Members of the Princeton community, including town residents and University students and faculty, came together on Tuesday, Nov. 29 to discuss the challenges facing the Muslim community in the wake of the 2016 presidential election in a forum.
Speakers in the forum discussed issues such as anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence, civil and human rights, immigration, civic engagement, local politics, foreign policy, and international affairs. Favoring a town hall style, moderators listened to and wrote down points and concerns suggested by members of the audience on panels mounted around the room.
Sohaib Sultan, the Muslim Life Chaplain in the University Office of Religious Life, said that he wished to discuss with a wide range of people what needed to be done in the face of a Trump presidency.
“We wanted to bring people together for positive engagement and think through as a community what we can do to organize and mobilize and so that energy can be directed positively," Sultan said.
Robia Amjad '18, one of the heads of the Princeton Muslim Advocates for Social Justice and Individual Dignity (MASJID), agreed, noting that students needed to reach outside campus for solutions and conversation.
“After the election of Trump, we realized we had to reach outside of the Princeton bubble, that we had to speak and form connections with community members, because we could no longer stay within our orange bubble,” Amjad said. “We wanted to brainstorm what we could do for the community and how the community can inform us. And so, build some kind of solidarity.”
The two-hour long debate concluded that positive outreach, engagement, and education were necessary to forestall fear-inspired attacks against the Muslim American community.
“Talking to students, faculty, Muslim, non-Muslim, atheists – this is a microcosm of America here,” Andrew Zwicker, a Democratic Assemblyman in the New Jersey Legislature, said. “The conversation is, what should we do as Americans when we are confronted with bigotry, and it is speaking up and saying something, joining groups, breaking bread with neighbors. We are so isolated in our little bubbles. And it’s now all about coming out talking to people about these problems.”
Zwicker is affiliated with the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.
He added that he was moved by the underlying themes surrounding the consensus gradually formed by the forum.
“It is always a powerful experience when groups of people come together,” Zwicker observed. “Not everyone agreed with everything that was said in there. But everyone agreed that they wanted to live in a country based upon love and respect … People have to be willing to take action – join a local organization, or get more engaged in something that they are already doing and thereby become more politically active.”
Amjad and Sultan agreed on the need to potentially resist mindsets and attitudes influenced by the Trump presidency.
“The future is pretty scary, even after this town hall,” Amjad noted. “There’s a lot of uncertainty, what our position here in America is. But seeing this town hall forum and seeing so many people getting together, showing support, and seeing them come up with actual steps, it definitely helps, but there is a still a lot of uncertainty.”
“We have to prepare for the worst,” Sultan added. “Because, if we are prepared, then we as a community will be ready for the challenges that may come, but only time will tell … Even though times may be difficult, we can come together at the grassroots level to effect positive change, and show that democracy has not been lost.”
The forum, titled “Muslims in the Post-Election Period," was hosted in Murray Dodge Hall by MASJID and the University Muslim Life Program . The moderators noted that they are interested in holding future forums on the solutions and concerns labeled by the participants.