“Trump, Trump — did you vote for Trump? Did you hear about how Trump feels about gun laws? Did you hear what he said about immigrants and Muslims? Can you believe he’s your president?”
I was vacationing in India after a tough freshman year when I was bombarded with questions like these from my cousin visiting from England. For the most part, I was at a loss for words when the time came for an answer. Coming to college, I have felt that my peers have been more accepting of me and my faith. I have felt the presence of a safe place to discuss the issues I face as a Muslim American. But given the political climate, there is still a constant frenzy that surrounds my life in Berkeley, and I struggle to make sense of such situations myself.
It is even more difficult to go back to India and have to answer to my friends and family there. As I am one of the only family members born and raised in America, my family members in India often look to my experiences to make sense of the news that they hear about the United States.
I was at a breakfast held in my uncle’s backyard, enjoying gorging on native Indian food, when I was confronted by one of my cousins whom I had not seen for a while. She sat next to me to eat, and after some initial casual chatter, she began to talk politics. She asked me how the American election resulted in the way it had — how Donald Trump got elected with the platforms he ran on. She looked at me as if I could somehow explain the current political state of America, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t even process what had happened.
But to answer her earlier questions, no, I did not vote for Trump. I was disgusted by every aspect of his campaign. I resent him for the millions of Americans he has hurt by the legislation he has put through and his comments about women, immigrants, minority groups and other already marginalized communities.
Even after all this, I can and cannot believe that he is our president. I paid more attention to the 2016 election than any other election in my entire life. While I have always followed American politics, there was something about this past election that was all-consuming. Everyone was talking about it, everyone was thinking about it, and everyone was awaiting the results.
My cousin from England expressed her thoughts on how she couldn’t understand how Hillary Clinton had lost. My other relatives chimed in on the American election results, comparing the election of Trump to the election of the current prime minister of India, Narendra Modi.
Similar to Trump, Modi has sparked anti-Muslim sentiments. Whenever I talked of struggles of being a Muslim residing in the United States, my family members in India explained that since Modi has taken office, they have also felt a shift in India, where Muslims are becoming more and more unwelcome. Since both Trump and Modi have taken office, hate crimes against Muslims have become foregrounded in both countries.
I can attest to the worldwide shift through my own experiences as an Indian American. On trips back to India now, each experience has brought about a comparison between U.S. President Trump and Indian Prime Minister Modi. I have seen newspapers where they are compared and plenty of internet videos joking about the both of them and the harm that they have caused.
Hearing and watching these comparisons between Modi and Trump angered me. A lot of what I saw were jokes. As a first-world country, the United States is often looked upon as a nation to be respected and even modeled after. But to know that Trump and his ideas have a reach and influence beyond the United States is almost intolerable.
The leadership changes in both America and India are not a joking matter. We shouldn’t be attempting to make light of these situations. These decisions are affecting many citizens and the path of politics that both nations are taking.
Talking with my cousin forced me to reflect on the path our world politics have taken, on how many people have been hurt and on what the future now looks like. Seeing the parallels in the elections of both countries that I am a citizen of has given me a greater scope of the world. Even now, what is happening is still difficult for me to process, but I remain hopeful that the generations that come after me do not have to answer the same questions I have to today, regardless of what country they are in.
Zobia Quraishi writes the Wednesday column on being Muslim and first-generation Indian American. Contact her at [email protected].