The 2016 elections are like none we've seen before.
If you were to look up the meaning of "rock bottom," the picture that would pop up would be the presidential debates of 2016. Typical political mudslinging has now morphed into a bizarre dimension we all have become trapped in -- showcasing the crude, the rude, the vulgar and the sleazy. News networks are more than happy to provide the air time for this spectacle further perpetuating the madness. Sleaze sells.
What have we become?
There are countless experts weighing in about how this election is causing depression, anxiety and fear among adults and children alike. There is also a spike in hate crimes due to the inflammatory rhetoric that has become a staple of the far right. The election has literally created a more dangerous environment in the United States -- for all of us. People around the world are judging us -- and not in a good way. Can you blame them?
Today's voter feels hopeless -- like we are being forced to vote for the lesser of the evils. But sitting around feeling depressed and hopeless is not going to do any of us any good.
Candidates certainly use religion to get votes from pretending they are living a religious life to scaring people into believing that an entire religion is going to storm our borders and kill us all.
Like many people of faith, I turn to my spiritual side to come to terms with what is happening this election year and to find solace as well as guidance on how I should be responding and behaving. Like other people of faith, I rely on my religious convictions, my spiritual center -- to guide my decisions in life.
My parents came to America from environments of oppression to live the American dream. Voting has always been a testament to what my parents and ancestors have endured. I will always exercise my right to vote. My faith in Islam also inspires me to vote. God does not answer prayers unless you are doing your part, unless you are trying. He makes it incumbent on all humans to continually strive to improve their condition. Islam is an active religion, not a passive one. Sitting home is not an option Islamically speaking.
Q53:39 Humans can have only that for which they make effort.
This election year has really tested our collective consciousness. And voting in the current election has become a decision of conscience for me -- to look beyond my own personal inclinations and what makes me feel good -- to logically thinking about the bigger picture and the whole. Islam teaches me to put justice first even if it is against me.
Q:4:135 Believers, uphold justice and bear witness to God, even if that witness is against yourself, your parents or your close relatives. Whether a person is rich or poor, God can best take care of both. Refrain from following your own desires, so that you do not act unjustly. If you distort the truth, God is fully aware of what you do.
I do not feel comfortable in the context of my religion to vote for a third party candidate. Why? When applying logic to the situation, the reality is clear. Only two people will become president: Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Voting for a third party candidate would be selfish. It would provide me with a moral trophy but would put the collective whole in harm's way as I believe a third party vote is a vote for Trump. I do believe that both Hillary and Trump are bad for foreign affairs. I believe they both will perpetuate war and continue to cause needless deaths in the Muslim world. But I will not be able to sleep at night knowing I contributed to putting a mentally ill demagogue into the oval office.
As a Muslim American, it is a moral imperative for me to trust in our Creator -- but to do my part. I was on the Bernie train because I do believe our system is broken. I do believe our political process is in desperate need of a revolution. And just because Bernie is not going to become president, it does not mean we cannot continue down the path he created towards change. Changing the system is something we can all take part in every day by educating, not taking part in the hate rhetoric and being active in any way we can be active. Your vote is a very active step in participating in the political process. It also encourages others to vote. When you wear an "I voted!" sticker ... when you post on social media that you voted ... you are being an active steward of your right to vote by cheerleading on others to also do their part.
You can take it a step further by making phone calls for political candidates or knocking on doors. I took part in a TV commercial for my state representative who is up for reelection; and, I wrote a letter to my neighbors.
We can ALL do something.
Your vote does make a difference even in bad times like these. And if you are a person of faith, your efforts are what God measures, not your results. Complacency is passive and selfish.
Q: 13:11 God does not change the condition of a nation unless it changes what is in its heart.
I believe that the very essence of faith is that that our conditions will improve by the sheer fact that we are trying. No matter your faith or non-faith, go out and vote. Not only will it make a difference, it is your right.