'I've Just Become The Other': Local Mass. Muslims React To Trump's Election

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Asima Silva prepares snacks for her family at their home. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Asima Silva prepares snacks for her family at their home. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

With a weary look on her face and hoop earrings made of peace symbols dangling from her ears, Asima Silva lays out a few snacks for the youngest of her five children. There's spinach and artichoke hummus with pita, and some cheesecake.

Silva says the family's dinner routine is a bit off this night, following what she said has been a confusing day — the day after America elected Donald Trump president.

A Muslim Democratic state delegate from Holden, Silva says it's been difficult listening to some of the language used this campaign season, specifically language targeting Muslims.

President-elect Trump peppered his campaign with anti-Muslim sentiments, including the suggestion that all Muslims in the country be required to register in a database.

Silva says it's messages like that that concern her.

"I think today when we woke up, the definition of being American was questioned," she says.

Born in India, Silva came to Massachusetts with her parents at a young age and grew up in Rutland. She says this is the first time in her life she's seen herself as an immigrant.

"And it was the first time I realized, 'I'm the other. I've just become the other,' " Silva says, letting out a sigh as her eyes water.

"But, I picked up my son, because he was sick at school, and in the car he said to me, 'Mom, I think I'm actually sicker 'cause I'm worried.' And I said, 'Worried about what?' And he said, 'I'm worried that Trump is elected, because he wants to kick us out.' "

Silva told her son their family isn't going anywhere, and that she's working hard to help people understand more about their faith.

"If the last few months were not a wake-up call to people in this country before, this is a new wake-up call."

Noman Khanani, a graduate student at Boston University and a Muslim immigrant

Cambridge City Councilor Nadeem Mazen is a leader in the local Muslim community. He says many people are discouraged and saddened by the election results.

But Mazen says he believes a stronger mobilization of Muslims at the local level can make an impact, and the Trump victory has spurred interest in civic engagement.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook, 'Oh, you talked to me six months ago about civics, I'm ready to get involved now.' Well, good," Mazen said. "By all means, I think we will at least use that to mobilize for local and social good in our cities and in our state."

Twenty-four year-old Noman Khanani is a graduate student at Boston University and was a Massachusetts delegate for Bernie Sanders this summer at the Democratic National Convention. He is also a Muslim immigrant from Pakistan.

"If the last few months were not a wake-up call to people in this country before," Khanani says, "this is a new wake-up call."

While he does not feel good about Trump's victory, Khanani says he is ready to find common ground.


"Although there's right to be afraid, there's right to have fear, we also have to understand that change is not going to come just by expressing that fear," he says. "We have to be engaged."

And engaging is exactly what Asima Silva has in mind.

She's bringing training sessions about Islamophobia into school districts, ready to talk with people about Trump's views.

"One thing we have to appreciate is that because of him, we are now more awake," she says. "I feel that more people are now realizing that we cannot hide anymore."

Because, as Silva says, the only way to conquer fear is first to uncover it.

This segment aired on November 10, 2016.


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Shannon Dooling Investigative Reporter
Shannon Dooling was an investigative reporter at WBUR, focused on stories about immigration and criminal justice.



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