Under no circumstances should a silent, peaceful protester be confronted by as much aggression and disrespect as Rose Hamid was when she was ejected from a Trump rally in Rock Hill, South Carolina. As Trump eloquently postulated that all Syrian refugees “probably are ISIS,” Hamid and several other protesters silently stood. Hamid was wearing a shirt that read “Salam, I come in peace.” and each of the protesters wore a yellow eight-pointed star that read “Stop Islamophobia.”
The crowd grew increasingly aggressive towards the protesters, chanting Trump’s name until security removed them from the rally. Prior to the rally, the crowd was told that protesting was forbidden (except in free-speech zones), but Hamid’s un-disruptive display were certainly not grounds for the hatred she faced as she was being escorted out. Hamid’s story has been circulating around social media in an effort to combat today’s increasingly Islamophobic sociopolitical climate.
Yet, an element of Hamid’s protest— the yellow star— is indicative of a greater problem within the American Muslim community. In reference to Trump’s comments about potentially requiring Muslims to carry special Muslim identification, the “Stop Islamophobia” stars worn by the protesters were reminiscent of the six-pointed stars that Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust. Although the protesters’ chose to wear an eight-pointed star (a common symbol in Islam), the message is clear— and deeply misguided.
Often, the American Muslim community will turn to co-opting others’ symbols of oppression and/or empowerment when trying to get a point across. We have compared police brutality in the U.S. to the plight of those in Gaza. After the Chapel Hill attack, we appropriated #BlackLivesMatter to #MuslimLivesMatter. And, in the case of Rose Hamid and her fellow Trump protesters, we are taking a symbol of ugliness (the yellow Star of David) and using it for our own political agendas.
As a community, it’s important to create our own presence in the media, especially when we’re asking for solidarity and understanding. Rather than inserting ourselves into others’ narratives, we must create our own that refrains from stepping on other movements to move forward with ours. Hamid’s decision to stage this protest within Trump’s rally was bold, and certainly an important one. Donald Trump is loathsome, and the way the protesters’ were treated by his supporters was extreme and terrifying.
However, we need to remember that by co-opting others’ symbols and movements, we’re erasing their struggle in favor of our own. We need to understand that when we ask for solidarity, we must prove that we can (and do) reciprocate. After all, we are united against the same institutions and practices.