Eight months after announcing his campaign, presidential front-runner Donald Trump continues to radically shape American political discourse. He has managed to carry out a first in modern American politics by building a wildly successful presidential campaign around the Islamophobia that once lay latent in parts of America. In light of this new political reality, American Muslims and their allies are increasingly unsure how to cope with such rhetoric in a country built around ideas of liberty and justice for all.
Despite the increase in threats both perceived and real against American Muslims, I witnessed firsthand my Muslim professor, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, D.C., venture into the field in a Southern town rife with political tensions. But rather than facing protests or threats upon arrival in Williamsburg, Va., Ahmed was received with the sincerest of Southern hospitality. The trip also allowed me the opportunity to take the temperature of America in the time of Trump.
On Feb. 18-19, I had the honor of traveling with Amb. Ahmed to Williamsburg to participate in the College of William and Mary’s Global Film Festival – a university-run festival that highlighted Ahmed’s academic contributions to interfaith bridge building in an unprecedented series of three events. Williamsburg may be a bucolic college town a mere two-and-a-half hours from Washington, but it is no haven from Islamophobic rhetoric.
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