Michigan Muslims face reality of Trump victory: ‘I pray for our community’
In Dearborn, Michigan, where a third of residents are of Arab descent, residents voice alarm at the election’s results – but say they are ‘not giving up the fight’Joumana Ahmed: ‘I’m moving to Canada.’ Photograph: Ryan Felton for the Guardian ,For the city of Dearborn, Michigan, where one-third of the city’s 96,000 residents are of Arab descent, the presidency of Donald Trump is almost certain to be volatile and unpredictable.
Just after 2.40am on Wednesday, when the election was called for the Republican nominee, Muzammil Ahmed, the chairman of the Michigan Muslim Community Council who attended an election watch party in Dearborn Tuesday night, tried to reach for a silver lining.
“Our country has made a choice of a very flawed and unpredictable candidate,” Ahmed told the Guardian. “Although I’m deeply worried about our future, our community is not giving up the fight.”
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Zaynab Salman, a high school teacher in the city of Canton, said the election had been a “clear manifestation” of a divided US.
“I pray for our community to heal in the manner it needs to heal,” Salman said. “This has been and will continue to be traumatic.”
Earlier, as midnight approached in the Detroit suburb, organizers of an election watch party at the Arab American Museum asked Suhaib Hashem to read a prayer aloud from the Qur’an. When the results showed a victory was close for Trump, the aspiring engineering college student said the gesture was needed, given the circumstances.
“To be honest, it was really pushed on me,” Hashem, 20, said, but sometimes “you have to do these things in tumultuous times”.
Inside the annex of the Dearborn museum, where several dozen members of the local Arab American community gathered to watch results trickle in Tuesday, a sweeping mural hanging on the wall highlights a facet of the 2016 presidential race that has been front and center for many in the Detroit suburb.
The mural, titled Journeys & Distances, is aimed at addressing the whirlwind experience of immigrants – from relocating to a new country to leaving behind a place they’ve long called home.
The piece is striking against the backdrop of an election that has brought anti-immigrant rhetoric to the forefront of the presidential campaign – particularly for Dearborn.
Early in the night, the mood inside the museum was giddy, with young teens bouncing about the room while nearly 150 local residents piled in for the festivities. But as reality set in, the room started to empty out, and when the race was called in the early hours of Wednesday, it was scarcely filled.
For most American Muslim and Arab communities, a Trump victory simply doesn’t jibe with his campaign’s message of “Make America Great Again”. After enduring months of Trump’s call to ban Muslims from the US, and a pledge to crack down on immigration, life will now be couched in fear, several residents told the Guardian.
“I think prospects of a Trump presidency is frightening for many reasons – obviously, especially being Muslim American,” said Khaled Beydoun, associate law professor of the University of Detroit-Mercy. “I’m unsettled about that.”
‘This is terrifying’: Guardian readers on how Trump’s historic night unfolded Asma Omar, 22, a Somali American who lives in Dearborn, said she voted for Clinton, as she didn’t want “anyone like Trump going into the White House”. She said the election had been inordinately stressful.
“I’ve been having a lot of anxiety, surprisingly,” she said, “mainly because I’m kind of scared what’s going to happen after the election.”Republicans haven’t always had a strained relationship with the Arab community. At the turn of the century, the party’s relationship with Arabs and Muslims was dramatically different from today. In 2000, estimates showed president-elect George W Bush carried as much as 72% of US Muslim voters. Four years later, in Dearborn, Michigan, Bush won by eight points in the city – despite the severe escalation of US military involvement in the Middle East during that time, most notably the Iraq war.
Joumana Ahmed, a mother of four from Lebanon, was a part of that voting bloc. But not in 2016.
“I usually vote Republican,” the 54-year-old Dearborn resident said. But she couldn’t stomach the thought of supporting Trump.
“First of all, what he says – I have kids, I don’t want them to listen to this kind of language,” Ahmed told the Guardian after voting for Clinton at her precinct on Dearborn’s east side.
For Ahmed, who has only visited her homeland once since moving to the US nearly four decades ago, Trump’s proposals are ghastly and offensive.
“Give me a break, my kids were born here, I came here very young,” she said.
As a light rain cleared earlier on Tuesday, she sighed at the thought of Trump winning.
“I’m moving to Canada, I’m serious,” Ahmed said. “I don’t want him around. He’s not good for us.”