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Another Muslim Congressman: As-Salam-Alaikum Br. Andre Carson

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andre-carson-ap.jpgAlhamdulillah, despite the attempts of the LOBBY and its right-wing allies to increase Islamophobia and to exclude Muslims from the political landscape, they were unable, yet again, to stop the tide of qualified, educated, and politically savvy Muslims into positions of authority in this country.

Indiana voters on Tuesday elected a Muslim to Congress, only the second of that faith chosen in U.S. history. [Source] Keith Ellison, the other Muslim congressman, now has company, hopefully an ally! Interestingly, despite all the boohoo about immigrant Muslims “controlling all”, both Muslim congressmen are black, and to be honest it wouldn’t make a difference to me what their race or color was. I am JUST happy they are MUSLIMS.

Andre Carson describes himself as an “Orthodox, universal, secular Muslim”. Okay, I have no idea what that means. Further clarification: Carson attends a WD Muhammad Masjid. Many Muslims may find the “secular” part a bit unnerving because of the connotations associated with it, but hey, you are in a secular system, so if you want to be a congressman you cannot but be secular. His wife is Muslim too, and this article is a nice politics-free overview of Carson’s faith.

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So, As-salam-alaikum Br. Carson. I hope that in your position of authority, you will work to make your fellow congressmen aware of the Islamophobia taking over this country, to help programs that eradicate poverty, to work on projects that will provide healthcare to all citizens, not just to the rich, to improve America’s foreign policies, and if possible to help fix/kill the archaic AMT system (hey, a little selfish request can’t do that much harm!).

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Abu Reem is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from Wharton. He has been involved with Texas Dawah, Clear Lake Islamic Center and MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Abu Reem is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").

30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Amad

    March 12, 2008 at 10:32 AM

    Talking about labels, I guess I’d define myself as

    “Traditionally conservative, universal, poltically-liberal, partially libertarian, orthodox, sunni muslim” ;)

    I was gonna throw in polygamy-supporting but it was getting too long.

    What’s your label? :) mofw?

  2. Pingback: Islamify.com

  3. Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

    March 12, 2008 at 12:08 PM

    It should be noted that Mr. Carson won a special election to fill out the remaining ten months of his deceased grandmother’s term in congress.

    He faces a heavily contested democratic primary election in May to see if he will even be on the ballot in November for a full term.

  4. SaqibSaab

    March 12, 2008 at 12:09 PM

    Wow, Indiana? MashaAllah, nice and close to Chicago; inshaAllah we can get some help from him in the Windy City.

    May Allah make ease things for us in the US and all over the world.

  5. Ahmad AlFarsi

    March 12, 2008 at 12:47 PM

    ya akhi… “secular” has more than just some “negative conntations” associated with it. The ideology of secularism, by clear aayat in the Quran, and by the consensus of the scholars, is major kufr (disbelief)!

    Let me be clear; I’m not making any takfir here… I am just pointing out the danger of letting something as serious as secularism slide as though it is not a big deal… it IS a big deal; it’s aqeedah we’re talking about here… it would be just as big a deal if someone described themselves as a “Orthodox, universal, Qadiani Muslim.”

    Out of giving excuses to my brother, I hope and pray that Br. Andre means something other than “belief in secularism” when he describes himself as “secular”.

    Sorry to ruin the party and all…

  6. Ahmad AlFarsi

    March 12, 2008 at 1:01 PM

    I do acknowledge, however, that it is a good sign and a step in the right direction that Americans can vote for a Muslim, albeit a “secular” one. (just like it would be a good sign if a Qadiani was voted into office…)

  7. Peaches

    March 12, 2008 at 1:14 PM

    Amad,
    Wow! all of those titles just made me dizzy. There used to be a time where I used to classify myself as a “secular Christian” and that was only because I came from that background,( but stopped practing it almost 2 years ago.) Now I just tell people that I’m just secular and may not always tell them that. I realized that if I called myself a “secular Christian”, I’m still saying that while I’m not practicing the faith, my heart is still in it. My leanings are toward, the faith, that my heart is into (and that I’m going to eventually,convert to) the Muslim faith.(The only reason that I haven’t converted as of yet is only because I made the embarrasing mistake of thinking that I knew everything about the faith, when I didn’t. I don’t want to be a Muslim without knowing the whole process of it.)

    Congrats to Andre on his win. It is impressive to see more Muslims becoming part of the political arena. Far as his religious background, I wouldn’t care if the man was a Muslim,Buddhist, Hindu or African Methodist Episcopalian, I would have voted for him. I just don’t want to see another Republican screw up our government any more than it is already is.

    Abu Noor Al I rlandee,
    I’m sure hoping that he will win the big one. As long as he is a good Democrat, that is all fine by me.

    • KGB

      July 19, 2009 at 7:06 PM

      Salam! It is strange…..and I wonder….Is it due to language Barrier that many people saying Muslim Faith? To the best of my knowledge Last time I checked…..It is not Muslim Faith but Islamic faith…..Muslims are people who believe in Islam as their only right and straight way to worship Allah.

  8. Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

    March 12, 2008 at 1:25 PM

    Peaches,

    It seems a safe bet that whoever wins the seat will be a good democrat. The only possible way a Republican could win this seat is through some kinda major anti-Muslim backlash against Mr. Carson. It seems like that was already tried, though in this special election (tying him to Farrakhan, etc.) and it didn’t work. No doubt it helps that he is the grandson of the previous holder of the seat, who seems to have been fairly popular and who was not Muslim. She and her allies seem to all support keeping a Carson in the seat. That said, there will be other well funded and known candidates in the dem primary so it is still possible it will be another democrat besides Mr. Carson in the seat after the November election.

  9. WM

    March 12, 2008 at 1:31 PM

    Radically traditional, utopian ultra-reactionist favouring paternalistic enlightened despotism.

  10. Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

    March 12, 2008 at 1:38 PM

    Amad and Ahmad’s points about the “secular” Muslim are well taken.

    Which is why it is so bizarre that so many Muslims who do not believe being secular is okay, but who know as Amad pointed out, that any successful Muslim candidate in the U.S. would almost by definition be secular, still encourage Muslims to get involved in politics and celebrate when they win.

    The underlying reality is that almost all Muslims in America based on the current reality, agree with and support secularism in America but because of issues related to Ahmad’s comment, some orthodox believers are reluctant to state so openly.

    The result is basically disingenous double talk and avoidance of major issues — but hey, that is what always happens when one ventures into the realm of electoral politics.

    Personally, I think Muslims should focus on other issues such as strengthening our own community and its institutions (starting from the level of individuals and families) and of course, da’wah. The reality is that Muslims are not a powerful political force in the U.S., (as one can see from the fact that the first two Muslim congressmen did not win based on Muslim support and mainly de-emphasized the fact that they were Muslim). But for those Muslims who feel a responsibility to use whatever political power they do have to enjoin good and forbid wrong, then they should support candidates who stand for the right, such as anti-war candidates or those who will stand up for the disadvantaged in society in general.

    But when Muslims themselves run, as we discussed above, they automatically must be secular (and there is no reason to assume that they are the best among us in knowledge or practice of Islam). To then make such people heroes or role models or leaders of our community on that basis is potentially problematic.

    NOTE: This is not a reflection on Brother Keith Ellison or brother Andre Carson as individuals. Aside from any religious issue, they seem to be the kind of Congressmen in general that I’m happy to have in Congress. I am not sure that their election is an unqualified good for the Muslim community because of the dynamics I discussed above, however, and therefore think there should be more honest discussion of these dynamics rather than having either cheerleading or repetitive “voting is haram!” or “Keith Ellison backs Israel!” oversimplifications.

    Allaah knows best.

  11. Amad

    March 12, 2008 at 1:40 PM

    I am sorry but Qadiani is not the same as someone calling oneself secular.

    Qadianis are not Muslims by ijma’ of the Ummah.

    I would work tooth and nail against a Qadiani (esp. if he will express/disseminate his deviant Qadiani thoughts and pass them off as being “Islamic”), because a Qadiani’s interests are usually not in the best interest of Muslims. If he is not a “religious Qadiani”, then I will treat him like I would do any other candidate and focus on his position on issues that I care about.

  12. Mass

    March 12, 2008 at 1:40 PM

    I’m quite sure that “secular” wouldn’t be the most befitting thing to describe a Muslim as it is obviously the antithesis of Islam. Nonetheless many of you folks would say its positive, yet it still carries negative
    connotations in that a Muslim has (maybe not) to assert that he is “secular,” did he even have to say that..?

    He never had to say I’m “secular“, abiding by the system and respecting the secularism he operates in doesn’t make him a “secular”.

    One could operate in a secular/ non-Islamic system as Yusuf peace be upon him did in Egypt (as many scholars argue using this), yet going down the road of major compromise is dangerous not only for his deen but for Muslim Americans in the future. It is too early to talk about a genuine Muslim political movement in the States, but the way they penetrate the political sphere now, will shape coming political conduct.

    So perhaps one should not get overly excited by just having one or two Muslims as congress men, but actually trying to do it “right” where the use of words is acceptable to Islam and also the general political customs in the U.S.

  13. Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

    March 12, 2008 at 1:42 PM

    As to my description, as it says my blog:

    Unrepentant Fenian Islamist.

  14. Amad

    March 12, 2008 at 1:56 PM

    Good points Mass/AbuNoor.

    He probably didn’t have to say anything about his deen or about secularism. He probably shouldn’t have about the latter.

    In today’s times, just having an imaginary Muslim link (think Obama) is such a huge hurdle. But actually BEING a Muslim may be put one in an untenable position, unless you say all the “right” things.

    It’s a tough America– we need/want Muslims to represent our opinions, but then we almost have to live with what we can get. An imperfect Muslim is a million times better than getting a crazy right-winger, and a hundred times better than any liberal. As they say, beggars can’t be choosers (i hate the word beggars because Muslims are never beggars, but hopefully, you get the point). That’s why its not simple as AbuNoor pointed out.

    w/s

    P.S. I had to pull out a dictionary to find the meaning for some of these “interesting” labels. Keep ’em coming!

  15. Ahmad AlFarsi

    March 12, 2008 at 2:01 PM

    Here we go:

    Qadianis are not Muslims by ijma’ of the Ummah.

    Secularists are not Muslims by ijma’ of the Ummah, and by clear verses in the Qur’an.

    I would work tooth and nail against a Qadiani (esp. if he will express/disseminate his deviant Qadiani thoughts and pass them off as being “Islamic”).

    I would work tooth and nail against a secularist, (esp. if he will express/disseminate his deviant secularist thoughts and pass them off as being “Islamic”).

    If he is not a “religious Qadiani”, then I will treat him like I would do any other candidate and focus on his position on issues that I care about.

    If he is not a “religious secularist”, then I will treat him like I would do any other candidate and focus on his position on issues that I care about.

  16. Bob

    March 12, 2008 at 2:09 PM

    “Muslims into positions of authority in this country”

    Who you kidding, look at how much beef Obama has been getting just because he has a Muslim middle name and you think Muslims can get in to positions of authority? lol good luck.

    Oh and another thing, theres no such thing as a ‘secular Muslim’

  17. Mass

    March 12, 2008 at 2:47 PM

    Amad
    I get your point perhaps in the short run on domestic politics, civil rights etc. but maybe not on foreign policy where the cowboy attitude us usually more sincere in reflecting intentions of U.S power.

    How about a label formyself: …ehm…

    Salafi, mth-habi, Hanbali, Umayyad Arab Sa’eedi Khaleeji Globalized, culturally literate post modern philanthropist hippy hearted political & social scientist academic, bodybuilding Musclehead semi-boxer.

  18. AnonyMouse

    March 12, 2008 at 3:39 PM

    Abu Noor, jazakAllahu khair, your comment expressed my thoughts/ opinion on the issue far more eloquently than I could have!

    @ Mass
    Wow, you outdid me! (Scroll down a bit to see “Identity and Labels”)

  19. Umm Reem

    March 12, 2008 at 4:21 PM

    “Muslims into positions of authority in this country”

    Alhamdulliah that’s a good news, perhaps we can feel the wind of change…

    And while we are at it, who knows, next Sh. Yasir may get an invitation to join ‘Bone & Skulls’ :D

  20. sincethestorm

    March 12, 2008 at 10:22 PM

    This is great news for the Indiana Senator. I was irritated that on all the search engines the headlines were ‘Second Muslim gets elected to Congress.’ Would the’media’ announce each time a Jewish or Christian person was elected to office. Its a way to highlight one aspect of the person and perhaps suggest that slowly we are taking over. Gosh I wish I could naively believe that the old media machine had good intentions.

    Its interesting that both Senators are Black. I think many born Muslims are so apprehensive and confused about their role in the West. For so many years, we’ve been hearing advice to move to the East. Now, we actually have role models who aren’t apologetic and trying to co-exist in this society.

  21. Abu Omar

    March 13, 2008 at 11:47 AM

    Did he use the word “secular” to describe himself, or did someone writing about him use this term?

  22. Amad

    March 13, 2008 at 11:53 AM

    the words are quoted in this article. But not clear if direct quotation.
    http://ruthholladay.com/index.php?blog=1&title=andre_carson_on_identity_and_belief&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

  23. awake

    March 13, 2008 at 12:19 PM

    I personally have no concerns over Carson’s special appointment, but the concerns about Carson’s self-identification as a “secular Muslim” is easily understandable by the several comments here that I have read. There is always a conflict of interest between any secular law and Allah’s law. Islam itself compels that conflict.

    Carson is caught between a rock and a hard place. He will neither fully satisfy Muslims by declaring his “secular” status nor will he satisfy non-Muslims simply because he is a Muslim who is mandated to promulgate Islamic law.

    That being said, I do not expect a mainstream political movement of power shifting to Muslims in the US. This is simply because this conflict of interest would become increasingly apparent, so much so, that the masses would indeed react, assuming of course that Muslims do not represent the majority of the US populace anytime soon.

    The biggest problem with Islam in the West is that is so foreign to what a traditional western Democracy has come to be known as. The separation of church and state, which simply means that the state cannot create any particular official sanctioned religion over any others is a concept that is directly opposed by Islam to an even greater degree, in that the religion supercedes and essentially becomes the state.

    The other issue is the inclusionary, exclusionary rift that Islam is starting to define in the US. Comments here support that factor. Muslims want equal representation (inclusionary) but at the same time have a negative view of the secular system as a whole (exclusionary).

    This dualistic perspective can best be highlighted by the recent accommodation for “women swim only” time at Harvard. It is inclusive to Muslims because it was specifically put in place to accommodate Muslim women, but at the same time, it is exclusive because all others (men, Muslims included) are precluded from using the facilities at a time of their choosing. The men who have paid their dues for the facilities feel discriminated against.

  24. Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

    March 13, 2008 at 3:38 PM

    awake,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    I think you’re missing a few major points however.

    First, it is not only Muslims who have an issue about what it means to participate in secular politics. Many Christians believe that this country should be run according to their religious beliefs and Mr. Huckabee famously said that the Constitution should be amended to bring it in line with the Bible.

    I honestly find the controversy about the Harvard gym policy to be utterly bizarre and it really shows how people’s prejudices blind them to what should be obvious facts. First, the idea that gender separation is somehow like racial separation or inherently offensive is ridiculous. There are single sex schools in this country, and at least some research (and a lot of common sense) indicate that both boys and girls perform better in such environments. I don’t think you’re calling for single sex locker rooms, are you? Does it bother you that men are “excluded” from women’s locker rooms?

    The idea that it is ONLY Muslim women who would prefer to have access to work out facilities without men leering at them is patently ridiculous…the largest fitness franchise in the world with over 10,000 locations in 55 countries is for women. (source: http://www.curves.com)

    Your first point is valid theoretically, but as I said the vast majority of Muslims accept secularism in the U.S. (even more so than Christians because Muslims are a religious minority afraid of persecution) so it is not really an issue practically but it may be a good way to promote fear of Muslims, so you’ll be hearing a lot more about it. (which is why Mr. Carson HAD to say he was a “secular” Muslim. Your second point is ridiculous, but also seems to be popular to stir up anti-Muslim feeling, and I’m not really sure why other than that many people for some bizarre reason would rather force people to abandon their values and morality or else suffer when it would be simple human kindness to try to accomodate different people in ways they are comfortable.

  25. awake

    March 14, 2008 at 9:00 AM

    Abu Noor Al-Irlandee,

    Thanks for the reply.

    I am not so sure that many Christians want the Constitution ameded to fall in line with the Bible, but the point about Huckabee’s comments as such, is conceded. In actuality, the Constitution is open to amendment through due process in Congress.

    Regarding same-sex schools, specifically public schools, the relatively new yet loosely defined requirements are hazy at best. I would provide a link, but they never get through.

    I personally attended a single-sex high school, so the argument is not whether they are better or worse, but rather what justification and requirements are attached to them especially when public funds are attached, and no, of course I am not calling for single-sex locker rooms.

    Of course any privately funded institution can do whatever they want, but when taxpayer money is involved , so are governmental agencies and organizations like the ACLU. Your reference to ‘curves’ exemplifies that point perfectly, as it is a private industry.

    you wrote:
    “The idea that it is ONLY Muslim women who would prefer to have access to work out facilities without men leering at them is patently ridiculous”…

    I agree, but the fact of the matter is that the Muslim student organization pressed for this accomodation at Harvard. I disagree however, that all women loathe coed gyms due to fear of being leered at. Many go for social interation with the opposite sex. Most intelligent women can dress appropriately as to not attract a leering eye. That is common sense. There are always viable options available.

    My second point is absolutely valid. Perception cannot be argued. There is a perception by some that they are being discriminated against by the Harvard situation. Whether their perception is justified or not is not the point.

    There was no “men only time” accomodated. That is perceived as discrimination. To you, gender separation is nothing compared to racial separation, but I guarantee you that many people, feminists come to mind, that would absolutely disagree with you on that.

    No one is suggesting that people abandon their values or morality for a secular society. People are responsible for their own actions. The secular mindset is and always will be, “live and let live, just don’t affect me while you’re doing it.”

    I sincerely hope that you did not assume that I was trying to stir up hate. I obviously was not.

    Regards.

  26. Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

    March 14, 2008 at 10:12 AM

    awake,

    Thanks for your clarifications. We still have significant disagreements but we’re not as far apart as it may have originally seemed.

    I think our positions are clear, so I won’t go back and forth about what we still disagree on.

    Peace.

  27. Bubaker

    March 14, 2008 at 11:51 AM

    With all due respect to Honorable Brs. Ellison and Carson, I’m not sure their situations can or even should be emulated. Abu Noor said I think pretty much what I was thinking, Masha Allah…

    http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/malcolmxgrassroots.htm

    Subhan Allah. I so love Malcolm for the Sake of Allah(SWT). Me… well, I’m a Field Muslim.

    May Allah(SWT) Accept our good and Pardon everything else.

  28. Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

    March 14, 2008 at 1:12 PM

    Ameen.

  29. Beznik

    January 11, 2009 at 7:04 AM

    maybe what he is trying to say is that as congressman he will maintain a seperation of church and state and not try to impose his views or be too public about them as many Christian politicians do. Their action really embarrass their religion. I am pretty sure he is a practicing Muslim. he has to face a lot of adversity and reach out to people who are still uncomfortable and holding prejudices. I hope he will let Islam guide his moral decisions in his heart. That is the true test of faith

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