Election 2016: D-Day Has Arrived
By Azhar Quader
Chicago, Illinois

Decision day has arrived. Early voting has begun. 150,000 in Illinois have already cast their vote. In the next two weeks the pain and the pleasure of this historic and contentious election cycle would finally come to its long awaited end.

Both sides are predicting victories. Both sides claim it will mean the end of the America they have known, if they lose. Both sides have raised doubts about each other’s capacity to lead and character to hold an office so powerful and so steeped in trust.

The long saga of mud and sleaze, of insults and injuries, of daily leaks and midnight tweets, will mercifully conclude in a few days. Who knows what the day after will bring in its aftermath.

Much has been said and written about American Muslims in this electoral cycle too. Their detractors have declared them to be a danger to the peace and security of the nation. Their supporters have claimed them to be the front line in America’s fight against home-grown terror. A bereaved Muslim dad, agonizing over the loss of his soldier son in Afghanistan, asks in a moment of grief and anger, “Will my son be welcome in your America?” In the past several months, Muslim Americans have been bashed and ‘banned’, removed from rallies, derided as enemies of the state, terrorized in public and killed in broad daylight. Unquestionably, the level of hate and hostility has reached a high not seen of before. Sadly, the encouragement for these acts of violence has come from utterances of those who seek the highest office in the land.

America appears to be at a crossroad where the new and the old are coming face to face in a public way not often seen before, one demanding their new found rights, the other refusing to let go their age-old privileges. Will the American Muslims finally come out of the shadows to speak for themselves? Announcing with courage and clarity, that a new generation of loyal Muslim Americans has arrived on the scene, who will not be intimidated by the rage and rhetoric of misguided bigotry, who will not be bullied by the hate and hostility of ‘trumped’ up charges, and who will boldly claim their rightful place in the nation. Embracing the wisdom of reaching for the higher ground when others may choose to wade in the swamp, they will cast their vote this crucial election, in favor of dignity and civility, of reason and responsibility, of unity and diversity. They may not have the numbers to be counted yet, or the money to influence the way the filthy rich do, but they will have the power of their beliefs behind the votes they cast, in the defense of their rights to call America their beloved home.

The politics of distraction can distort the experiences of reality in a world whose attention barely lingers beyond a fleeting moment of consciousness. Yet it is impossible to ignore the important issues that divide the two sides in this eventful election. One side insists on repealing Obamacare and replacing it with HSAs (Health Saving Accounts) and free markets for the insurance companies to have, so they can once again march laughing their ways to their banks, placing profits over people, as they did in the past. The other side will fight to keep the gains that have come through ACA (Affordable Care Act), of greater access, of eliminating the restrictions of pre-existing conditions, of removing the clauses for lifetime caps. One side wants to build walls, deport the undocumented, and tear down families in the process. The other side wants to keep families together, offer a pathway for citizenship to the millions living in the shadows. One side welcomes the Syrian refugees coming to our shores with nothing else but hope and a desire to live in peace and security. The other side calls them a Trojan horse, threatening the security of the land. One side refuses to believe in the science of climate change, notwithstanding the rising force and fury of storms visiting us every year. The other side embraces science and wants to reduce pollution in the air and in the soil, and make the country a super power of clean energy. One side wants to appoint judges to the bench who will restrict the reproductive rights of women and reverse abortion laws. The other side would appoint judges who will protect women’s reproductive rights and reverse Citizens United, which has allowed big bucks to corrupt our political system in a way that has made mockery of our democracy. One side would lower taxes on the rich and affluent, eliminate regulations, freeze minimum wage, and impose tariffs on imports. The other side would tax the rich so they pay their fair share, not increase the tax burden on those whose income is less than $250K, increase the minimum wage to $15, create jobs through investments in the country’s infrastructure projects. One side promotes an environment of distrust, conflict and hostility, declare they will ‘restore the law’, reduce gun violence through profiling and frisking people, delight in court battles, insulting and hurting all those who claim to differ or come in their way. The other side remains committed to building bridges, uniting people, celebrating diversity, strengthening families, improving access, expanding opportunities and breaking glass ceilings.

Clearly the differences are many and profound. They are for sure consequential. Let us hope Muslim Americans will do their part in making the right choices when they go to polls, without getting confused or distracted from the din and clamor of the sound bites playing in their ears. So future generations of Muslims who grow up in America would remember them with awe and pride for lining themselves on the right side of history, when it counted the most. Go vote and make history! May His wisdom and guidance be your companion - azherquader@yahoo.com



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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