There are many things to fear about the coming presidency of Donald J. Trump, but many of the obvious nightmare scenarios won’t roll out until after the inauguration in January. For some people, however, the fear starts today. Muslim women have been posting on Twitter about how they are now afraid to wear the hijab in public.
These fears are perfectly rational. Trump did not just dabble in “politically incorrect” language about Islam; he turned the hatred and fear of Muslims into a key theme of his campaign. Last December, he issued a statement calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” explaining that “the hatred is beyond comprehension.” (In case there’s any confusion, he was referring to the supposed hatred of Muslims toward America.) He supported special scrutiny of mosques and suggested he was open to establishing a database to track all American Muslims. His mantra was “we have to be vigilant.”
There’s a thin line between vigilance and vigilantism. So for believers in a religion that our next president has gone out of his way to vilify, the prospect of being alone in public wearing a visible symbol of their faith is understandably terrifying. It’s worth adding that Trump has made a point of denigrating Muslim women in particular. When Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq, made his indelible speech at the Democratic National Convention, Trump responded by mocking his hijab-wearing wife. “Maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me,” he said in an interview with George Stephanopoulos. “She was extremely quiet, and it looked like she had nothing to say. A lot of people have said that.”
A lot of people have said that. If Trump were just one crazed Islamophobe shouting in his marble-walled penthouse, it would be different. But his fans didn’t just tacitly condone his animosities; they whole-heartedly endorsed them. When he boasted about his unconstitutional plans at his rallies, crowds erupted in cheers and applause. A poll of Trump supporters in North Carolina late last year found that 67 percent of them supported the creation of a national database of Muslims, and 51 percent wanted to see American mosques closed down. Less than a quarter of them thought Islam should be legal in the United States. A national poll found 77 percent of Trump supporters saying Islam is “at odds” with American values. As Will Saletan argued presciently almost a year ago, “One of America’s two ruling parties is controlled by voters who are ready to turn the government against a religious minority.”
It’s no surprise, then, that hate crimes against American Muslims have skyrocketed in 2015 and 2016 to their highest levels since the immediate post-9/11 era. Hundreds of attacks have taken place since the beginning of last year. Mosques have been burned and defaced and shot at, men beaten, women spat on. And soon we will have a president whose default stance to religious minorities is not ecumenical warmth but stone-cold hate. Muslim-American women who woke up this morning afraid to wear their hijabs aren’t being paranoid about their safety in Donald Trump’s America. They know exactly where they stand.