Donald Trump has effectively declared Muslims the enemy, accusing them of shielding terrorists in their midst, pushing to ban them from entering the country, and suggesting that the United States should start thinking seriously about profiling them. In response, some American Muslim women are speaking out against Trump and his anti-Muslim rhetoric.
“I never really felt like I was ‘the other’ until now,” said Mirriam Seddiq, a 45-year-old immigration and criminal-defense lawyer from Northern Virginia who recently started a political-action committee called American Muslim Women. “It’s a strange realization to have, but it’s what motivated me to do this. There are so many misconceptions about Muslim women, and I want to help counter that narrative.”
If the organization raises enough money, Seddiq wants to air ads opposing Trump in the run-up to the November election. Beyond that, she plans to host a voter-registration drive and hopes to build up a support network that will help Muslim women run for office.
Muslim women are uniquely vulnerable to sexism and Islamophobia. They can become visible targets for harassment when they wear headscarves. They are also often subjected to negative stereotypes and forced to respond to misconceptions that they are oppressed and silenced by their religion.
Donald Trump amplified those stereotypes when he suggested that Ghazala Khan, the Muslim American mother of a slain U.S. soldier, had not been permitted to speak when she appeared alongside her husband Khizr Khan at the Democratic National Convention. (She subsequently clarified that she did not speak because she was “in pain” over the death of her son.) Muslim American women denounced Trump’s comment on social media using the hashtag #CanYouHearUsNow. Facing a climate of Islamophobic rhetoric, and a rise in anti-Muslim violence, Muslim women in the U.S. are laying the groundwork for Muslim women to achieve greater visibility in American political life.
The 2016 election inspired Naaz Modan, a 20-year-old Georgetown University student, to start writing about politics and Islam. Modan said used to get defensive when she heard anti-Muslim rhetoric voiced by Trump or his followers. “I feel personally attacked in this election,” she said in an interview. But after a while, she started proactively speaking out against Islamophobia and about her beliefs. She began writing for a website called Muslim Girl. “It’s my way of saying, ‘What you think about me does not define me,’” she explained. “I define who I am.”