Reflecting on today’s presidential election decades later, I believe many Democrats and Republicans who were actively involved in 2012 elections, either as candidates or supporters, will be highly ashamed and embarrassed of what has been said of the American-Muslim community during this critical election. More importantly, they will be ashamed of what is NOT being said or done about millions of upright, tax-paying American citizens who happen to be Muslim.
In the United States of 2040—as Islam is cemented into American society just like any other religion practiced in the U.S., as the Islamophobes of today are thrown into the trash bin of history next to anti-Semites, racists and homophobes, as we heal from our current xenophobia—many members of our two major political parties and their supporters will be filled with shame and guilt as to why, in 2012, they sheepishly caved into the strong anti-Islam and anti-Muslim elements in our country. Why did they turn off their consciences and ignore their moral compasses when it came to Muslim Americans? Why did they happily (but shamefully) treat the American-Muslim community as a liability, trying their best not to be seen with any major American-Muslim community in the same picture?
They will have a difficult time explaining to the generation of 2040 why they did not bother to knock on the doors of American Muslims—when they were desperately reaching out to every possible community for support in the election. When they were frantically campaigning in all swing states until the last minute, making sure not even one vote was wasted. When some faith groups even changed centuries-old theological positions on another faith group in hopes of influencing the election results. When American Muslims number in the millions and have a significant presence in every swing state. Forget about knocking on their doors and reaching out to them. Why did they let so many American Muslims and Muslim organizations in this country fall on their faces as they ran toward them, attempting to give them an embrace of support?
The intense guilt and shame will come from different places for different people. Some of the movers and shakers of today’s election will remember how their party housed those angry, hateful and un-American voices that said inconceivable things about millions of American citizens, painting them as monsters, traitors and more. They will see how their party’s candidate, including the presidential candidate, happily schmoozed with members of an organized Islamophobia network in the hopes of getting more votes from certain demographics. Appalled, they will ask themselves, “Where was I when all these horrible things were being said and done?! Why didn’t I do anything about this? Why did I let this fear-mongering boat sail smoothly in order to gain political currency?” They will scratch their heads and ask themselves, “When senior figures in my party were using their elected positions to cast clouds of doubt and suspicion over millions of innocent, hard-working Americans, why didn’t I take a moral stand? Why didn’t I tell these people, loudly and clearly, ‘Have you no sense of decency as you try to tear our social fabric and disturb our social harmony? Why are you wasting everyone’s time and energy as we face real, pressing challenges today?’”
For those who do not have loud and angry Islamophobes in their party, the source of shame and embarrassment will come from their lack of courage, for being sheepishly intimidated by the voices and forces of exclusion in 2012’s America. They will remember the cheap and deeply troubling avoidance tactics of their political party. How they invited every possible faith representative to pray at their national convention but cowardly did not extend that invitation to the American-Muslim community, how they intentionally failed to include Muslim political activism within their party in the official schedules and made sure that the events organized by or for American Muslims did not appear on their websites. How they conveniently ignored Muslims in America.
Many other Americans, not actively involved in party politics or the crucial election in 2012, will share this shame and guilt equally, if not more, for their lack of action in the face of hate and discrimination. For not taking a prophetic position and not doing anything substantial to prevent this cancer of hate from spreading further.
Why am I so confident about my predictions of what will happen? Because I am an American who, currently, is embarrassed about my country’s past moral failures. When my 11-year-old daughter comes from school and asks me, “Daddy, I am confused and really frustrated. So help me understand, just because their skin color was different or they held different religious and cultural beliefs, we did all these shameful things to so many innocent Americans? How is this even possible? Why did the good people of America at that time allow these things to happen?” I don’t have much to say to her other than to thank God and the people who worked so hard and risked their lives to help us heal from those diseases of the past. All we can do is learn the lessons of those ethical, moral failures and make sure we don’t replace them with others.
I can just imagine and picture a similar dinner-table conversation happening in many American homes during my grandchildren’s generation. At least, I hope so. May the results of today’s election be a source of blessings to all, and may it be a turning point for America for a much better future for all of her citizens and beyond, God willing.
Abdullah Antepli is the Muslim Chaplain and an adjunct faculty of Islamic Studies. His column runs every other Tuesday. You can follow Abdullah on Twitter @aantepli.