U.S. voters elected Donald Trump as president on Tuesday, and many people’s worst fears are coming true as violence breaks out against people of color across the country. One of the most aggressively targeted groups is Muslim women.
In 48 hours since Election Day, Muslims, African-Americans and Mexican-Americans have reported being verbally and physically attacked just two days after Americans elected a candidate who called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and said he would try to ban Muslims from the United States. Now, people of color are trying to figure out how to respond.
Some attacks are being carried out in Trump’s name. A woman at San Diego State University alleges that two men robbed her after they made comments about Trump and Muslims. Another woman reported that a Trump supporter pulled a knife on her friend while she was on a bus near the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Leena Aggad, a Muslim woman in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said a man tried to rip her hijab off.
“I am, of course, scared about the Islamophobic acts of terror and I definitely think more will occur,” Aggad told The Huffington Post. “With Trump being president, a lot of people are, I feel, more encouraged to act upon their racist ideas.”
While these attackers reportedly targeted Muslim women, other groups have experienced similar aggression. Social media was flooded with testimonies of racial targeting. The University of Kansas is now recruiting volunteers to escort students who feel unsafe to class.
This is one of the biggest worries for people who are scared of Trump’s rhetoric — that because he won the election, people feel justified in their hatred of people who aren’t like them, and will turn to violence. Many Muslims woke up in an America where they no longer felt safe to walk the streets, especially in conservative cities and neighborhoods.
“Me and my family are scared to live our lives, honestly,” Aggad said. “I now have to protect myself with pepper spray and other forms of defense, when I should feel safe in my own hometown. I want the best for this country, and unfortunately, Trump is not what’s best.”
Now, Muslim women across the country are having to make sacrifices. Due to concerns about safety, some are considering taking off their hijab, a headscarf that is an emblem of faith and is worn for a variety of personal reasons.
Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, there was a spike in hate crimes against Muslims. The tension died down for a time, until recently. The rise of the Islamic State group, paired with Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, means hate crimes against Muslims have returned to their 2001 levels.
Muslims are rallying together to find a solution. For the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an organization dedicated to advocacy and outreach for the Muslim community, there’s plenty of work that needs to be done.
The Dallas chapter, which has been busy over the past year trying to combat armed vigilantes protesting outside mosques in the area, plans to host outreach events and self-defense workshops. That these events have become commonplace is a reality Salem said her community has to accept.
“This is a realization of our worst fear,” Salem said. “But this is it — we’re in this situation. We have huge concerns, but at the same time, there’s an overwhelming call to get busy.”
In an attempt to quell the instability, CAIR released a statement on Thursday calling for Trump to repudiate the attacks his supporters have carried out. Although he’s concerned, Salem remains optimistic and urges fellow Muslims to stay level-headed.
“We’re a not a community of despair, we’re a community of action; a lot of it is empowering each other to go about our daily business,” said Salem, who wears a hijab. “But we need active community leaders. We get behind our computer screens and get whipped into a frightened emotional state ... we have to focus on safety, but life also has to go on.”
Violence has increased only days after the election, but with at least four years of a Trump presidency looming, there is much uncertainty about what will happen next. Even if the attacks do slow down, many Muslims are wondering when they will be able to feel safe in America — if ever.
The Huffington Post is documenting the rising wave of anti-Muslim bigotry and violence in America. Take a stand against hate
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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the location where a Trump supporter reportedly pulled a knife on a Muslim woman. It was near the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, not on the University of Chicago campus.