What a Muslim mom said to her daughter about the election — and what you can say, too.

Muna Hussaini walked into her polling station near Austin, Texas, with her daughter on Election Day. Her excitement was weighed down by fear.

Now a mother of two, Hussaini was born and raised in the United States to immigrant parents from India. But as a Muslim woman who wears hijab, she's seen firsthand the angry and xenophobic rhetoric that still plagues this country. Sometimes, she still feels unsafe in her rightful home.

"This election has wreaked havoc on our family as Muslims, who have continued to look on in horror as women, Latinos, Blacks, gays ... so many have been denigrated," she confessed in a private post to tens of thousands of strangers in Pantsuit Nation, a secret Facebook group. (Her post is shared here with permission.)


"These people and their views will still be here after the election. And who will now be walking around with a target on their back?"

Photo by Muna Hussaini, used with permission.

Hussaini watched her 8-year-old daughter press the buttons in the voting booth. She cried.

"Is it true, Mom, do Obama and Hillary think it's OK for two men to marry each other?" her daughter asked. "That's what one kid said at school today and why I should vote for Trump."

Hussaini replied: "Baby, what if tomorrow someone said we can't eat meat because it's against their religious beliefs?"

Her daughter paused to process the thought before agreeing that it wouldn't be fair.

"That's right, sweet love," Hussaini said. "That's the beauty of democracy in the USA. No one's religion gets to be more important than other people's beliefs. That's called separation of church and state. And you can't pick and choose, otherwise tomorrow, someone will get to tell Mommy to take her scarf off. If two dads want to marry, we have to fight for their right to do so. We have to show up and vote."

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Tuesday morning was full of hope and inspiration for the Hussaini family. But the next day, they woke up to an opposite feeling.

Like many parents, Hussaini tries not to push too many worldviews on her daughter. But on Wednesday morning after Election Day, that was simply unavoidable.

Her daughter was terrified of being kicked out of the country she was born in, with an impenetrable wall between her and her friends. She asked, in detail, questions about passports, contingencies, and travel plans and whether it was even safe for her to go school.

Hussaini did her best to explain how the government works — that there's a Constitution and three separate branches with a system of checks and balances built in to make sure no one has too much power.

She told her daughter, "We want to be positive, because as Americans, we believe in our laws and [that] people are generally good" — even though, she noted, she wasn't even sure if she believed those words herself.

But sometimes, she said, you need to believe in something, even if it's just to hearing yourself say it. Sometimes that's what it takes to get by.

Photo by Andrew Biraj/AFP/Getty Images.

"What would be helpful [now] is knowing I'm not alone," Hussaini told me. "That if hate comes out in full force that I can keep my family safe."

"I'm an American citizen, born and raised, and I don't feel safe or comfortable. I don't know when my rights are going to be infringed upon and if they will, what I am supposed to do.

I want to know that my freedom of religion is covered.

I want to know that my freedom of speech is still safe.





I want to know that America is still for me."

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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