An Open Letter to American Muslims On Voting Hillary Clinton
Dear Fellow American Muslims,
I want you to vote for Hillary Clinton.
Now, let me be clear: I am not a fan of Clinton but I am a fan of this country. If you’re anything like me, this country has not been kind to you these past 15 years. Still, you love this land and that’s mainly because — Trump supporters cover your ears — it is your home. Most of us were born, raised, and educated here. We also won’t be leaving any time soon. Therefore, the fate of this country matters to us. If you have turned on the news, read an article, or interacted with another human being over the past year or so, you are aware we are currently locked into a historic presidential race. Regardless of who wins in November, history will be made; and we can either be a part of it, or remain by-standers — there will be a president this November whether we like the current options or not.
This brings me to an important point: as citizens of this country we ought to take a moment to reflect on our involvement in the political process. And believe it or not, we need to be involved; even if it means voting for someone you don’t stand behind completely. There’s a common misconception that in voting for a candidate you don’t agree with completely, you are selling out. This is simply not true. Politics has always been very pragmatic, and while we must aim at universal ideals — equality, economic prosperity, etc. — we must also make practical decisions about who will run this country day-to-day — at the end of it all, someone has to keep the lights on.
Let us not forget, democracy has never been easy. Prior to all great social change, there exists a struggle. Democracy has always needed a bit of coaxing; from the abolition of slavery, to women suffrage, to the civil rights movement, and the end of police militarization (hopefully). Therefore, it bears asking: when did we start to believe that our struggle as a minority in this country was going to resolve itself? It will not. Therefore, it falls on our shoulders to make sure that our voice is heard. In fact, it is our job to make sure that this country finds a space for us in its heart — and that space must be actively carved out.
Voting for Clinton is about more than voting for her as an individual; it’s about making a practical decision on how our economy, schools, careers, roads, and futures will look like over the next four years. This stands in stark contrast to how it might look if her opponent, Donald J. Trump, wins. Again, politics is pragmatic, and come January, either Clinton or Trump will be making decisions that will impact every American. Still there are reservations about her, many in fact, that are in no way small. But, I might remind you that we are not voting on a single issue; for instance, we are not casting the die on issues of foreign policy alone — an issue of no small importance; we are, however, casting the die on every other issue that matters to us, from education, healthcare, the economy, etc. Choosing to abstain your vote come November is not negligible — it will have a large effect. Trump and his supporters will undoubtedly rejoice if we decide not to vote; because not casting a vote is simply casting an implicit one for Trump whilst being silenced in the process. Abstaining from the vote, abstaining from getting involved, is akin to throwing in the towel during a boxing bout. In essence, we have lost.
Without us constantly pushing back as a community, the America we dream of will never exist. It is easy and cheap to say that the system is broken from the sidelines without ever jumping into the game and trying to fix it. Democracy is nothing if not its people. When its people stop participating, it becomes a tyranny. As citizens of this country we have the ability and the duty to write our own narratives and future. The minute we stop writing for ourselves someone else picks up the pen and the story will almost always not have a happy ending. To put things in perspective, come November, if the wrong president is elected, our narrative will be written by Trump— this is far from ideal. As a community we must pick up the pen, and push back against any decision we do not believe in.
In voting for Hillary, I am not asking us to buy into her exclusively. A vote towards Hillary is not an end-all to our political power. Beyond our vote in November, we have just as much a right as anyone to shape the political landscape of this country. And there are avenues beyond voting to political influence and participation. As a matter of fact, shaping the political landscape is not nearly as impossible as we might imagine it to be. Over the past few decades many American Muslims have broken political barriers and demanded their voice be heard. Their work has been so resounding that for the first time ever we are visibly being offered a seat at the table. Granted, it is not the most powerful or important seat, but a seat nonetheless.
We have a long road ahead of us, and we still stand on the outskirts of American politics but we are no longer outside of it. For example, Clinton appointed Huma Abedin as vice chairwoman of the Hillary Campaign and Farooq Mitha as the Muslim Outreach Director. In my home state of Michigan, Abdullah Hammoud recently won the Democratic Nomination for State Representative in the 15th district, and Zaineb Hussein was appointed the Deputy Political Director of Hillary for America in Michigan. In Minnesota, Ilhan Omar won the primary election for State Representative in district 60B. Not to mention Congressman Keith Ellison — the first American Muslim elected to congress — and Congressman André D. Carson, both of whom have been visible voices for the American Muslim community in DC for a long time. Of course, every single one of these individuals won despite the fact they are American Muslim, not because of it; each candidate brought forth sufficient merit worthy of elected office. This is not counting the numerous American Muslims who hold positions at various governmental institutions, think-tanks, academia, etc., who work tirelessly on improving our country. Abedin, Hammoud, Hussein, Ellison, Carson, and others, stand in clear opposition to the misconception that we cannot be involved in the political process simply because we are American Muslims. Instead, these individuals serve as a prime example of what happens when you pick up the pen and start writing your own narrative.
As it stands now, the whole country is watching us — often times negatively — but they are watching. Come November, our actions will set the stage for American Muslim advancement in this country. The Clinton campaign has provided us with a seat at the table, and that means the door is open to us. Whether we enter it or not, and what we do once we have is completely up to us. Anyone would be foolish in dismissing the current position of American Muslims in this country as laughable. In fact, it is the result of decades of hard work. It would be even more foolish to dismiss the current opportunity we have in American politics because we do not fully agree with the running candidates. Hillary Clinton may not ever align with our values completely, but we would be hard pressed to find anyone with whom our values align perfectly — from our neighbors to our friends — and yet we do not hold this fact against them. We could even argue that Clinton’s values need not be aligned with our own so long as her decisions are. And it is well within our right as citizens of this country to work on influencing those decisions. I am not asking us to wholeheartedly embrace Clinton, but to make a pragmatic choice — one that needs to be made — while remaining staunchly critical. Make no mistake, this will not be easy and for the most part, it might not be successful, but it needs to be done because inaction is no longer an option.
The bottom line is this: it would do us good to put aside our personal feelings towards one or two or even three of Hillary Clinton’s political positions, or past wrong-doings and recognize that there is an entire slew of issues — economical, educational, medical, etc. — that are affected by our decision to participate come November. Because whether or not you decide to participate, a decision will be made and a narrative written. I would largely prefer that decision and narrative to be our own. We may not agree with Hillary Clinton and all of her policies, but in electing her, we are exercising our power as citizens of this country to write our own narrative and determine the future of America. It will also prevent Trump from attaining power (important!), and send a message to those that stand behind him that their bigotry, misogyny, and ignorance will not be tolerated (even more important!).
Don’t mistake these positions for a form of Hillary apologetics; we are in no way excusing the actions or policies of Hillary Clinton. We are, however, recognizing our power as citizens of this country, and looking past single-issue voting, to actively participate in shaping the future of America. If that requires voting for Clinton November 8, and protesting her foreign polices on November 9, then so be it. Democracy will always require us to push back against what we do not believe in and it will always require us to participate.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the lesser known third-party candidates: Green Party’s nominee Jill Stein and Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson. And while the main argument here is to get involved at minimum, it is also to be practical and strategic at best. Although third-party candidates receive little-to-no attention in the media, this alone does not result in their slim chances at presidency — though it certainly does not help. Both candidates are expectedly polling extremely low — with Stein at 3.1% and Johnson at 8%. Meanwhile, Clinton is polling at 42.5% with Trump trailing behind at 38.1%. With the race between Clinton and Trump so tight, a vote towards either third-party candidate is a vote away from Hillary Clinton, who while currently leading will need to maintain that lead to win. More importantly, her defeat of Trump needs to be resounding in order to send a message to his supporters that America will not tolerate their bigotry or vision of the future. Even though dissatisfaction with the republican and democratic nominees is amongst its highest, practically speaking, there is very little chance of a third-party candidate winning the presidential race — the last third-party candidate to win a state was 1968. Moreover, even if Stein or Johnson somehow won the presidential race, their ability to function within a two-party dominated congress, and government, will be meager at best. Come November 8, the race will realistically boil down to Clinton and Trump. While the choices aren’t ideal, a decision will have to be made — by everyone in this country, including us — about the future we want for America.
Most importantly, even if you do not vote for Hillary, make sure you get out and vote; get your parents, siblings, friends, neighbors and community to participate. Make sure you are registered to vote — there are cutoff dates. Come November 8, engage. Make sure you especially take note of local elections happening in your own backyard, and get involved. Our narrative starts at the local level. And if you feel strongly that no one running for office has the right values, pick up the slack and run yourself — nothing is stopping you. When deciding who you will vote for, make sure you do your homework. Vote for the individuals whom you believe best represent your values; even if they do not align perfectly. And on the issues you disagree with, make sure your voice is heard. Even after the elections are done, stay involved and help push America in the direction you believe it needs to go. To participate in and help shape the future of your home is not to sell-out, even if you must make difficult decisions regarding difficult people. Again, a democracy is nothing if not its people, and right now it is being sold to the bigoted, ignorant and unaccomplished. Maybe it is time for us to step off the sidelines and step up in a big way.