We teach our children to do good and that by doing good, they can expect good things. We teach them to be kind to others, to share, and to be respectful. We teach not to be mean, hurtful or aggressive.
But then Donald Trump wins a presidential election, and we are left speechless.
“How did he become President, mama? Who voted for him?” These are some questions that parents like me have been struggling to answer this past week.
When I look at my children, I see their potential. I always knew they’d have challenges facing them as Muslim Americans.
But I thought that maybe if they worked hard and if they did what they needed to do they would get where they needed to get.
“But mama, why didn’t Bernie win? Why didn’t everyone vote for him? He was the good guy.”
This was what my nine-year-old would ask me again and again after the primary elections.
“I don’t know, pumpkin”, was all I could say because I wanted to know the same thing.
For much of my (young) life, I had believed that if you just do the right thing and have the right intention then people will support you. But then I’d seen otherwise and I started to doubt those beliefs. I have seen people win who have the wrong intention, who do the wrong thing and yet people still support them. I’m not just talking about the President-Elect. There are Trumps in our communities, in our schools, in our masjids and in our homes. They don’t care who gets hurt as long as they get their way. They do as they please and get away with it. Why is it then that we were surprised on Wednesday morning? We can’t even defeat the Trumps that we live with. We can’t stand up to the injustice in our face but we wanted to defeat the one that was miles away?
This should not have been a surprise.
I looked at my daughter on Wednesday morning at breakfast, waiting for her to ask. I knew I had to tell her, she’d hear about it at school anyway. Then finally, I told her. Her chin dropped as soon as I said it, “What? Seriously! Please tell me you’re joking.” I reassured her that everything would be okay and she went to school with the same innocence I had as a child.
Wednesday was tough.
I thought back to all the volunteering during Bernie’s campaign, the voter registration tables we put out, the phone banking, the community events we held and attended: what was the point of it all? I was extremely disappointed. Then I prayed. I prayed for peace and I prayed for comfort. Alhumdulillah for the great leaders of our community who come through for us during these times. I read comforting Facebook statuses and tweets, texts from friends and comments from strangers.
Immediately after, I felt relief. It was kind of strange but it’s like I wasn’t nervous anymore. I knew that whatever was coming was from the will of Allah and that his plan is greater than anyone’s. I reflected on the life of our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He had many obstacles in his life but what got him through was Tawakkul, his faith in Allah’s plan. This is the key to overcome such difficult times. I want to make it clear that Tawakkul is not a passive approach but in fact, it is a very proactive approach. Tie your camel, then put your trust in Allah (Tirmidhi).
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would be actively participating against injustices and hardships, but his character never changed. He was always, even in hard times, Al-Sadiq and Al-Amin, the honest and trustworthy. I knew this was the right answer, I’ve always known. But this is when I realized I had to stop doubting myself.
When my children came home I hugged them. I sat them down and reminded them the importance of being kind. I told them it was important to be kind to strangers and friends, but also to each other. Because if we can’t defeat the Trump in ourselves, the one that tells us to hate, to hurt and to build walls, then we aren’t ready to defeat the Trumps outside.
I told them first we have to be kind, then we can expect kindness from others. But I also told them that there will be people who won’t be kind and who will be dishonest.
I told them about our Prophet (peace be upon him) and how he faced people like this too, but he never became like them.
He remained a good person.
I told them the importance of speaking up, not just for ourselves but for others as well. That Allah has given us speech and intellect to fight against the Trump ideology. This isn’t the big change I had once thought we could make, but it is a change nonetheless.
The most important change however, will be the change within ourselves.
That is where we start.
Maryam Bint Fareed is a mother of three children, Wareesha (9), Yusuf (6) and Asma (4). She is currently pursuing her teacher certification to be certified as a special education teacher in the state of Connecticut. She believes in shaping the youth of today to become strong leaders of tomorrow. She spends her (limited) free time studying, volunteering, eating, reading and learning.
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