Islam and Muslims have been a recurring subject in this year's US presidential elections. The anti-Muslim rhetoric has mobilized more American Muslims to register as all citizens must do in order to vote.
With only a week remaining before America elects its new president, Arab News caught up with a few American Muslims to hear their expectations and concerns about the current presidential candidates.
Ashreen Ghalib is the mother of a two-year-old and has been living in Dallas, a major city in Texas, for the last eight years. She is primarily concerned about her safety and security as a Muslim living in the US.
"My husband is always concerned when I go out alone because I wear the hijab and things are no longer as safe as they were before. You need to be aware of your surroundings," she said.
Ghalib is one of the six to seven million Muslims living in America, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Since the beginning of the campaign, Republican candidate Donald Trump's comments against Muslims, Hispanics and immigrants in general have shocked the country.
Trump's calls for banning Muslims from the US and taking "extreme vetting" measures have heightened anti-Muslim sentiments in the country. On the other hand, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has often referred to Muslims as "tools for intelligence" or "to be the eyes and ears on our frontlines."
"I wasn't happy with what Hillary said in one of the debates about Muslims being the eyes and ears on the frontlines in the fight against terrorism. Why don't they talk about Muslims as ordinary people doing ordinary things? Why are Muslims always mentioned in connection with something related to terrorism?" she wondered.
According to several reports, Islamophobic attacks against Muslims are at a peak due to politicians' anti-Muslim rhetoric. Other reasons are surely the terror attacks in Orlando and San Bernardino. A study conducted by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, "Hate and Incriminate: The US Election, Social Media, and American Muslims," reveals that "hate speech against Muslims is not simply tolerated and largely unpunished, but normalized into a valid political position."
"The prevalence of Islamophobia has been coupled with a selective definition of terror under US law, contributing to the belief that all terrorists are Muslims and hence that all Muslims be viewed with suspicion, justifiably hated, excoriated, and even banned," it added.
Faiz Razi was born in America and has voted in every single election since he was 18. He works as a teacher in Chicago and thinks that this election has been very different from those in the past.
"It has reached the point where Trump says something horrible and nobody is shocked or even surprised. His own party is distancing themselves from him so I don't know what he is going to do if he comes into power. I certainly don't want our country to be handed to a person who can't control himself."
Mohammed M., an Egyptian-American, works as an engineer in Michigan and is leaning toward Clinton.
"At this point, I want someone who can heal the divisions rather than being a polarized extremist who takes advantage of people's fears," he told Arab News.
According to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, the economy, jobs, health-care and education are the top priorities for American Muslims when it comes to how they will vote.
Meira Neggaz, executive director at the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding, explains that Muslims lean to the Democratic candidate and Clinton finds some of her strongest supporters among Muslims. "Our research suggest that American Muslims who regularly visit the mosque are more politically active ... so going to the mosque and an increase in extremist ideology don't go hand in hand," she said.
Imtiaz Syed told Arab News that in the last few months, the sermons at his local mosque have been about the qualities of a good leader and have encouraged Muslims to vote.
"America is known for its diversity and the role immigrants have played in this country so there is no point in spreading hatred.
A lot of people are being proactive about their voting rights in this election because every vote counts against Trump," he added.
Similarly, Ghalib said that she would vote for Clinton, not because she thinks the Democratic nominee is necessarily better but because she wants Trump to be defeated.
"Everyone is a little on edge. The choice is between bad and worse. I hope it turns out okay for us because leaving the US is not an option for me," Razi said.
By Zainab Sultan
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