Thursday, July 16, 2015

Why this has been the worst year since 9/11 for American Muslims?

published in the Washington Post 6/17/2015

Ramadan has always been a time of reflection, a chance to stop and recharge my batteries, an opportunity to take a break from the regular pace. Islam prescribes this month of fasting, and as with many, my favorite place to be during Ramadan is the mosque in the evenings. I attend iftars — “breaking of fast” — across the city in various Muslim communities. The mosque is a place of peace for me, particularly during this holiest of months for Muslims.
With fond feelings for my own mosque in mind, I followed closely the story of a group of armed protestors organizing an anti-Muslim rally outside a Phoenix mosque last month. The armed rally spurred an interfaith counter-rally that brought together people of goodwill to reject the rhetoric of hate and affirm the language of “loving thy neighbor.” Gaining national attention, it inspired a hashtag, #NotMyAmerica, for activists to speak out for interfaith solidarity. But despite positive responses, the fear that this could start an epidemic of similar protests still lingers in my heart.
If Ramadan is a time to reflect, then let us reflect on what it means to be Muslim in America today. Based on a number of events in 2015 already, our community is facing the most hostile environment since 9/11.
The number of hate crimes against members of the Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities has dramatically increased. There is a growing disconnect between freedom of speech and the freedom to practice religion without fear or intimidation: Increasingly, irresponsible and rhetorical bullying is leading to violent acts against a vulnerable minority.
Since January, we have seen a combination of anti-Muslim political speech and a tarnished law enforcement apparatus, leading to hate crimes, which range from petty vandalism to outright murder. Political candidates have created a climate of fear by warning of nonexistent “Muslim no-go zones,” using American Muslims as the new political hot potato. Elected officials have evaded their representative duty by refusing to meet with American Muslim constituents in Texas and Oklahoma. Lawmakers have held up vital child support legislation in Idaho to pass legislation banning Sharia law, in a bill similar to ones proposed in Georgia, South CarolinaNorth CarolinaTennessee and Texas. There have been countless acts of vandalism: threats to mosques and Muslim groups in San DiegoPhoenix and Ames, arson at a Houston mosque and hate graffiti on an Islamic school in Rhode Island. continue reading......

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Republicans need to learn that Muslim and American are not mutually exclusive

published in The Guardian on 1/30/2015

In many parts of the United States, if you want to win an election, you need talking points full of misinformation and bigotry towards Muslims to scare the wits out of non-Muslim Americans in to voting for you (and others to fund your campaign). Events in the Middle East simply provide more fuel to an already-raging fire, and convince officials elected to serve all of their constituents that their inappropriate and bigoted comments will not only go unchallenged but will be applauded.
Take, for example, Texas state Representative Molly White’s idea of southern hospitality: as American Muslim Texans descended on Austin for an Annual Capitol Day to celebrate their civic right to free expression, the freshman Republican posted on Facebook:
Most member including myself are back in district. I did leave an Israeli flag on my desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representative form the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws.
A McCarthy-esque welcome to her Muslim constituents by a right-wing politician is disgusting – but White’s not the only Republican to try to convince the general public that American Muslims are not patriotic, do not integrate into society at large and have no idea how to engage the civic process. She’s just the one most lacking in irony, given that she did so while the Muslim Texans she apparently dislikes were engaging in the civic process. Continue reading....

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Time is Now for Unity Not Divisions

         It's tense. The air is thick. But we have to move through it. We need to move together but before we do that - we need to listen to one another.
         I find it ironic how we want to demonize an entire movement that's mantra is‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬, a movement in which the sanctity of life, the value of life including Black life is at its very core. I find it ironic that the very same people will say don't judge an entire political party, or faith community, or group of people by the despicable acts of a few - then are quick to blame hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters for the acts of a few. This movement has never been about revenge or vendettas, its always been about love. I have never felt more love in social justice movements than I have felt this year.
          People will say well why not then say ‪#‎AllLivesMatter‬, and I will say it is not all lives who have to justify their value and why they matter. It is not all life that has to prove why they don't deserve to be treated as sub-human. We as a society have decided who matters and who doesn't and we have proved it in the way the system works or doesn't work, who it oppresses, which countries we choose to wage war with and the increase and nonchalant usage of the word "collateral damage."
          As Officers Liu and Ramos are laid to rest, leaving behind loved ones, and how difficult it must be for them that we must also remember there are families who go to bed every night without their loved ones who are also lost to senseless violence, including police violence. Sisters and brothers, we can mourn the death OF police and BY police. They are not mutually exclusive. Whether you are a doctor, lawyer, taxi-cab driver, cashier, street vendor or police officer - ALL lives matter. I will not engage in selective outrage over murders of innocent people. We should be calling each other to a higher moral ground - not engage in a divisive, toxic downward spinning cycle which creates more hate and animosity. This will not help us move closer to a better city, a better country or a better world.
         I respect this time, the funerals and families of Ramos and Liu, but asking Black Americans and communities of color to "stop protesting" indefinitely is unreasonable. To engage in requests to elected officials to suppress the constitutional rights of segments of the American population makes you no better then the countries we are quick to criticize for lack of democracy. We have waged wars on countries in the Middle East and forced democracies down their throats meanwhile we are calling for the suppression of free speech and freedom of assembly right here in the United States. You can't have your cake and eat it too. Might as well just call ourselves Saudi America.
         Racism exists. Its real. It does not need to be your personal experience for it to be real. Justice has not been served - and we have a long way to go. If not people, protest, pressure and policy? HOW? Have we forgot our history? Did Black men win the right to vote by sitting back and waiting for the "system" to take care of it? Did we end segregation by smoking a cigarette hoping someone realized it was a bad idea? Women's right to vote? The list goes on. The system that many of you believe so much in - is the same system that treats many poor people and people of color unfairly.
         Your video, the one with about 25-30 people chanting "dead cops" will never win any argument that this movement supports violence. Are Black Americans than allowed to use video of KKK members spewing hate and racism against Blacks and people of color to represent an entire segment of American society? Will we then be allowed to use videos and comments by prominent elected officials and blame them for the rapes of hundreds of women a year? I'll be waiting for your answer.
          Let's step back, reflect, take a deep breath. No one ever said this was easy. Life is not easy. Change is not easy. Open your minds and hearts - listen to one another. Make an attempt to understand where people are coming from and then come together. This is OUR city, whether you are Black, White, Asian, Latino, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, poor or rich - we must work towards justice and healing. So as long as parts of our community are shut out of the system and are without justice and equality - we all lose.
          I may seem naive for being optimistic. I live and breathe HOPE. I believe in us, I believe in our potential. We just have to see beyond our emotions, imagine a better world, and work towards it. It is the ONLY way.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Facing Race Spotlight: Palestinian-American Activist Linda Sarsour

Linda Sarsour, the Palestinian-American executive director of the Arab American Association in New York City, has had plenty to do this past year. As Gaza burned, and the media drumbeat of ISIS grew ever louder, people in the U.S. were grieving and responding to a spate of police killings of black men, including Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Sarsour’s longstanding work on law-enforcement accountability converged with her Arab-American civil rights work.
Two weeks ago, Sarsour joined a contingent of activists who traveled to Missouri to participate in Ferguson October and to speak with Arab and South Asian business owners in Ferguson. “We were thinking about what our role is as Arab-Americans and Muslims, as the children of immigrants or immigrants ourselves. What is our role in the larger conversation about race and racism in the U.S.?” 
For the last decade Sarsour has been pushing for an end to racial profiling in law enforcement, primarily around domestic surveillance programs run by the federal government and the NYPD that target American Muslims. She says that has required Arab-American communities to “build solidarity with people and communities who have been impacted for decades by police brutality, by racial profiling, by stop-and-frisk and by broken windows policing.”
November 15, in Dallas, Sarsour will break down racial injustice in the post-September 11 era at Facing Race, the biennial conference held by Colorlines’ publisher, Race Forward. She spoke with Colorlines about how she spent her summer and the lessons and laughs she’s taken away from young people on social media.
Can you talk about what you took away from your time participating in Ferguson October?
What I took away from Ferguson was that it’s OK to be angry. That anger is not something we should be ashamed of when we are each working against injustice. Injustice is supposed to make us angry. And that anger can be productive and translated into systemic change. I was proud to be angry, which is something we’re told not to be—angry Arab women or angry black women. But in Ferguson it felt good to be angry, and we were angry alongside people around us who also showed you love. It was something I never felt before in my life.
These young people in Ferguson are not waiting for national leaders to come in and tell them how to organize, when to sit in the streets, what to occupy, how to chant, or what their demands are. These are young people who taught me that I don’t need anyone else to lead me or guide me, I’m going to do whatever feels right at that moment. Read More......

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Don't be shocked that the US spied on American Muslims. Get angry that it justifies spying on whomever it wants

my oped in The Guardian responding to expose by The Intercept.

What do a Republican candidate, a military veteran, a civil rights activist and a professor have in common? They are all American Muslims – and all have been subject to pervasive surveillance by the NSA and FBI.
A report published by The Intercept on Wednesday reveals that the two agencies used secretive procedures designed to catch terrorists and spies to monitor the email accounts of prominent American Muslim leaders. Among the documents supplied by Edward Snowden, a spreadsheet titled "FISA recap" contains 7,485 email addresses apparently monitored between 2002 and 2008. (The report also clearly documents how biased training by the FBI leads to biased surveillance, and that calling Muslims "ragheads" is everyday lingo at federal law enforcement agencies.)
These revelations demonstrate that there are two sets of laws in the United States: one designed for dissidents, political activists and American Muslims – and another for everybody else. But nobody is safe when one group is singled out: if our government can simply decide with little or no oversight to monitor the personal email account of an American Muslim Republican military veteran, then it can decide to monitor any of our emails, too. That should strike fear into the heart of every American who values our freedoms. Read More

Watch This Muslim-American Activist (Me) Take Down A Leading Islamophobe

A Muslim-American leader on Sunday criticized one of the right wing’s top traffickers of Islamophobia for exaggerating the threat that Muslims pose to the United States and for regularly linking the religion to terrorism.
Anti-Muslim activist Brigitte Gabriel made news last week for berating a Muslim student at an event hosted by a conservative think-tank. “People like you need to be put in their place,” Gabriel later said to the student.
Linda Sarsour of the Arab American Association of New York — and recently recognized as a “Champion of Change” by the White House — challenged Gabriel on CNN’s Reliable Sources. “Ms. Gabriel speaks out of two sides of her mouth,” she said. “In one breath she’ll say the West must support moderate Muslims, and the moderate Muslims must speak out against terrorism and in the same breath she’ll say peaceful Muslims are irrelevant.”  Watch video here:

If the first thing you ask a Muslim woman is if she's American, you might be a bigot

my oped in response to the Heritage Foundation event, published in The Guardian on June 18th, 2014 

It took one American Muslim law student, Saba Ahmed, making one mild criticism during a conservative panel discussion of Benghazi, to get people foaming at the mouth at an event co-hosted by a conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation.
What could she have said to deserve an upbraiding from the stage? "We portray Islam and all Muslims as bad, but there’s 1.8bn followers of Islam. We have 8 million-plus Muslim Americans in this country and I don’t see them represented here." 
Watching the video of the panelists respond to Ahmed on Monday afternoon, you can almost hear the wheels turning in their heads: How dare this young American Muslim law student – in a hijab, no less – talk back to us? How out-of-line for her to assert that the majority of Muslims in the world are peaceful people and that society should not use a broad brush to demonize an entire faith based on the acts of a very tiny minority! Read more