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In the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful. All praise and thanks belong to God, the Lord of the Worlds, and may peace and blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad.
I celebrated my 18th birthday on Oct. 8, 2004, just in time to vote in that year's presidential election.
Before driving to high school on Election Day, I did just that, stopping at my local precinct and proudly casting my ballot for Senator John Kerry.
No surprise there.
My car sported a Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker. Two pieces of signed Kerry campaign literature hung from my bedroom wall. I stood in line to shake Kerry's hand at a campaign rally. I wrote editorials in my high school newspaper railing against the Iraq War, Guantanomo Bay, and all other things George W. Bush. I even checked the school library’s computers every day to see the latest polls (no iPhones back then).
Given all that, you can imagine my horror when Bush defeated Kerry, winning reelection. I was shocked. Couldn't believe it. I cried. I cursed. I showed up at school the next day wearing sweat pants and a hoodie (unheard-of for a bookworm like me).
This was partly so because I was a young, idealistic, first-time voter. But this was largely so because I lacked the comfort of faith at that time.
Without faith, I couldn’t remind myself that "verily, after difficulty comes relief.” I couldn’t remind myself that God has promised to test us with “fear.”
Instead, I had to gradually suffer the seven stages of grief. I didn't fully recover until Bush's second term failures destroyed both his ideology and his legacy. Only then did I realize that a President Kerry would have likely been blamed for Iraq's inevitable descent into chaos as well as the 2008 financial crisis.
Thus, what initially seemed like the tragedy of a Bush victory turned out to be, in hindsight, for the best.
Fast forward to 2016. On the night that Donald Trump won the presidency, I started experiencing the stages of grief all over again. I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned. I fought my pillow.
But something was different. This time, thank God, I had Islam. I eventually gave up on sleep, climbed out of bed, performed wudu, and prayed. The next day, I fasted and reminded myself of key verses from the Quran:
“So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief. Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.”
Also: "Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your work), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere, who say, when afflicted with calamity, 'To God We belong, and to Him is our return.' They are those upon whom (descend) blessings from God, and mercy, and they are the ones that receive guidance."
Indeed, sometimes bad news will actually turn out to be good news—so good that we're eventually happy that bad thing happened in the first place. Even if we could, we wouldn't go back and change it.
American Muslims must take a hopeful, confident and defiant attitude in response to the election results. After all, great struggles can breed great victories, just as great stories usually include great villains.
Don’t let yourself go through the seven stages of grief. But don’t immediately jump into action either.
There is a time for strategizing, organizing, mobilizing, and even protesting. But not right now. Over the next few days, as we work through our post-election depression, let’s focus on the pre-requisite for our success: our relationship with our Creator.
My greatest fear for American Muslims is not bullying, internment or deportation. My greatest fear is that fear will lead us to eventually stop practicing our faith...that we'll become so secularized after a few generations that we're nothing more than nominal (or cultural) Muslims.
Indeed, what happens in our own house is far more important than who occupies the White House. If we're not praying five times a day, we've already got far bigger problems than President Donald Trump.
So let’s take this difficult week as an opportunity to work on ourselves. Let's pray in congregation, fast, donate, visit the masjid, and smile more as an act of charity.
In other words, keep up the faith. And don't keep it yourself, either. Keep sporting your beard and wearing your kufi (or your donning your hijab and rocking your abaya).
We may have a new president, but we don't have a new Constitution. This is still America, and we're still allowed to be proudly and publicly Muslim.
Finally, remember this: throughout Islamic history, our community has—thank God—survived every group that sought to destroy us, including Arab polytheists, the Persian Empire, the Romans, the Mongols, Crusaders, colonists, Soviet invaders, genocidal Serbians and, these days, psychotic dictators.
If our community has survived all of that, we can—God willing—easily survive four years of a hostile politician.
After all, we don't need the President of the United States on our side. We need God, the Lord of the Worlds, on our side.
May God make it easy for us to act accordingly.
Edward Ahmed Mitchell is an Atlanta attorney who serves as executive director of the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-GA). A former criminal prosecutor, Mitchell graduated from Morehouse College and Georgetown University Law Center. The opinions expressed in the article represent only his own views.
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