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A Letter to Asra Nomani: You Do Not Speak on Behalf of Muslim Women

Written by Lubabah Chowdhury

Dear Asra Nomani,

You will not remember this, but you and I have actually met before. You came to speak at my alma mater when I was a junior at college, just beginning to develop a political understanding that moved beyond well-intentioned but misguided liberalism and strengthening my connection to a faith that had been demonized and vilified for most of my adolescence. I wanted you to impress me. I wanted to be moved by your declaration that in fact, Islam and feminism go hand in hand, and are not antithetical, no matter what the media or right-wing pundits or conservative academics said.

Unfortunately, a fellow Muslimah had already alerted me to your numerous articles on the importance of police surveillance of local mosques, of your complicity with the NYPD and other police departments, of your belief that by engendering distrust, suspicion and fear within our own communities, we would be doing ourselves and the American public a favor.

Needless to say I was not impressed.

And while I cannot say I was completely surprised by your article in the Washington Post, “I’m a Muslim, a woman and an immigrant. I voted for Trump.” my sadness and anger at your complicity compels me to express how dangerous and harmful your stance is. I understand that as a privileged, upper-middle class woman protected by the brand-names of several prestigious universities, I cannot compare my situation to yours. I am not a “single mother who can’t afford health insurance under Obamacare.” But your concerns about the increasing wage gap between the rich and the poor, the lack of a social welfare state, are my concerns as well. Your mistake was in assuming that Donald Trump—a multimillionaire who has never held office, who plans on eviscerating what little state support is available to those in your position—would address any of these concerns. His plan to cut down on federal regulations and to increase the policing of “violent” (read: low-income) communities will deteriorate the quality of life of those very people you claim to have voted for.

Let me put this simply: voting for white supremacy and the continued oppression of people of color, LGBTQ communities and other marginalized groups will not protect you if and when they turn upon you. tweet

You further claim that we need to “stand up with moral courage against not just hate against Muslims, but hate by Muslims, so that everyone can live with sukhun, or peace of mind” without addressing how you plan to do the latter while voting to the detriment of the former. The increased surveillance targeted policing and everyday assault on American Muslims will only strengthen “Islamic extremism,” as you call it. Trump’s plans to not only police communities of color but to also end immigration from “terror-prone regions” explicitly outlines a systematic attack on the Muslim community worldwide, and the feelings of anger, frustration and alienation that this attack will inevitably engender will convince some individuals to resort to violence and chaos. In endorsing Donald Trump, you have only given those who, out of desperation or anger, have turned to radical Islam more fodder to fuel their false notions of what Islam is and what it means to fight a holy war.

It is also egregiously striking to me how you are able to brush Trump’s virulent racism and xenophobia under the rug without even considering how his presidency will affect other people of color besides yourself. You breezily claim that “the checks and balances in America and our rich history of social justice and civil rights will never allow the fear-mongering that has been attached to candidate Trump’s rhetoric to come to fruition” and simultaneously efface the violent history of European settler colonialism that to this day oppresses and disenfranchises First Nations peoples, the fact that most of our so-called “democratic” and “liberal” institutions are built on the backs of slaves and the fact that the Saudi and Qatari “de facto slaves” you feign concern for are to be found in orchards and fields, factories and farms, with little to no pay and no protection from the violence of their neighbors or the law. Your failure to mention that under the Obama administration, 2.5 million undocumented immigrants were deported, that he has deported more people than the sum of those deported during the 20th century combined, that First Nations peoples protesting at Standing Rock today are brutalized by local and national state apparatuses, that Black men and women have borne the brunt of police brutality and mass incarceration for far, far too long makes your myopic worldview and your callous lack of concern for communities of color painfully apparent. What do you think is going to happen if Trump succeeds in cutting federal funding to Sanctuary Cities, cities where families can have some respite and peace and reassurance that they will not be torn apart from each other simply for seeking asylum from political unrest or economic collapse? Do you think increased surveillance is going to cause the number of unarmed Black people killed by the police to decrease? How do you think the Dakota Access Pipeline is going to affect First Nations peoples? Did you think about these issues at all before you put your pen to that ballot? Did you think about anyone but yourself?

You seem to think that Trump’s racist, xenophobic and misogynistic rhetoric can be contained on a bus with Billy Bush, but what you don’t understand is that he has only legitimated those who already believed that all immigrants should “go back home,” that women are always “asking for it.” tweet

Let me put this simply: voting for white supremacy and the continued oppression of people of color, LGBTQ communities and other marginalized groups will not protect you if and when they turn upon you. You claim that “the political hyperbole—agenda-driven identity politics of its own—that demonized Trump and his supporters” is overstated, while effacing the violence Muslims, African-Americans and other minorities have faced at Trump rallies, at the hands of the State and in the aftermath of the election. You stand behind “rural America and ordinary Americans,” but what about the Americans who are being murdered for the color of their skin, who are having the hijabs yanked off their heads, who are terrified that their families will be torn apart by deportation, detention and state violence? You seem to think that Trump’s racist, xenophobic and misogynistic rhetoric can be contained on a bus with Billy Bush, but what you don’t understand is that he has only legitimated those who already believed that all immigrants should “go back home,” that women are always “asking for it.” How will you protect yourself from street harassment when the President of the United States has openly endorsed it? What will you tell the racist who calls you a towelhead when you know his view is completely validated by the political conversations happening right now?

Of course, you are only one of many who voted for Donald Trump. But you are responsible as an individual for your inability to put others’ political needs before your own, for tacitly endorsing racism and misogyny. We don’t know what a Trump presidency will bring. But you can be sure I, and many others like me, will fight like hell to protect our families, our friends and the communities that are going to bare the brunt of your decision. And you can be sure that I, and many others like me, will continue to hold you accountable for your role in the fight that is to come.

Sincerely,

An Angry Brown Muslimah

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