by Kelsey Hamlin
Mujaahidah Sayfullah is an American Muslim and a U.S. Army combat veteran from Tacoma, Wash. She served for six years, including in Operation Desert Storm.
While many people find themselves shaken by despair and fear as a result of an impending Donald Trump presidency, Sayfullah remains optimistic.
“I’m just a strong, individual woman, and it’s hard for me to see everyone so sad,” she said. “I want good for all of mankind, even Trump.”
Sayfullah is well informed about how the election process works, and had been watching the polls come in throughout the day on Tuesday. When Trump gained over 270 electoral college votes, she said she wasn’t surprised, although she admitted to being taken aback a little bit.
“Anything is possible when people are misinformed about the election voting process,” Sayfullah said. “I think people are unaware of how the electoral votes are really what matters, so I think people underestimated the electoral sway with Trump.”
She argued that Trump’s platform was honest, and although she called it “ridiculous” and “obnoxious,” the Muslim American vet felt his honesty was what made people so attracted to his platform.
Being a Muslim American is one identity, being a veteran is another, so is being a woman, and so is being a person of color. Sayfullah sits at the intersection of all these identities, embodying them simultaneously.
“So I have these obstacles to face every day I walk out that door,” she said. Typically, Sayfullah goes to the Veteran Affairs Hospital for medical services. “I often get stared at. I do. Like I don’t belong there, like, ‘how dare you be here; you’re not part of us; you can’t possibly be a veteran; how dare you.’”
On Wednesday, she was doing an interview on Main Street, downtown, when someone honked their horn at her. Sayfullah admitted to not being entirely sure what the intention of the driver was, but she said it hadn’t happened before.
“It’s just sad that it still goes on after 9/11,” she said, referring to the day the twin towers were struck by hijacked airplanes, which ultimately led to a change in American rhetoric, security, and war.
Walking around, however, Sayfullah did say she noticed a shift in people’s behaviors and attitudes toward her.
“I kinda think with Trump being elected, it kind of perpetuated the deep rooted hatred within people,” Sayfullah said. “But I’m not afraid. I don’t fear any man.”
The core of Sayfullah’s being is her religion, Islam, and she explained that it is her faith that gives her the ability to feel as unphased as she does by today’s political environment.
“I have to be an example to show what Islam is about,” she said. “And Islam is about peace.”
Sayfullah defines that example for herself as being positive. While she said she can’t believe some of the things Trump has said and done, everyone can be forgiven. But she does have a 12 year-old who was so concerned that he was coming up to her and constantly showing her the polls.
“He was scared,” she said. “A lot of Muslim children have the fear they’ll be attacked at school or racial slurs will come out.”
Regardless, she said her son went to school, and so far everything has been fine. Sayfullah felt that children are scared because they fear the unknown, and they shouldn’t have that fear.
“Many girls will take off their hijab because they’re afraid of how they’ll be treated if they’re identified as Muslim,” she explained.
The way to battle these types of anxieties for Sayfullah is education. She explained that her son had gone to school to meet many more children who were as anxious and scared as he was on election night, but her son relayed the words of Sayfullah.
“It made me feel good that he could help other children, too, who hadn’t had a talk with their parents, and find comfort and ease that everything is going to be alright,” she said. “They’re worried about the world now because of their future leaders. So it’s important to put morals and values in the youth and educate them as well.”
There are 3.3 million Muslims in the United States of America. Yes, these Muslims are also American.
Kelsey Hamlin is a reporter with South Seattle Emerald, and interned with the publication this summer. She has worked with various Seattle publications. Currently, Hamlin is a University of Washington student, and the President of the UW Chapter’s Society of Professional Journalists. She had a second internship with KCTS 9 this summer, and finished an internship with The Seattle Times in March as an Olympia legislative reporter. Hamlin is a journalism major at the University of Washington with interdisciplinary Honors, and a minor in Law, Societies & Justice. See her other work on her website, or find her on Twitter @ItsKelseyHamlin.
Featured image: Mujaahidah with her two year old niece Mecca