The inauguration of President Trump, which occurred only last Friday, seems a long time ago. Since then, we have had controversial statements about the efficacy of torture in gathering intelligence, the muscular approach towards the Mexicans demanding them to pay for ‘the wall’, a high profile state visit from the British Prime Minister, all culminating with the banning of refugees from seven Muslim countries. All of this, and we are only one week into a possible four years of a Trump presidency; even the Press have struggled to keep up with the speed of events as they unfold.
British citizens in particular will feel quite disappointed with Theresa May’s visit. Here was an opportunity for a leader of one of the World’s most powerful liberal democracies to put some pressure on Trump. However, it seemed as though the ‘British Values’ that she claims to robustly advocate (democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs) went straight out of the window. Despite the fact that much of Trump’s rhetoric goes against these fundamental values, she seemed more concerned about securing a trade deal and re-establishing a ‘special relationship’. How can Theresa May expect anyone to take her idea of British Values seriously when she’s proves the first to challenge them for some perceived benefit? How intrinsic to Britishness does she really believe them to be?
It is therefore unsurprising that the political happenings of the last week have led to a rise in fear and anguish; from Olympic athlete Mo Farah to the fateful Conservative MP Nadhim Zahiwi, many have expressed genuine concern over what Trump’s policies might mean for them. Muslims in particular have been particularly worried; from my discussions with friends and relatives who live across the pond, there seems to be a real fear that Trump’s rhetoric will embolden far-right groups and increase xenophobic attacks against their communities. Just yesterday, an arson attack took place at a mosque in Texas. Even outside of the US we hear of the terrorist attack on a Canadian mosque in Quebec. Some of those I have spoken to have even started making plans for leaving their lives behind in the United States and emigrating, just in case things worsen.
As we digest all of this depressing news, how should we respond? Perhaps a fruitful consideration would be drop the customary whininess. This doesn’t mean that we stop raising awareness about issues, but simply complaining about Trump on social media is likely to achieve little. The precedent for this comes from the seerah; when the companions of the Prophet began complaining to him about the persecution they were facing, he was quick to remind them that the suffering they were experiencing was nothing compared to what previous generations had experienced. Thus, keeping this in mind, a useful starting point might actually be to start off by being thankful to God, that although we are living in testing times, the test of a Trump presidency is nothing compared to the experiences of believers from past generations.
Probing deeper into the Prophet’s response to the Sahabah, why didn’t he show empathy when they complained, and what can we learn from that and subsequently apply appropriately to the situation we find ourselves in today? Let us remember that the Prophet was sent with a purpose to inform people of God’s message to mankind; a task which carried an immense amount of responsibility, and fraught with difficulties of its own. Falling into the trap of pessimism would have led to procrastination and weakness, and this would have been a hindrance in successfully completing the task that God had sent him for. This is why the Prophet essentially told the Sahabah to engender a bold attitude, as getting bogged down by the persecution they were experiencing would have distracted them from God’s cause.
Thus, for Muslims living in the Western world, there is much that we can take from this in how we ought to respond to the sharp negative turn of political affairs, which seem to be increasing hostility towards law-abiding Muslims. As a starting point, we must begin the process (if we haven’t done so already) to start thinking about what God wants from us as Muslims living in the West, and naturally this will include studying God’s message to mankind, internalising it ourselves and informing those closest to us, our friends, families and neighbours. This is what God fundamentally wants from us, just as he did from the companions of the Prophet, and all of the Prophets before him. The moment we relegate Trump et al as a mere variable in the equation of life and the cosmos and the decree of God instead of being overcome by his idiocy and offering him some elevated rank, we are more likely to be successful in the eyes of God, which is our ultimate aim.