Like many other Americans who cried themselves to sleep on Wednesday night, wondering if this was the work of Satan, I too closed my eyes shut, hoping for a miracle. I hadn’t studied for my chemistry or Arabic exams. I was just too upset, and wished I didn't have to go to college tomorrow. The pain, the fear, it all felt too real. It was a feeling I’ve never experienced before, so much so that I called to God for help. Let’s just say I’m not the most devout Muslim, but I try very hard to be the “ideal” Muslim. Ever since I witnessed the results of the 2016 presidential election on CNN at 3 a.m., I actually prayed without giving myself some sort of materialistic motivation. There was some sort of force pulling me towards that prayer mat.
It was Wednesday, 8:32 a.m. I opened my eyes only to realize that Trump is still the president elect, and I fell back into my mind’s infinite hole of despair. My test was at 9:15 a.m. ‘Can I just skip it? No, that’s not an option. I’m already failing chemistry. I can’t risk really failing’, I thought as I slowly flung the corner of the blanket to the other side of the bed. I got changed, didn’t eat breakfast, took my bag and stuffed it with my calculator, a pen, and an almost empty water bottle. I had to go out into the world and do it again, like the day before. The potential for contemptuous stares and unusually quiet bus rides, this was what the world had become, or at least my world.
I handed my test paper to the proctor and speed walked out of the lecture hall. Some alone time for reflection, that would’ve been nice. I was imagining myself rolled up in my bed, being miserable, all alone, while watching reruns of “The Office”. Watching Michael Scott and his crazy shenanigans always cheered me up. But this was a much bigger problem, and no amount of The Office could fix this.
Fast forward to 1:45 p.m. My Arabic 101 class starts at 2:15 p.m., so I had time to skim through the pages and “study”. As I passed the corner, I saw my classmates sitting outside the room. And I said, in the most depressing way possible, “Hey guys. Guess what? Donald Trump is the president of the United States of America”. From there, we started talking about all the things wrong with that man and all the people we despise for choosing him. Many of us said that most people voted for him because they think he will bring jobs, prosperity for the US, but most importantly, he will bring change. Didn’t matter if it was good or bad change. It would be change nonetheless. However, one thing that stumbled into my mind was how could people ignore the consequences of their choice regarding the potential ill treatment of minorities? How could people be so selfish? But this was a complicated question to answer. Maybe, they weren’t thinking of us. Some of them don’t know what it’s like on the other side, the side that minorities are all too familiar with. The stares, the whispers, the “random” searches, etc. That discussion made me feel even more vulnerable and alarmed at our country's true face. What progress do we pride ourselves over? We haven't made any progress! People continue to wake up with the 1960’s mindset; they still think we belong in the back of the bus and we don’t belong in this country, even though many of us have been born here. This is the only place we can call home! We all got so passionate about the conversation that we forgot to look over the material for the test, but luckily, my teacher was considerate enough to make it an open book test.
Immediately after the class was dismissed, I ran to my research lab office, and prayed Asr in the empty room. When I finished, I collected all my things and made my way to the bus. Today, I had a meeting in the Mayor’s office with his Gender Equity and Community Affairs Committee. I got off the E train at World Trade Center, and started walking down Park Ave. I couldn’t wait to get into that meeting. Two days ago, I would’ve been very nervous to talk about WISE, but I don’t think I have ever felt more confident talking about an organization that offers so much to the Muslim youth- a safe space, ways to protect yourself and those around you, and a transformative experience along with new people who will inevitably become some of your closest friends.
I opened the door, and saw a metal detector, and two male guards, with big smiles on their faces. The black male guard probably sensed the tension on my face and said, “Oh, you're the first one here. Are you here for me?” I laughed and I had a sense this was going to be an interesting evening. After, I collected my things from the belt, and walked passed the metal detectors, I found the elevator, which someone held for me. I suppose when all you’ve seen on Facebook and the news are acts of terror, you seem to notice the small, kind gestures more, and appreciate them.
The conference room was empty and I had some time before the meeting started at 6 p.m. It was time to pray Maghrib. I asked Farah, the intern working in the office if there was a place. She led me to a cozy, little room with a prayer mat laid on the floor, which might have been a spacious broom closet. When I finished, I went back into the conference room. One by one, women from different organizations located in NYC started coming in. We went around the table talking about our organization and what it does to serve the Muslim community. For the first time in the past two days, I had a genuine smile on my face, as I looked at the room filled with strong, independant women from almost every ethnic background from Afghan to Latina to South Asian to North African. The things we talked about, the things I could relate to, it filled this void in my heart. Tonight we acknowledged all the problems we have in our communities like domestic violence, unwelcoming mosques, and the importance of empowering Muslim women. These are very real issues and they happen to women every single day. We had meaningful open discussions and proposed possible solutions. Time flew by and before I knew it, it had been more than 2 hours. I collected a few of their business cards. I knew I wanted to collaborate with them on some WISE events. Tazmin, a friend that I made, and I headed out.
We got there just in time. An E train was waiting for us. We found a car and hopped in. As we were about to sit down, from a distance we saw a post-it note. Naturally, we went closer, and it read, “Be kind Be brave.” I’m not really a person who believes in signs, but this little piece of paper gave me so much hope. As much as there are hateful people, there are also kind, open-minded people who are ready to help. They too, do not stand for injustice.
Overall, this election was terrifying. However, if there is one thing that I am grateful about that was the result of Trump, it would be the unity that he brought to not just the Muslim community, but every community.