(CNN)There is perhaps no group reeling more from John Kasich's withdrawal from the presidential race than American Muslims.
Kasich remained the final ray of hope among Republican candidates who pushed discriminatory policies against minorities, particularly Muslims. Now Donald Trump, the most viciously anti-Muslim candidate of them all, is the presumptive GOP nominee. This should be a wake-up call for Muslims in this country. With their existence now seriously under peril, it begs the question: What can be done now?
The 2016 GOP presidential campaign trail was a nightmare from its inception.
Candidates called for prohibiting Muslim immigration, patrolling “Muslim neighborhoods,” closing mosques, and registering and tracking Muslims in a database. Trump, in particular, was notorious for kicking out Muslims peacefully protesting at his rallies. Muslim jokes about whether there would be Wi-Fi in internment camps and the permissibility of duck faces on Muslim IDs quickly became less funny.
“Islam hates us,” Trump said recently, speaking for 1.6 billion of the faith's adherents around the world and furthering the “us vs. them” mentality that ISIS exploits.
It is no coincidence that the number of anti-Muslim incidents soared as Trump's popularity rose. Over just the last few months, one Trump supporter has been accused of attacking a Muslim woman outside a Starbucks, another constructed a bomb and threatened to kill Muslims and led an armed anti-Islam rally to desecrate the Quran.
While Trump himself has stated that he would never condone violence, he clearly doesn't have a problem with other people committing the acts. “The people following me are very passionate,” he merely said after an attack on a homeless Hispanic man by two of his supporters.
The solution isn't as simple as endorsing Hillary Clinton, the expected Democratic nominee.
Sure, she vouched for Muslim Americans in response to Trump's comments. But Clinton's hawkish foreign policy platform and record during her tenure as senator and secretary of state endangered the lives of thousands of Muslims abroad. She voted for the endless Iraq war and was secretary of state while American drone strikes injured and killed thousands of civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Only her plan for no-fly zones in Syria has garnered some support among Muslim voters.
So here's the dilemma facing many American Muslims: Vote for Trump and risk endangering our own safety here in the United States, or vote for Clinton and risk endangering fellow Muslims abroad.
That's not much of a choice.
The only way for American Muslims to move forward is to think long-term, so that no matter who becomes president in 2016, we won't be forced to endure disrespectful and dehumanizing threats like the aforementioned internment camps, immigration bans, and database registration.
Fortunately, some members of Congress have already set the ball in motion. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Virginia, introduced a resolution in the House condemning violence, bigotry and hateful rhetoric toward Muslims in the United States.
The next step would be to support an effort to introduce and pass a similar measure as a bill to explicitly make such actions against the law. Passing the End Racial Profiling Act as well as bills ending religious litmus testing for visa travel and immigration programs, would fall in line with this as well.
A particularly timely opportunity for bipartisan collaboration would be to pass a bill introduced by Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, calling for an end to warrantless surveillance, which directly affects Muslim Americans. Finally, engaging in local and federal elections to elect representatives who favor pluralism and inclusiveness over bigotry and exclusiveness is key for creating positive policy for years to come.
These are just a few strategies Muslim Americans and their allies can take advantage of to protect themselves and stop the pattern of becoming a political scapegoat each election cycle. Let 2016 serve as a lesson and a call to action. Much work lies ahead, but it is necessary to ensure that another campaign does not threaten the rights or very existence of Muslim Americans ever again.