The bunting is measured, the lights are primed, and the hate is about to get mic-checked—which can only mean that Donald Trump’s campaign is coming to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. The Donald will be riding into town on the backs of the bogeymen that helped get him this far: Chinese debt-holders, Mexican roustabouts, radical blacktivists.
But no group has felt the lash of the unleashed American id more than Muslims. Trump has suggested, again and again, that they are no good, sad!, presumably treacherous, and should be subject to mass profiling and blacklisting. In December, he proclaimed that “tens of thousands of people” were coming into America with “cell phones with ISIS flags on them.” And after the mass shooting in Orlando on June 11, Trump tweeted: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical terrorism.” All around Trump’s campaign, there is a national wave of emboldened grassroots Islamophobia, from California to Massachusetts, ranging from street harassment to assault to actual murder.
That much we know. But if you want a glimpse of what can come next, how Muslim America can withstand and overcome, you might want to start in the sleepy town of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. A proposed mosque in 2010 brought out a precursor of Trumpism, a noxious mix of fear and revulsion that nearly wiped out the community of Muslim academics and refugees. They braved bomb threats, arson, assault, and seemingly endless legal proceedings for the crime of simply constructing a community center. But they stayed, resisted, moved forward—and, six years later, claim to be better for the experience, their faith steeled and their relations with the town stronger.
Murfreesboro is no Eden—this May a female driver was run off the road allegedly for wearing a hijab—but the community withstood the worst of America, and got back to the better stuff: they healed the anger, built trust, constructed their mosque. Here’s how they won.