An Open Letter to American Muslims on Election Day

Dear American Muslims:

Maybe God puts us in the world not to do what we love, but to stop those we hate. How often, in life, does anyone really have a choice between what they clearly want, and what they clearly oppose? Life doesn’t work that way. You can list all the reasons you want about why one candidate has shortcomings and use this as a reason to justify not voting against the other, far worse candidate, but ultimately, to me, this election comes down to one simple question.

Do you respect yourself?

In a time of escalating Islamophobia, that question might be the single most critical question of all.

Because, name one other community that we have discussed torturing. Or excluding from high office.

Or refusing entry into our country.

People only respect people who respect themselves. Bullies think twice about picking on the kid who shoves back. Even if he pushes back, though, and hardly makes an impact, still, everyone saw that, not least the bully himself. Here’s someone who won’t tolerate mistreatment. Do you? Are you seriously going to tell me, after a year and a half that the candidates are the same?

I don’t care if you live in a swing state or a safe state.

I don’t care if your state is called and it doesn’t seem like it matters if you vote.

I don’t care if it’s 8:45pm in New York and there’s 15 minutes left.

I care that you vote, not only because I believe it is a moral obligation to take any action, however small, that can change the world, but because of this simple truth. When you vote, you can say you voted. When pollsters ask how many Muslims voted, and the turnout is huge, like a flood, that we showed up, like all the news media said Latino voters did–“in droves”–guess what? The bully will take you seriously. Everyone will. This community might be small, misunderstood, and struggling to figure itself out, but this community will be noticed.

Or just shut up about Islamophobia. If you don’t mind that your kids will be picked on. That women in hijab will be abused. That your religion will be denigrated. That one party will have casual conversations about whether we have a right to exist in this country. That the next time there’s a debate on foreign policy or national security, the people who hate you will be the people who decide your fate.

That’s what’s at stake.

Because who’s going to respect you if they see, after more than fifteen months of constant mockery, abuse, threats and vilification, your community literally couldn’t summon the energy to show up, stand in line and vote? That sends a signal loud and clear. But imagine if we voted in huge numbers, by huge margins, decisively, no matter where we were. Then people would have to listen to us, hear us, consider us–and respect us. They would have to consider us. And that’s what I care about. A community that holds its head up high. Not because we’re better than anyone else. But because we’re no worse than anyone else. We all have this right.

The difference is in whether or not we exercise it.

Go get your exercise.

Do what you can. Do what you must.