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Out of the picture: Obama volunteer bars hijabis from photo op – Ruth Nasrullah

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obama-turban.jpg I’m currently reading The Veil: Women Writers on Its History, Lore, and Politics, edited by Jennifer Heath, which is an in-depth compilation of essays by different writers exploring various aspects of the veil, not just in terms of Islamic dress, but of veils from all over the world over the centuries – and of veiling as an idea.

So it’s funny that today I read about this incident in which two Muslim women were barred from sitting behind the podium at an Obama rally in Detroit, thus keeping them out of camera range – and thought, well there you go. The scarf on your head that says you’re Muslim – it really is more than a scarf. It is an idea, as the book says.

Obama has repeatedly denied affiliations with Islam and Muslims, and as I’ve written before it hurts that he hasn’t said that it wouldn’t matter. I suspect that the campaign volunteer who told the sisters to get out of the picture was not relying on a standing no-scarf policy of the Obama campaign, but I am sure he acted out of a general public relations sentiment, unspoken or not – that hijabis are not good for photo ops.

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In The Veil, Mohja Kahf recounts her mother’s experience with forced de-veiling in Syria in the 50s, a practice which was and is enforced in several middle Eastern and north African countries. As Kahf notes, it’s ironic indeed that so many in the west take the scarf as evidence of women’s oppression, when in fact women have been in many places oppressed by governments that force them to take it off.

In contrast, there has been a resurgence in scarf-wearing in many parts of the world including the US, and especially since September 11. For many women scarves say “I believe” and “I’m proud.”

Apparently, in the world of ultra-sensitive political campaign workers, the scarf says something different. Obama has run into trouble with a veil before – remember the photo of him in African dress? In the photos he is wearing an elder’s turban – which can be broadly defined as a veil…which of course broadly defined is a message.

Monday’s incident reinforces that the message of the veil is so loud it hurts the electorate’s ears, so loud it harms a political campaign, so loud it drowns the shouts of support from Muslim mouths. And I think that is a shame.

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48 Comments

48 Comments

  1. Amad

    June 18, 2008 at 5:21 PM

    This is actually very disappointing. Obama did try to “mend” some of the damage with another photo that included a hijabi sister.

    Imagine the outcry if a Jewish person with a yarmulke or a Sikh with a turban was excluded. You can do whatever you want to Muslims these days in America– how unfortunate.

    This sort of issue is hypocritical and antithetical to the message of “change” that Obama wants to project. Why the mainstream media doesn’t want to make more out of this story is obvious– it doesn’t really hurt or help Obama, so it isn’t really a story, so it seems to me.

    While I support Obama over all other candidates as the “lesser of all evils”, I am seriously starting to become disillusioned to the point of simply not voting. Because I really don’t want another Muslim-Bush-mistake. At least Bush went to a mosque and wasn’t scared off by hijabs! Obama’s desire to distance himself from Islam and Muslims is now reaching ludicrous levels, and his prostrations to Israel Lobby (beyond even Bush’s pandering) is getting too hard to swallow!

  2. Hassan

    June 18, 2008 at 6:12 PM

    Obama would do anything to get into white house, he is pandering to the lobby and what not. Bush is bold in whatever he does, he has courage to hold King Abdullah’s hand despite knowing people in US hate Saudis. Things may be just slightly better with Obama as being democrats in general, but there is no real change.

    Obama has website called FightTheSmears.com to refute negative rumors about him. And he has put him being muslim as one of the smear. So apparently everyone in America including Obama thinks being muslim is a smear.

  3. Ruth Nasrullah

    June 18, 2008 at 6:37 PM

    Ahhh, the first splinters in the Obama bell jar are beginning to show…

    In all seriousness, I think it’s unrealistic to expect any candidate not to take direction from the Israel lobby, but I think Br. Hassan puts it well – that evidently being Muslim is a smear. And apparently looking like a Muslim is unacceptable.

  4. Ruth Nasrullah

    June 18, 2008 at 6:42 PM

    Subhanallah, and I just looked at the fightthesmears web site for the first time, and in fact it literally does call Obama being a Muslim a “smear.” Twenty steps back for an all-inclusive America, Democratic party and Obama.

  5. H. Ahmed

    June 18, 2008 at 6:56 PM

    Lets not make this a bigger issue than it actually is.

    One of the campaign’s VOLUNTEERS asked the sisters to move – this was not a decision made by anyone in charge of the campaign, and most definitely not from Senator Obama himself.

    Moreover – the sisters were given apologies for this deplorable action. Granted, I agree the action was deplorable – and the volunteer who made this decision to remover the sisters or ask them to remove their hijabs should be reprimanded if not fired.

    HOWEVER, Lets not throw this against Barack Obama. Barack Obama has Muslims in his extended family, and has a history of showing respect to Muslims, and Islam – the religion.

    He also – has time and time again said that the “smears” calling him Muslim are “offensive to Muslims, because it plays into, obviously, a certain fear-mongering there.“ (Source: http://www.hahmed.com/blog/2008/03/04/obama-says-islam-smear-offensive-to-muslims/)

    Unfortunately we live in a country where calling someone Muslim is considered a smear by many people. Of course that is wrong – but lets cut the brother some slack.

    The last thing we need is Muslims to God Forbid vote for McCain (pro-torture, pro-unjust war), or become apathetic and choose not to vote.

  6. H. Ahmed

    June 18, 2008 at 6:59 PM

    And Read this article from today’s The Detroit News

    Obama camp apologizes for hijab incident at Detroit rally, defends commitment to diversity
    Gregg Krupa and Gordon Trowbridge / The Detroit News

    Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign apologized Wednesday for asking Muslim women not to stand or sit behind the candidate at a rally in Detroit this week out of concerns about the appearance of traditional Muslim dress in published and broadcast visuals of the events.

    The incident is one of a series involving the use of Islam as a symbol throughout the presidential campaign, and Obama has been dogged by false assertions that he is Muslim.

    “This is of course not the policy of the campaign,” spokesman Bill Burton said. “It is offensive and counter to Obama’s commitment to bring Americans together and simply not the kind of campaign we run. We sincerely apologize for the behavior of these volunteers.” Obama’s campaign also pointed to a number of published and broadcast images that include women in hijab, a traditional Muslim head scarf intended to signify and promote modesty, as part of the faith.


    Full article here:

  7. Denise Oliver-Velez

    June 18, 2008 at 7:32 PM

    Asalam Aliekum Hassan,

    I have to disagree with you. Please do not be naive. You know that being Muslim in America is a smear. Sad. But true. How do we begin to change that? Being black in America has been a smear for over 200 years. We are not even at the point that we have resolved issues of socially constructed race. Why would you think this essentially “Christian” nation would be able to deal with religion? I lived in the South as a child – I grew up with signs that read “no nig***s, no Jews, no dogs. My grandmother was a Bahai. My husband’s grandfather was Muslim and because my husbands name is Nadhiyr and he “looks Muslim”: he was hauled out of his car at gunpoint after 9/11.

    Yes this incident took place. Yes the volunteers who zealouly felt they were “protecting ” Senator Obama were dead wrong. Yes we need to have a discussion of Islam in this country. But in my 60 years of life in this country I have learned that you can’t fix everything at once.

    If you think that either John McCain, or any other candidate will be able to eventually address this issue, or any of the other ills of this society better than Barack Obama will be able to – that is your right. But I think you are wrong. Be pragmatic. One step at a time is the only way to wage a struggle against ignorance and intolerance. The Obama campaign has apologized and I am sure this will not happen again.

    But, don’t expect miracles overnight. The word Muslim and the word terrorist hve been conflated in this country. That is real. How do we change that? Through education. Attacking Barack is like cutting off your nose to spite your face. He isn’t your enemy.

    The MSM are using this issue and it is in many headlines. Just do a simple google search. But if you have a better idea of how to reverse years of xenophobia, ethnocentrism and racism in this country I’d love to hear them.

    Alafia/peace

  8. Ibn Masood

    June 18, 2008 at 9:05 PM

    This incident is not surprising at all.

  9. Hassan

    June 18, 2008 at 10:25 PM

    Denise Oliver-Velez, I did acknowledge that having Obama (or democrats in control in general) would always be better than neo-cons. But better is relative term. Things just shift slightly left under democrats and slightly right under republicans. It seems like they have given slight room to maneuver and thats it.

    And also jewish people are thinking about voting for him or not based on his support of state of Israel, and yet you have audacity to tell me that we should vote for him while he clearly disrespects us and consider being called muslim as insult and smear. I mean I am not even saying whether he is pro-Palestenian state or whatever muslim states, but atleast respect muslims in America. Obama is re-inforcing the idea in people’s mind that being muslim, or close to muslims is something bad. Why should I or any muslim vote for him. Just because he is lesser of evil? Perhaps, but he is still evil. Why he is shouting change, when you are suggesting things would not change. Is it just rhetoric? I think it is.

  10. MR

    June 18, 2008 at 10:31 PM

    I bet the volunteer was a previous Clinton supporter.

  11. H. Ahmed

    June 18, 2008 at 10:38 PM

    Hassan – you are spewing falsehoods by claiming that Obama has ever considered being called a Muslim an insult. He has a long standing history of respect for Muslims. You obviously dont know anything about his personal history. I suggest you stay away from all the garbage on the web, and try to attain some primary sources as to what Obama is actually about. For a start – why not read Barack Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” ?

    Before making such claims -especially those that bash a certain individual we should get into the habit of citing evidence – and if its a quote,taking in account it’s context. – otherwise we ourselves are no different than the political pundits we all complain about.

    And for you to claim that Obama is only slightly lesser of an evil than McCain – thats a HUGE mistake. I dont have the time to get into the dozens of major differences between the two candidates – but lets just take into account one recent issue: Guantanamo Bay. This very website featured a great post on the tragedy that is Guantanamo Bay – Obama wants it shut down (and has throughout the campaign) – whereas McCain wants it open indefinitely and in fact, was outraged over the recent supreme court ruling that would give the prisoners their constitutional right to a fair trial. Can you believe that???

  12. coolred38

    June 18, 2008 at 11:47 PM

    My only comment is…if there is any negative conotation to the hijab in the eyes of the media or the world…its because Muslims allowed it to happen. Rather than live Islam as prescribed by God and the prophet…Muslims seem more intent on presenting a selfish male ego driven Islam (or what some of us refer to as Hislam) to the world. Rather than allow Muslim women to live full independent lives in which they can freely choose their own attire…among other things…the hijab has become a symbol of all thats wrong with Muslims….and this problem started from within…not from without. Muslims have no right to complain about non Muslims smearing Islam etc….we are much better at that job than Non Muslims will ever be.

  13. ummafnaan

    June 19, 2008 at 12:18 AM

    Coolred38,

    I feel from your comments that you are trying to impose your choice not to wear hijab on other muslim women, who have chosen to wear the hijab in obedience to their Lord. If you are anti-hijab that is all well and good and as you have re-iterated in all your comments ‘you to your way and me to mine’. So why do you choose to assume that evey woman who wears the hijab is not freely choosing to wear the hijab?
    Its bad enuf that muslim women have to put up with being seen as some oppressed species of the human race by the non-muslims, without having to put up with the same constant rant from fellow muslims.

  14. Ibn Masood

    June 19, 2008 at 12:26 AM

    I think it should be realized that the situation for Muslims will not change due to who we choose to vote for in this election.

    Why?

    1) Most foreign policy and Muslim-directed policy is not even influenced by the President anyway, but by the influence of mutlinational corporations and lobby groups providing extra paycheques to congress members and White House admin.

    2) The population of Muslims is still not significant enough to warrant an interest in their rights for political gain. Showing empathy towards Muslims is more degrading to the candidates standing with general supporters than it is constructive because of the general atmospthere towards Muslims and Islam in the US and the world.

    We can already see this. Both candidates support Israel. Both candidates don’t talk about Muslims and their rights.

    Don’t be fooled by someone because they possess eloquence and an inspiring outlook. Charisma (eloquence) is only a tool, capable of being used for either good or evil. The inspiring outlook is only inspiring because it is tailored to what the public wants. Therefore these things cannot be used to judge a candidates ideality. In fact, per this issue, the best thing to look for is an honest and forthcoming approach towards Muslim’s rights, and you won’t find that because that candidate would never win, they would never be supported by Zionist lobby funding and would never be allowed to come to power by the powerful political players who really run the show.

  15. Aalia

    June 19, 2008 at 4:28 AM

    Asalaam `alaikum

    I laughed but with dismay. And then I remembered I saw a picture of one of my niqaabi friends with Hillary Clinton–and she had her arm over Hillary’s arm, it was so funny LoL!

  16. Denise Oliver-Velez

    June 19, 2008 at 7:43 AM

    Hassan said:

    And also jewish people are thinking about voting for him or not based on his support of state of Israel, and yet you have audacity to tell me that we should vote for him while he clearly disrespects us and consider being called muslim as insult and smear. I mean I am not even saying whether he is pro-Palestenian state or whatever muslim states, but atleast respect muslims in America. Obama is re-inforcing the idea in people’s mind that being muslim, or close to muslims is something bad. Why should I or any muslim vote for him. Just because he is lesser of evil? Perhaps, but he is still evil. Why he is shouting change, when you are suggesting things would not change. Is it just rhetoric? I think it is.

    Yes, I have the audacity to to respond to your distortions. Why? Because I have the right to express my opinions. Is this a closed forum for Muslims only? I think not. I speak out against xenophobia and racism wherever I see it and hear it. I have gone to jail in this country for my beliefs, I’ve lost dear friends – murdered for fighting for the rights of ALL of us . I aired the first radio program in the US to discuss – regularly – Islamic issues – on a station in a major market – Washington DC.

    To say that Barack Obama is responsible for the blatant stupidity of two volunteers is to make him responsible for the racism in this country. Where has he smeared you? Quote it and I’ll listen.

    Has he denied being Muslim. Yes. Because he isn’t. Has he denied having Muslim family members – no. He fought his family to claim the name Barack – he decided to embrace his name – rather than being called “Barry”. Has he denounced Farrakhan – yes. I’ve been denouncing Farrakhan for years – simply because of his complicity in the death of my dear Minister Malcolm. Perhaps you are too young to know any of this history. I have no clue about who you are, since screen names hide the people who post on many of these forums. I don’t hide – do a google search and you can find me in living color on a wide variety of forums. I came here to this forum because of Amad.

    I defended his right to raise these issues on another venue. Because they are important issues. I am a priest of another faith – which is persecuted in this country, and we have gone all the way to the Supreme Court to win the right to practice our beliefs. I will support the candidate who defends the Constitution, much of which was based on the beliefs of some of my ancestors; the Gayanashagowa.
    I will support the Candidate who will make appointments to a court which will protect us all – rather than taking us backwards into a time of oppression for people of color and women. A Supreme Court which will (under McCain) advantage Christian ideology rather than protecting the divison of Chuch and State.

    If you cannot think in a broader scope so be it. Is Barack Obama some kind of revolutionary? No. Even though the right wing would like to paint him as one. If you think that the masses of Americans are going to elect a revolutionary as POTUS you need to examine the content of your morning coffee. They are having enough difficulty even accepting that a man who has an African father, who opposes the stupid war in Iraq has a shot . Undermine this baby step at your own peril. Change is a protracted struggle. One of the advantages to being old, is the ability to assess how slow change actually is. How much time it takes to effect change.

    The number of Masjids in the US is growing, but you must admit that this is a very recent phenomena. Do you expect an immediate an radical change to take place in this country, and the attitudes of its citizenry overnight? Get real. If this county hasn’t been able to accept Christian blacks, or Catholic latinos – who share religious beliefs with the majority how can you possibly expect one individual – Barack Obama who is not even assured of winning this election to make inroads on a jingoistic set of attitudes and behaviors, fear of “the other” that informs so much of American discourse?

    I distinctly remember the struggle of some of my closest friends in Washington DC when they began to go to Jumma at the Islamic Center. Yes they were converts to Islam. They were not welcomed with open arms – but persisted. We had long open debates about this on air.
    There are still issues surrounding this. I teach at a university. None of my students are even aware – until I teach them – how many people on the African continent are Muslim. They receive zero education on world religions in High School, and lack even a basic understanding of other cultures. I have defended my female students (two of them) who wear the ħijāb to class, for which they have been put up to ridicule and opened a dialogue to enhance understanding. But we have a long way to go my friend.

    Attack Obama – at your own peril. I will repeat my previous premise. You are naive.

    Alafia/peace

  17. Hassan

    June 19, 2008 at 10:44 AM

    Yes, I have the audacity to to respond to your distortions. Why? Because I have the right to express my opinions. Is this a closed forum for Muslims only? I think not. I speak out against xenophobia and racism wherever I see it and hear it. I have gone to jail in this country for my beliefs, I’ve lost dear friends – murdered for fighting for the rights of ALL of us . I aired the first radio program in the US to discuss – regularly – Islamic issues – on a station in a major market – Washington DC.

    To say that Barack Obama is responsible for the blatant stupidity of two volunteers is to make him responsible for the racism in this country. Where has he smeared you? Quote it and I’ll listen

    Just as you have right to express your opinions, I have right to express mine, which are that as a muslim I am offended (the ladies who were removed also offended and are curious what message of change he is talking about). And I have been offended since day of 1 of his campaign, (not this removal of ladies), why? Because he considers being muslim as smear (from his fightthesmear.com website), he always responded when people “alleged” that he is muslim, that he is not and stops it there. As a muslim, as an american, I would like him to say no I am not, but what difference my religion makes, what if I were hindu, jew, muslim etc, I would still make great president. You can not order/shout me to be not offended. Actually this in itself is offensive, no one would tell jews to take anyone’s crap for sake of lesser of evil.

    You are definitely quite older than me and more experienced, a demographic usually won by Republicans or Clintons…so being old is not necessarily wise.

  18. Hassan

    June 19, 2008 at 10:48 AM

    Also I have consistently stated that Obama or democrats in general are better than neo-cons. Change may be slow, but we have to fight hard, if we get complacent and do nothing, we (muslims) would be treated as trash always. Change may be slow, but the efforts needs to be 110%.

  19. H. Ahmed

    June 19, 2008 at 11:27 AM

    Because he considers being muslim as smear (from his fightthesmear.com website), he always responded when people “alleged” that he is muslim, that he is not and stops it there. As a muslim, as an american, I would like him to say no I am not, but what difference my religion makes, what if I were hindu, jew, muslim etc, I would still make great president. You can not order/shout me to be not offended. Actually this in itself is offensive, no one would tell jews to take anyone’s crap for sake of lesser of evil.

    Thats not true at all.

    Like i linked earlier (which you obviously didnt read) Barack has time and time again mentioned how these Islam smears are OFFENSIVE TO MUSLIMS . (http://www.hahmed.com/blog/2008/03/04/obama-says-islam-smear-offensive-to-muslims/).

    You just dont hear it all the time because our media is dictated by quick soundbytes and our news is run by short talking points.

    Like i wrote earlier – please read/view PRIMARY SOURCES about Barack Obama before making generalizations that essentially are smearing him in front of this primarily Muslim audience

  20. Dunia's Stranger

    June 19, 2008 at 2:23 PM

    To the comment made by Br. Amad “I am seriously starting to become disillusioned to the point of simply not voting.”

    Wow not at Obama doing this BUT Muslims expecting otherwise – Muslim people need to avoid this ‘messiah complex’ notion about Obama as if he’s suppose to be some revolutionary politician.

    People forget that JFK was silent against Joseph McCarthy during the 50s ‘Red Scare.’ They are politicians, what do you expect?

    Don’t expect any drastic changes in Middle Eastern Policy as well… the only candidate that openly advocated that platform – Ron Paul – by challenging foreign policy towards Israel obviously didn’t make it very far for a reason.

  21. H. Ahmed

    June 19, 2008 at 11:21 PM

    Barack Obama personally apologized over the phone today to the two Muslim women from Michigan who were barred from sitting next to him during a campaign rally because they wore Islamic headscarves.
    Obama spoke over the phone to Shimaa Abdelfadeel and apologized to her, according to Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Walid said he spoke with the women and with an Obama campaign official who confirmed the apologies.
    “Obama called to personally apologize to them and said, ‘it should never have happened,”’ Walid said.

    Obama left a voicemail for the other woman, Hebba Aref, 25, a Bloomfield Hills resident, according to Walid.

    Phone messages left with Abdelfadeel and Aref were not immediately returned. A message left with an Obama spokeswoman was also not immediately returned.

    Obama volunteers didn’t allow the two women to sit behind Obama at a Detroit rally on Monday out of fear their Muslim headscarves, known as hijab, would create a negative impression.

    Walid praised Obama’s personal apologies.

    “We welcome the Senator’s apology,” Walid said. “And we hope that he will continue to challenge bigotry wherever he sees it.”

    Source: http://freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080619/NEWS15/80619066&GID=rXlakoBVcc8WumLcjE0kGJ6K56ieqk8CejNNX5IUZw0%3D

  22. Hannah

    June 19, 2008 at 11:40 PM

    inshaAllah khair would be the safest thing to post here

  23. Hannah

    June 19, 2008 at 11:42 PM

    i wonder if yasir Q votes.

  24. Amad

    June 20, 2008 at 12:31 AM

    jazakAllahkhair Haseeb for keeping up with this… I think Obama did a classy and RIGHT thing by calling up the sisters. Good enough for me!

  25. Aboo Uthmaan

    June 20, 2008 at 3:17 AM

    Ibn Masood wrote:

    “I think it should be realized that the situation for Muslims will not change due to who we choose to vote for in this election.”

    Could not agree more!!

  26. abc

    June 20, 2008 at 9:08 AM

    “the situation for Muslims will not change”..
    So I don’t mean this as an attack, but as a genuine question:
    Apart from foreign policy (which is not as easily influenced by the president as we’d like to believe) in israel and iraq and afghanistan, what is the situation in this country for muslims that needs to change?

    Sure there’s discrimination and Islamophobia. But that’s the media and people’s ignorance, which the executive branch of government can’t really do much about. I’m trying to figure out what parts of domestic policy, key word POLICY, hurt muslims.

    This country doesn’t have a headscarf ban like Turkey or France.
    Nor does it restrict your right to be muslim.
    The supreme court seems to be getting it right with Gitmo, even if they took a while, so there’s some faith restored in the legal system.
    The threat of lawsuits makes it hard/unlikely for employers to discriminate against you.
    Govt criticism does not get you thrown in jail.

    What exactly are muslims looking for, apart from the foreign policy aspect, in terms of tangible change?
    The one I can think of is profiling for security, extra security at airports etc, which is never as random as they try and convince you of it being.

    add more to the list?

  27. Ruth Nasrullah

    June 20, 2008 at 9:18 AM

    You know, blogging is nothing if not a learning experience, and I have to say I agree with a lot of readers here and on the Chronicle that slights like this and the “smear” comment on Obama’s “fight the smears” web site may be things we Muslims should shrug off for the sake of the bigger picture. I agree that it counts for a lot that Obama personally apologized.

  28. Hassan

    June 20, 2008 at 9:37 AM

    abc, get rid of patriot act and entrapments, we all are set then.

  29. Mary

    June 20, 2008 at 4:29 PM

    For the record, Obama’s campaign volunteers have also been heard to insist that “more white people” get in photos with him. I’m pretty sure the thinking is that, with the first African-American serious candidate for president, they want to do everything they can not to scare certain groups from voting for him. A sizeable number of Amricans still have a hard time with Muslim issues, and would scoot over to John McCain in a heartbeat if he were seen as overly accommodating. Look at the furor caused when he said he’d sit down with the leaders of Iran “without conditions.” So, the hijab-wearing ladies fell victim to the “protect the image at all costs” mentality.

    Those here who have said changing this thinking is going to take a long time are right. Speaking entirely personally, I not only don’t have any problem with Islam or Muslims (except the extremists), I’m finding the study of Islam fascinating. I don’t have a problem with wearing hijabs, either (though I still don’t understand the modesty issue there — overall dress, yes, but what’s wrong with hair?). In fact, the Muslim faith and traditions have so much to offer to global society. I’m learning that within Islam itself there is much lively debate over many issues (so much for the “Islamic plot to take over the world”!)

    But therein lies part of the problem. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, everyone was more shocked and stunned than at any time in living memory. I was fearful that Muslims would be set upon by large gangs of people across the country, and while saddened at the incidents that did happen, I was hugely relieved it wasn’t on a large scale. I was very happy at the restraint shown after such a massive trauma. I confidently expected the TV news and print media, radio, etc. to be filled with strong Muslim condemnation across the board. And, to be sure, there was — but it was not wholesale. I found myself having to seek articles and news reports that reassured me that American Muslims roundly condemned the attack. And I don’t think the media can be blamed — they were actively seeking those voices themselves.

    My feeling? Muslims themselves were just as shocked and saddened — but since they’re not the monolithic entity they’re portrayed to be, they were confused about how to react, and many thought not speaking out might be the wisest course for a while. Unfortunately, though, this led to a widespread belief that by not immediately condemning the attack, the Muslim community somehow tacitly endorsed it, or worse, approved of it. I know this thinking is wrong — but it’s going to be very hard to change. If more people came to muslimmatters.org, though, it might happen a lot more quickly. I consider this website a gold mine!

  30. anon

    June 20, 2008 at 6:21 PM

    I too would be interested in hearing an answer to “abc”s questions. And honestly, the patriot act is not really a “situation for muslims”. Its more like a situation for everybody residing in America, citizen or not.

  31. B

    June 20, 2008 at 6:57 PM

    It’s politics and it’s dirty . . . and If I was on the his PR team, I would have told the two Muslim ladies to step off.

  32. H. Ahmed

    June 20, 2008 at 8:40 PM

    abc and anon:

    are u guys kidding me?

    what about …. GUANTANAMO BAY (for how long should some of our innocent brothers be kept in gitmo without even a trial??? – and Lord knows how they are being tortured) Is not Restoring Habeas Corpus important to Muslims?

    What about the millions of Muslims who are uninsured? Do these issues not affect Muslims also??

    I mean, Subhanallah, its such a shame how desensitized we have become to all of the atrocities and injustices of our country. Hundreds of thousands of Dead Iraqis, intentional misleading of an entire nation in going to war on false pretenses, the very fact that over 40 million americans are uninsured… these are all travesties – and McCain and the right wing dont have any solutions to these issues.

  33. Sister

    June 20, 2008 at 8:50 PM

    So Mary, if I may ask, what is it that is holding you back from accepting Islam as your faith?

    (Sorry to change the topic smack-dab in the middle of this discussion :D )

  34. Sister

    June 20, 2008 at 8:52 PM

    Oh, and if you wish not to discuss this in public, you are more than welcome to e-mail me at my personal account binthawwa.9@gmail.com :)

  35. Hannah

    June 20, 2008 at 11:28 PM

    There are such things as ignorant people in America and the only way to get ignorant people to vote for you as president is to place yourself in the middle of white America on the TV screen, not Muslim America. You will only get votes from educated people if you do that and sadly there arent enough educated people to vote therefore you will lose…. and if you remember, Obamas ultimate goal is to first get elected. Only then can he educated the ignorant.

    Politics comes with its territory. I’m not saying it was OKAY to do it, but what would you do.

  36. Hannah

    June 21, 2008 at 12:18 AM

    im confused about the whole thing really. if it were me who was barred away i would be very angry and disappointed….

  37. anon

    June 21, 2008 at 12:51 AM

    No I’m not really kidding you at all H Ahmed. Certain individuals seem to feel that you are living in such difficult circumstances in the USA and whine whine whine some more. It was the “situation of muslims” that was specifically pointed out by one commenter. Not the “situation of the average uninsured american”.

    Based on most of the comments I’ve read in the muslim blogosphere with regards to voting in the upcoming election it seems like the average American muslim could really not care less about the millions of uninsured americans. From what I’ve seen Israel seems to be a bigger issue so please spare me your “we care about the poor” mumbojumbo BS when its really quite apparent that the only things most care about are Israel and Iraq.

    As abc already asked, please feel free to point out American policy decisions that have specifically affected American muslims since that’s what you all seem to be moaning and complaining about. How are the lives of American muslims really any more difficult than the average nonmuslim American due to the American government. (and please note how I specified American muslims, not your iraqi/palestinian “brothers/sisters”)
    And abc already mentioned gitmo so I’m not sure why you’re “shouting” about it with the all caps thing

  38. abc

    June 21, 2008 at 1:48 AM

    H. Ahmed,
    I wasn’t ‘kidding’ you. I was looking for domestic issues that are specific to muslims, not healthcare/ social security/energy/economy that effects everyone.

    For eg. Affirmative action has been a hot button topic for african americans. Illegal immigration with hispanics.
    If we were to go with the issues that affect the christian base in this country (gay marriage, abortion etc), muslims would side with republicans.
    Muslims have Gitmo, someone pointed out the patriot act as an issue.

    I was looking to get a real list of what people think the policy issues are in this election pertaining to muslims specifically, since someone brought up the ‘condition of muslims’. How is the condition of the average muslim in this country worse/different in comparison to that of the average non-muslim, is what I was getting at.

    so no, I wasn’t kidding you. just trying to get a fact-based conversation going.

    btw- in the interest of disclosure, abc, ie I, am a muslim, obama supporter-not someone trying to show muslims down, which is what your response seemed to indicate. No hard feelings though :)

  39. H. Ahmed

    June 21, 2008 at 2:56 AM

    I apologize for the ‘shouting’.

    I just see it differently – Muslims are not a monolithic group – we are quite diverse in terms of race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, even culture. Therefore your question – regarding issues affecting Muslims wasn’t clear to me at first, and still isnt completely clear cut, because for inner city minorty muslims – affirmative action is still an important issue. For immigrant muslims, especially those living here “illegally”, immigration is an important issue, etc. And there are probably hundreds of thousands of Muslims living in the US without health insurance coverage. Therefore I would argue that these issues are also important to Muslims; are we not a single ummah? Dont the issues that affect our brothers and sisters here in the US affect us as much as those overseas in Palestine and Iraq?

    The fact of the matter is, most of us dont have it that bad in the US. You are right about that. Most of us have health insurance, have well-paying jobs, can educate/take care of our families, etc. – therefore the average muslim essentially doesnt have it any different at all compared to the average non-muslim (islamophobia aside)

    However – the very fact mentioned earlier- about the average muslim not caring about uninsured americans for example is a huge travesty – because the fact of the matter is – we can have a much more great impact on that issue, than that of Israel for example. The “we care about the poor” mumbojumbo is a very serious matter for me – and it should be for all of us.

    Anyways, ive spent much more time than ive wanted to on this thread. I hope my comments have been beneficial. ANd i apologize again for my “shouting” in my previous comment.

  40. Mary

    June 21, 2008 at 2:14 PM

    Sister said:

    So Mary, if I may ask, what is it that is holding you back from accepting Islam as your faith?

    *********

    Good question! And thank you for your kind offer to e-mail. I might just take you up on that — for now, however, I don’t mind discussing the issue in public, hoping that a diversity of viewpoints helps everyone in some way. (Apologies to all for going off-topic)

    I was raised Christian, specifically Episcopalian (the American offshoot of the Church of England). It is a good religion, true to the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the churches I went to were filled with very good people (for the most part). However, as I grew into adulthood, and began exploring other faiths, I began to feel hemmed in by a “one size fits all” mentality. I no longer attend church, but instead am continually pursuing those elements in all faiths that have a common denominator — that, as I see it, lead to living as spiritual life as possible. I still have a personal relationship with Jesus, and His words are the main foundation for living well (and much of the Bible’s Old Testament, particularly the 10 Commandments). But I’ve found common ground in Buddhism (first, do no harm), the Tao (“the softest thing in the world overcomes the hardest”), Hindu (mind, body and spirit are one), aboriginal traditions of being deeply connected to nature, and, of course, Islam (the practice of alms-giving is one of my favorite aspects of it — not even Christians are as deeply committed to helping those less fortunate).

    While I realize that sharing spirituality within a community satisfies most people’s spiritual hunger, for me, accepting a certain set of rules to the exclusion of others is discouraging. I like the freedom to know and love what I call the Universal Creator. I see Its loving hand in all of the enlightenment the best of the world’s religions has given us humans. It’s not lonely at all — I’ve met many, many other solitary seekers like myself and learned some amazing things. I pray throughout the day for various things, knowing that God, in the Christian tradition, “hears the smallest sparrow.” And each day I grow happier. (Finding this site was a HUGE boost) I made sure both my daughters were raised in church because every child needs a beginning, a foundation. I figured — and was proven right — that once they reached adulthood, they’d question things on their own and pursue the most spiritual path possible. They’ve decided to remain church-going Christians, and I deeply respect that. And they, me. As a result, I’m always getting compliments on what intelligent, caring young women they are, which makes me so proud and happy.

    So — I admire Islam more and more, as I learn new things about it. I’m afraid, though, that I would do it a disservice by not being able to follow all the rules. As an example, I respectfully disagree with the Islamic (and Christian) tradition of the “chain of command” (God/Allah, then husband, then wife). Instead, I believe in the Taoist concept of men and women as yin and yang, separate but equal.

    I realize I can be accused of “cherry-picking” all the bits of religion that suit my own selfish interest, and that’s true, in a sense. I AM looking for all the best bits so I can be as spiritual as possible and do my own small bit to make the world a more loving place. I’m NOT looking to justify unspiritual actions. Those I blame squarely on myself. My feeling — everything starts with the individual.

    That’s it in as small a nutshell as I could fit it in — thanks for allowing me to get on the soapbox :) And once again, apologies to all for straying so far off-topic.

  41. H. Ahmed

    June 21, 2008 at 3:41 PM

    Mary,

    I wish you the best on your spiritual path, and quest towards The Truth.

    However, i just wanted to suggest one thing – you may have heard otherwise – but i would argue that there isnt such a “chain of command” concept in Islam where its God –> husband –> wife. And the concept of yin/yang, or men and women being separate but equal is very much more along the lines of the Islamic tradition.

    A book on this very issue that i HIGHLY recommend is from one of my greatest teachers during my Religious Studies days, Dr. Sachiko Murata – The Tao of Islam. Please read it!!! It is probably the best book (in english at least) on Gender in Islam.

  42. Mary

    June 21, 2008 at 8:31 PM

    H. Ahmed, thank you so much.

    I intend to order “The Tao of Islam”. All of the reviewers were positive, and I am very intrigued by the author’s comparisons and what I might find from them. And though I was aware that some Muslim thinkers have defended the Taoist “separate but equal” concept, I was glad to hear from you that, perhaps, true Islamic thought was closer to this than ordinary human practice.

    But what I see across all cultural mainstreams, Christian and Islamic alike, is patriarchy. Moreover, it seems to be defended as “natural.” Now, I was lucky. My father — a former Army officer, and the child of a previous generation — would be expected to have brought myself and my sisters and brothers up (there were 6 of us) more or less traditionally. That is, women’s place is in the home, etc. — but he didn’t. Even in the early 1960s, he told us girls repeatedly that he expected us to pursue whatever goals we wished in life. He told us not to marry someone who would not respect our right to make our own decisions. Indeed, he said, if you can’t find someone with whom to be a total partner, don’t marry at all. He explained to us that men and women ARE different, by God’s design. Each fulfills a crucial role, and without one, the other cannot function. Culturally, at that time, this meant since women had been raising children since time began, “obviously” that was their best role, while men’s was creating, innovating and “bringing home the bacon” to make a better life for their family and the wider community. But it was indeed possible for women to merge family and goals — with the willing help of an enlightened husband, who, after all, should know that not only men have an insatiable hunger for self-fulfillment.

    My dad saw the writing on the wall, vis-a-vis the feminist revolution. Back then, he told us girls that if you want to be June Cleaver (the ultra-housewife-mother character on the then-popular “Leave It To Beaver” television series), I’ll back you up. But I’d rather see you become Madame Curie, or Louisa May Alcott, who have husbands that actually help parent the children so you can have a family and still pursue your dreams. How could such a man believe these things? It was forced upon him. He raised us by himself, and had to rethink his own patriarchal upbringing. He was (and still is) an intelligent man. He was faced with telling his daughters to sacrifice their identities in service to a patriarchal fraud — or go out and be human. I believe he was more feminist than the feminists. (Needless to say, he’s my hero.)

    What he DIDN’T tell us was how hard it would be. He confidently assumed that we could overcome all barriers — i.e., the prevailing attitude, supposedly backed up by religion, that men rule and women submit. Well …. my 4 sisters and I found out fairly early on what was “expected” of us. All of us rebelled. All of us found life companions with whom we harmoniously co-exist, without any of this “oh, YOU have to do the laundry because you’re a woman” stuff. One of my brothers married a wonderful, self-confident woman with whom he is a total partner. When their children were small, my brother would change diapers, bathe, read and love their 2 daughters quite happily while my sister-in-law worked as a psychiatric nurse. (My other brother, sadly, has issues, but not with women. Despite his own problems, he also doesn’t believe in the patriarchal fraud.)

    So — I can’t participate in any community pursuit that celebrates patriarchy, Christian, Islamic or whichever. I’m saddened by the slavish adherence so many attribute to “this is the way it should be.” I’ve seen, and lived, proof that the REAL natural way is total partnership.

    But I’m very much encouraged to see Islamic thinkers exploring this concept. Very, very much. H. Ahmed, you have helped me step up to a higher plane on these things, and I can’t thank you enough. I look forward to much more exploration. As the Buddha said, “When the student is ready, a teacher will come.”

  43. ibnabeeomar

    June 26, 2008 at 3:04 PM

    apparently obama apologized only after keith ellison ripped him.

    go keith!! :)

    http://briefingroom.thehill.com/2008/06/23/muslim-lawmaker-confronted-obama-behind-closed-doors-on-head-scarf-gaffe/

  44. A Nightingale

    July 2, 2008 at 3:09 PM

    I’m actually personally friends with one of the girls from Detroit that was not allowed to stand behind him during his rally. The next day she promptly recieved an apologetic phone call from Barack Obama himself from his personal phone line. He apologized and said that the volunteer who directed them elsewhere was uninformed and not doing her job properly.

    Whether or not he apologized after Keith Ellison “ripped him” isn’t important. We can’t question his intentions. Moreover, the girls he “offended” accepted his apology, so it shouldn’t matter anymore.

    And for the love of God, please stop posting that ridiculous picture of him with that turban on his head. It’s getting old.

  45. Pingback: The New Yorker Magazine’s Obama Cover “Satire” | MuslimMatters.org

  46. MR. LEE X SLAVE

    July 27, 2008 at 9:26 PM

    TO MY MISGUIDED BROTHER HAVE EVER BEEN A MEMBER OF THE HOLY NATIO OF ISLAM? IF SO THAT MEANS THAT YOU SHOULD HAVE AT LEAST ATTENED ONE FOI CLASS, REMEMBER . IF YOU ADMIRE MALCOLM THEN YOU SHOULD KNOW WHAT HE TAUGHT THE MEN WHO WERE UNDER HIS AUTHORITY. YOU CAN SAY THE MINISTER HAD APART IN MALCOLMs DEATH OR YOU CAN SAY HE WAS FOLLOWING WHAT HE HAD BEEN THOUGHT BY MALCOLM.

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