Alida Ortiz-Jetter, a black-Puerto Rican Muslim who lives in Brooklyn, changed her evening commute after Donald Trump was elected. Instead of walking or taking the bus home from Interfaith Medical Center, the hospital in Brooklyn where she is a grant manager, she takes an Uber or a cab on late nights. If it’s early enough, she’ll hop on the hospital shuttle.
Ortiz-Jetter, whose Muslim name is Laila, avoided making that change during the campaign, even as Trump’s rhetoric grew increasingly virulent toward Muslims and other minorities. But after his election, she decided to take fresh safety precautions, especially when her flowing hijab marked her unmistakably as Muslim. Friends have suggested that she remove it, a concession she is unwilling to make.
“We’re all being more vigilant,” Ortiz-Jetter, 42, said in an interview at Masjid At-Taqwa, the mosque in Bedford-Stuyvesant she attends. A few minutes before, an announcement from the mosque’s head of security had crackled over the internal loudspeaker urging members to “just be alert. No more, no less.”
Still, Ortiz-Jetter harbored hope that the election would unify Muslims and galvanize them to become more active citizens. As Trump begins piecing together his administration, Muslims in America are confronted with the simultaneous challenges of protecting themselves against Trump’s proposed Muslim-targeting policies and countering the demonizing misconceptions that many in his inner circle share.
But forging solidarity and ramping up engagement face formidable barriers. In New York City, reactions from Muslims—including a few who favored Trump over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton—to the president-elect, his victory, and the vitriolic campaign that preceded it are wide-ranging. They paint a complex and conflicting landscape of fear, despair, flippancy, resignation, and determination. A sense of powerlessness casts the longest shadow of all.
Of paramount concern for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national advocacy group, is protecting individuals from the many minority communities, Muslims included, targeted by vigilantes since the election. “That’s obviously front and center,” said Corey Saylor, director of the department to monitor and combat Islamophobia. Several attacks on Muslims were reported immediately after the election, and in 2015, the year Trump’s campaign started gaining steam, the number of hate crimes on Muslims and mosques jumped about 67 percent from the previous year, the FBI recently reported. For his chief strategist, Trump has selected Steve Bannon, a white nationalist whom the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as having “a long history of bigotry” against Muslims, African Americans and other minorities.