I’m a Muslim and I’m not scared of Trump’s America.
While yes, Donald Trump has said and done things that have hurt many of us, he does not represent the America that I know and have come to love.
Although America is my passport country, I have spent my entire life living overseas in Nigeria, South Africa, England, and the UAE. So naturally, whenever someone asked the question, “Where are you from?” I always struggled to answer.
How do you explain to someone that, well, you’re South Asian looking because your parents are Pakistani but you can barely speak Urdu (but are fluent in Spanish) and are an American citizen but have never lived there and have South African and Emirati residency? Throughout my whole life, I always felt foreign and out of place wherever I lived.
Until I came to America for college.
While yes, my first year was a struggle (like any other kid’s), today, on November 10th, 2016, two days after the US election, I feel loved and welcome.
But that wasn’t always the case.
It's been almost a year since the November 13th Paris Attacks when, in the aftermath, Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslim immigration and many Republican governors followed suit by pledging to deny entry to Syrian refugees (a gesture that many Muslims saw as Islamophobic.)
So for three days straight I stayed in bed crying. Every time I opened my phone, I was confronted with news about a mosque being ransacked or a women being harassed simply for wearing a hijab.
I feared for myself, my family, and my community. I stopped wearing my Salwar Kameez (traditional Pakistani clothes), I wore sun glasses to class to hide my tears, and I considered dropping out of Boston University barely a semester into my freshmen year. I felt that as a Muslim of Pakistani descent, I didn't have a place here in America.
But today I'm still here, I'm not scared, and I have hope.
In one year, I’ve had professors comfort me in the hospital, invite me into their homes when I was sad, and pick me up when I fell.
In one year, I’ve made friends who have shown me their faith and house of worship, taught me how to play the guitar, and sang karaoke with me when I was down.
In one year, I’ve met strangers who have taken care of me when I was alone and in trouble in a new city, have cheered me on when I spoke about Islamophobia at the steps of the State House, and told me that they have faith in my ability to do good in this world.
For me, it has been the kindness of strangers that has shown me what this country is and can be.
I recently launched a photography project called My Muslim Friends where I interview strangers about their perspectives on Islam and experience in America in a HONY-esque fashion in hopes of building solidarity between Muslims and non-Muslims.
So on Monday, I took a day off from class to attend the Obama rally in New Hampshire and, armed with just a whiteboard, a marker, and an iPhone, I asked people, “What is great about America?”
Their response? Diversity, acceptance, and progress.
And I continue to see this message every day. This morning, the New York Times featured me in an article highlighting Black, Hispanic, and Muslim reactions to the election result. At the time of writing, more than 8,000 people have liked and shared the article in total and if you take a look at the comments, all you will see is compassion, love, and support.
This is the America that I know.
So while it is easy to feel isolated and unwanted, I refuse to give up on this country. There is still so much good here and we can’t just ignore it and shut ourselves off.
So today I can proudly say with confidence that I, as a first generation American, have been shown a special kind of love from this country and its people that doesn't just go away because we have a new president.
And that is why I'm not scared.