I applaud Trump for inspiring such great progressive moments in the US

Published: April 2, 2017

Donald Trump speaks at his South Carolina primary night victory rally in Spartanburg, South Carolina, February 20, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

Post 9/11, the world became a very different place. However, no one could have predicted how the heinous acts of a few deranged individuals that September day in 2001 would affect the lives of more than a billion Muslims across the globe.

On their part, Muslim Americans were naturally traumatised to witness the sudden thoughtless rise in islamophobia and hatred towards their community. So they internalised their fears and saw merit in distancing themselves from all national socio-political discourses.

Barack Obama’s progressive policies did bring some relief for Muslim Americans. Unfortunately, his sincere efforts at instilling confidence within the marginalised Muslim community were rolled back with a single unrelenting stroke, when Republican nominee Donald Trump won the 2016 elections. During the campaign trail, Trump openly displayed his racism against Muslims, and his ignorant redneck supporters loved him for it.

However, his divisive rhetoric had an unexpected effect: it made Muslim Americans, especially the women, realise that they could no longer live in the shadows; they had to stand up against the pervasive Islamophobia and speak out. They could no longer depend on others to echo their concerns.

But Muslims were not the only ones affected; Trump’s victory opened the floodgates of hate crimes, with every minority group being targeted, including Mexicans, Hindus and Jews. Just last month, an Indian engineer was shot dead in Kansas after a white person shouted, ‘go back to your country’ at him. Similarly, Jewish cemeteries in different cities of the US were desecrated by white supremacists. This common peril has shaken the minority communities to the core.

American history is filled with horrific examples of mistreatment of minority groups such as native-Americans and African-Americans. But the current scale of division within America, though much less violent, is nonetheless alarming. The liberal media and democrats have now awoken to the stark reality that their nation’s basic principles of freedom of speech, liberty and pursuit of happiness, which until now were taken for granted, are yet again under threat.

Let us now take a look at five inspiring examples of individuals and groups who are fighting the good fight in response to the disruptive fault lines created by Trump:

1. Bernie Sanders

Contrary to what some people in Pakistan assume, all Jews are not scheming plotters who abhor Muslims. In fact, American Jews are some of the most vociferous defenders of their fellow Muslims’ rights. And to bring home the point that not all Jews are involved in ‘yahoodi sazishs’ (Jewish conspiracy), an exemplary political figure such as US Senator Bernie Sanders will suffice. Ever since Trump suggested a ban on Muslims, Sanders has been the most vocal, most ardent supporter of American Muslims within the political spectrum.

2. Khizr Khan

A Pakistani-American lawyer by profession, Khizr Khan spoke at the pre-election Democratic Party convention, and famously offered his copy of the US constitution to Trump. This was an unprecedented sight: A Muslim using such a momentous platform to teach American constitutional principles to a presidential nominee.

3. Bill De Blasio

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio is widely respected for his pro-minorities, pro-immigration stance. He proudly states that New York is a city of immigrants, and its shores are always open to immigrants from across the world. De Blasio took a great initiative when he participated in a rally to denounce plans to build a Muslim Registry. There, he exclaimed,

“Today, I am Muslim too!”

4. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

This non-profit organisation provides pro bono legal services for American individuals whose civil liberties are under threat. When Trump came out with his first executive order to ban Muslims from seven Muslim-majority countries, volunteer lawyers of ACLU reached airports across the country and were seen typing up petitions on behalf of Muslims trapped at the airports. Ultimately, the lawyers of ACLU got a stay order against the executive order from Federal courts.

5. Women’s march

Another segment of the American society that found its voice, in the aftermath of this election, is the women. Trump’s appalling misogynistic comments unified the womenfolk and led them to march across the US for their equal rights.

Muslim women, who previously stayed quite aloof from US politics, have now surpassed their male counterparts in social activism. Proudly wearing the hijab, and seen on all mainstream news networks, these educated, empowered females have taken up the mantle of representing the peaceful and inclusive image of Islam to the American society. Symbolically, the face of American anti-immigration movement is a Muslim girl wearing the American flag as her hijab.

America has certainly come a long way since September 11, 2001. And though Trump is largely responsible for the recent rise of conservative populism in the US, he must also be credited for unconsciously inspiring and stimulating the long dormant progressive movement under way in America today.

Usman Ali Virk

Usman Ali Virk

The author hails from Lahore and is a lawyer by profession. He recently graduated with a Masters in Law from the University of California, Berkeley.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.