By: A. Hussain:
The recent US election has become a topic of global interest. With the campaigns of the candidates starting more than a year ago, the whole world watched, mostly in amusement, as Clinton and Trump spouted political rhetoric, trying their very best to gain the American people’s support. The grand finale aired on November the 8th, and viewers held their breath while the votes were being counted. The end result: Trump was declared the winner. Unsurprisingly, many people expressed fear, discontent and anger with the election results. After all, Trump used the vilest, most racist and sexist rhetoric, targeting Muslims, Hispanics, Africans and women just to name a few.
However, what concerns me is the role the media has played in the course of the election and in the aftermath. Mainstream media coverage of both candidates was glaringly bias – Clinton’s corruption was swept under the carpet while every inch of Trump’s life was exposed and subjected to mudslinging. Along with this bias, the media capitalised on people’s fears and insecurities, blowing them up disproportionately. The situation on social media wasn’t any better. Every time I log onto Facebook or check the newspapers, I’m bombarded with articles and posts that scream hate. Hate for Muslims, hate for Trump, hate for white people, just hate, hate, hate. It makes me wonder, is there anyone to love?
I got Facebook in early 2015 and ever since I have noticed subtle changes in my perceptions of other groups of people. I’ve been wearing the hijab (headscarf) for over 8 years, yet never have I felt conscious of it, or felt like an outsider in society, or that because of my dress code I will be the target of racist slurs. It didn’t affect the way I perceived people or interacted with them. However since following social media and mainstream media, I feel like I have been taught to act cautious around certain groups of people, or that I am a natural target for abuse. In the wake of certain events that put Muslims in the spotlight, I find myself becoming highly conscious of other people’s perception of my dress code. I remind myself that it would be unfair of me to simply assume that people hate me or that they will say something racist to me just because I dress or look a certain way. Groups of people urge other people to stop stereotyping them based on the acts of a few, yet I see the exact opposite on social media. I see targeted groups posting and sharing generalised comments (usually negative and fear-driven) about white people, about Trump supporters, men or anyone that say something against them. And I always think to myself, why respond to hate with hate? Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can.
To end my rant (J), I want to share what my religion, Islam, teaches me about these types of situations. Our Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) was subject to vile and disgusting abuse. He would have rubbish thrown into his house, thorns placed at his front door and was even stoned til he bled heavily. There was an incident where the insides of a camel were placed upon his back while he was in prostration. Yet, he always responded with kindness. His speech was never harsh. He would counter hate with love and he would tell his followers to do the same. I take great inspiration from this. When I see people in the shopping centre, at the train station or on the street, I make sure I smile at them. When someone asks me a question about my faith, even if that question has clear racist intentions, I respond gently and authentically. Who knows, maybe that one encounter with a Muslim may change any negative stereotype of perception that they hold. And while I will and do take a stand against racism, I make sure that my actions and words are never the source of hate or fear.
Disclaimer: that I DO NOT support Clinton or Trump. I do not view any of the ‘lesser of two evils’.