For her part, Khan won’t take credit for inspiring American Muslim women to become more deeply involved in politics. “In my eyes, I haven’t done anything that any Muslim woman would not have done. I mean, I haven’t done anything special,” Khan told me in an interview on Friday.
But the Gold Star mother sounded hopeful that if more Muslim women start speaking out it will help dispel negative stereotypes and myths. “We have all type of activities that we participate in, why not in politics now?,” Khan said. “Our power has been challenged, that Muslim women are behind, or Muslim women don’t talk, or they don’t do anything. Really we are a very strong pillar of the community,” she added. “The women are stronger than men sometimes.”
Trump’s presidential campaign has been rife with islamophobia and misogyny. He famously called for “a total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S. during the GOP primary. He rates women based on their appearance, has no problem with hearing other people refer to his own daughter as a “piece of ass,” and a 2005 recording recently surfaced where he brags about using his celebrity status to force himself on them. Those ugly strains of prejudice intertwined when Trump singled out Khan to suggest she had been silenced by her religion.
“We all feel that we are not safe,” Khan said, reflecting on the 2016 election. “Why they say ‘we will throw you out’? Why they say this type of stupid things.” She added: “We have equal rights. It doesn’t matter if you became a citizen today or a hundred years ago, we are all equal … We are all equal in the eyes of God, in the eyes of law.”
Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric may already be causing serious damage. A report released by California State University-San Bernardino’s non-partisan Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism recently found that Trump’s call for a Muslim ban may have contributed to a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes after the 2015 San Bernardino terror attack. The report showed that anti-Muslim hate crimes have reached an all-time high since the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
An inadvertent consequence of Trump’s decision to scapegoat Muslims is that his actions may ultimately strengthen the political power of American Muslims by motivating them to get more involved in politics. Backlash against his candidacy could lead to record American-Muslim voter turnout in the election.
Heightened political visibility for Muslim women could have far-reaching consequences of its own. Research suggests that women have higher expectations about what they can achieve when they see other women succeeding in leadership positions. If more American Muslim women speak out in politics, it may encourage others to do the same.
“It’s difficult growing up in a world where nobody in power looks like you or dresses like you or has a name like yours,” Seddiq said. “We have to change that. There is no way you think you can do something unless you think that somebody has done it before.” Currently, there are only two Muslim members of Congress: Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, who are both men.