building and peace making work takes him to different corners of the globe at any given moment. Antepli also serves as the director of Duke-Engage Lebanon program. He served as Duke University first Muslim chaplain from July 2008 to 2014 and currently hold the role of Chief Representative of Muslim Affairs. In his new role, Antepli engages students, faculty, and staff to provide a Muslim voice and perspective to the discussions of faith, spirituality, social justice and more. Antepli also serves as a faculty member in the Duke Divinity School and teaches variety of courses on Islam and Muslim cultures.
Editor’s note: This article, in parts or whole, does not represent the views of the Muslim Observer nor is it endorsed by the publication. We encourage our readers to engage with all candidates and make an informed decision by reading different view points, like the above.