*Please see this official MM statement on this incident*
Mystery still shrouds as to what actually happened at the Dayton Mosque, when an unknown chemical irritant was sprayed inside a mosque. Initially, the police said that a can of pepper spray was found NEAR the mosque. Later, they “learned” it was inside the mosque. While police interviewed a 10-year old boy, there has been no conclusion to the case, esp. one that is circulating around that a Muslim boy was responsible. I am still wondering how police could have been not spot-on on such an important piece of information, i.e. the location of the spray can. In conclusion, yes indeed this may well have been a prank, an unfortunate one to say the least, but even the police haven’t concluded that outsiders were not involved. So, we await final judgement. If outsiders were not involved, then this is also to be considered good news, to be thankful that the situation is not as bad as we thought it was.
At the same time, the story of “Obsession DVD” and its fear and hate-mongering doesn’t change an iota. Please read below for that story, which forms the bulk and essence of this post.
Chris Rodda, original author of the dailykos, responds to the Dayton daily news, and also investigates the mysterious redirected links to scrubbed stories. I have also linked to the cache story below. See here.
Since this story was originally posted, the Dayton newspaper ran a couple of more stories, one stating that the spray attack was not being treated as a hate-crime, and the other decrying that bloggers were sensationalizing this story (boo hoo). As I stated in this post, I do not know if there is any connection between the DVDs and the spray attack. I believe that common sense dictates that hatred will eventually spew out in the form of some hate-crime sooner or later. And what the DVD attempts to do is to disseminate hatred.
Regardless, the eye-witness email account continues to reflect some of the terror the spray inflicted, even if it turned out not to cause enduring physical harm. Emotional trauma is far more difficult to erase and rectify than any physical hurt. Finally, whether the incident was really as bad as I and many others believe it was, whether the incident was related to the DVD or not, is really inconsequential in the big picture. The facts on the DVD about the producers, distributors, financiers, and the organizers of islamophobia, which form the bulk of this post, do not hinge on the Dayton incident.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the hate-mongers continue to remain undeterred, and are in the process of releasing another video on the “third jihad”. The same foundation, the same characters, but with the addition of their new star– a “Muslim”-traitor, a clown, sell-out, our own “Uncle Tom”, the male Irshad Manji– Dr. Zuhdi Jasser. Apparently, Jasser, who can’t get any attention or love, even from a small minority of Muslims, is getting a big bone from the Israel-obsessed neocons/right-wing zionists.
Thus, Omid Safi, whose full document on Obsession can be found here, is suggesting that we collect information about this clown, Jasser, his views, his background, etc. So, I ask our readers to start collecting information on him. If anyone wants to volunteer to do an “expose” on him, that will be great. Here’s a starting point: Radical Islam Wants You…and America. Please let us know or share information in comments.
She told me that the gas was sprayed into the room where the babies and children were being kept while their mothers prayed together their Ramadan prayers.Panicked mothers ran for their babies, crying for their children so they could flee from the gas that was burning their eyes and throats and lungs. She grabbed her youngest in her arms and grabbed the hand of her other daughter, moving with the others to exit the building and the irritating substance there. The paramedic said the young one was in shock, and gave her oxygen to help her breathe. The child couldn’t stop sobbing.
Let’s step back a bit…Imagine this headline: “Chemicals sprayed into Synagogue, Children Hurt”.
Imagine how this headline would be blurting out of every mass media outlet, out of every politician’s mouth… Obama and McCain would be personally heading to the Synagogue, proclaiming the strongest messages against such terrorism, calling for the attackers to be brought to full justice, and repudiating whatever may have been responsible for leading to this hate-crime.
Nothing less would be expected of the America that I thought I knew.
Yet, replace Synagogue with a Mosque, and there is deafening silence in the mainstream media. Were it not for this highly-recommended diary on Dailykos, I wonder if even the liberal blogs would have picked it up. How apathetic has our national media become to crimes against Muslims in America? Don’t Muslims deserve that these stories be told? Is it only when Muslims commit terrorism that the stories are worthy of front-page news, yet when we are subjected to terrorism, it doesn’t merit any media attention? [YOU, as a fair-minded individual can do something about it. And I mention some ways in the conclusion to make a difference, so be sure to read all the way to the end. You can be sure of one thing, if we don’t care enough to do something, we can’t blame the media for being indifferent.]
This didn’t happen in some far away place — but right here in Dayton, and to my friends. Many of the Iraqi refugees were praying together at the Mosque Friday evening. People that I know and love.
I am hurt and angry. I tell her this is NOT America. She tells me this is not Heaven or Hell — there are good and bad people everywhere.
The Dayton Daily News reported the news in a completely matter of fact manner. Interestingly, this is a cached link, the original link now points to a DIFFERENT story that is a headline on this not being a hate-crime. Why the original link was not left in place, as is “normal”… I’ll let you figure that out. Nothing in the news tells us about the horrors that transpired in the mosque. The quoted portions above and below (in red-italics) were copied from the dailykos story, based on an eye-witness’s account.
She tells me that her daughters slept with her last night, the little one in her arms and sobbing throughout the night. She tells me she is afraid, and will never return to the mosque, and I wonder what kind of country is this where people have to fear attending their place of worship?
The children come into the room, and tell me they want to leave America and return to Syria, where they had fled to from Iraq. They say they like me, … , and other American friends — but they are too afraid and want to leave. Should a 6 and 7 year old even have to contemplate the safety of their living situation?
Did the anti-Muslim video circulating in the area have something to do with this incident, or is that just a bizarre coincidence? Who attacks women and children?
So, did the video cause the incident? That is the million-dollar question, and until the culprits are captured and interrogated, we may never know. If you haven’t already heard of this anti-Muslim DVD, then a one-sentence description should suffice (until more on it later in the story): 77 minutes of pure propaganda, consisting of footage that interlaces videos of violent Muslims with those of Nazis, suggesting that Muslims are out to destroy Western civilization. Millions of Americans all over the country are ‘mysteriously’ receiving this DVD, absolutely free, in their mail.
I, for one, am not ready to buy it off as a coincidence. As I discussed in my post, Islamophobia already exists, the question is how widespread does Islamophobia become, and when the inevitable hate-crimes start coming in droves. Let me share one paragraph from that post:
[O]ne can think of racism or prejudice as a pyramid, with the bottom base being a myriad and widespread negative opinions and beliefs, which I have already described in the preceding paragraphs. The next, less-widespread, step up on this pyramid would be hate-talk. A step further up will be actions motivated by hate, like throwing a pig’s head into a mosque. Further steps up (less frequent but of higher intensity) would include direct attacks on Muslims and eventually to Muslim deaths and even large-scale terrorism (a plan by a Florida doctor to bomb Muslim educational centers was derailed in Florida in 2002 before it could be enacted). The question is not whether such hate-crimes will happen (because they already are); rather the question is when and how many.
What the propagators of this video are attempting to do is to continue building the base of the hate-pyramid. They are trying to influence and coax the average American into seeing Islam as a threat, and Muslims as enemies. By mixing images of Nazis and Muslims, they are engaged in willful and dishonest fear-mongering, designed to further their goal of sidelining Muslims in all spheres of American influence.
Who is responsible for spreading Islamophobia?
The real obsession is in fact for Israel. What we are constantly finding is that many of the leading Islamophobia creation campaigns have sponsors that have the following in common: radical Jewish, obsessed with Israel (not simply pro-Israel but who support Israel’s interests over America’s), staunchly Zionist, and usually ultra right-wing conservative. In general, they fall under the umbrella of neoconservatives. While some from the Christian Evangelical community have spewed vitriol against Muslims and against the Prophet Mohammed, in general, they have engaged in more talk than substance. No doubt, some Evangelicals are “part of the plan”, but they usually play supporting, not strategy-development, roles.
Unlike the likes of the late Fallwell, Pat Robertson, etc. this neoconservative bunch of thinkers and intellectuals has laid out a more sinister, well-orchestrated plan to change the hearts and minds of average Americans. While Israel’s outgoing prime-minister bemoans the rise of extremism among Jewish settlers, and Jeffrey Goldberg describes the dialogues within Israel about the existential concerns of Israel and how the hawkish influence is actually strengthening this fear, it seems that the debate in America about support of Israeli hawkish policies is one that is barely off the ground.
The end-goal of these Neocons & friends is set by the following logic:
The American Israeli political landscape is dominated by hawkish influence, so much so that proper Israel has much more of an open and free discussion of the future of Israel than the discussion in America. This cannot be allowed to change.
American Muslims are a threat to America’s heavy-handed favoritism of Israel. If American Muslims start gaining political influence, then they will demand fairness in the Middle East process, or at least the opening up of an intelligent and balanced discourse.
The way to stifle this debate is to marginalize Muslims to the point that their presence in any political landscape will become caustic (remember Obama’s “Muslim smear”?).
How do you marginalize Muslims? Create widespread propaganda of fear; establish images of everyday Muslims as the next potential terrorists in the minds of the average Americans. Repeat. As long as there is no Muslim voice, there would be no challenge to the Israeli domination of viewpoints (and especially its right-wing flavor) in American culture and media.
Lest I be accused of anti-Semitism, which happens anytime you mention the word Jewish in an unfavorable light (yet it is okay to scream islamofascism, Islamic radicalism, radical Muslims, radical Islam all the time), let me mention something important: Like followers of all major religions, Jews are not monolithic. The Jews involved in organizing efforts to promote islamophobia effort represent a small minority of right-wing, hawkish, radical elements, whose obsession with Israel overrides everything else. They would not even hesitate to label Jews with opposing opinions as self-haters!
In any case, you will find the common thread of social identities that I just mentioned (with few exceptions) in the following examples; major Islamophobia-organizers and websites against Muslims in America:
- Daniel Pipes who runs campuswatch, a site that witch-hunts professors who are not pro-Israel enough.
- Robert Spencer who runs the notorious ““Jihad Watch”
- David Horowitz who runs “Freedom Center” and also organized the notorious “Islamofascism” week
- David Yerushalmi who was part of the “Shariah Mapping” project, the “SANE” project, and other islmaphobia-creation efforts. We covered his organization’s activities in this post.
And now comes the distribution of TWENTY-EIGHT MILLION DVDs. In a poignant online piece, “saul relative” writes about what the DVD represents and what its ultimate goals are. Though the short-term goal indeed is political, there is a much more sinister long-term goal that I have already highlighted above.
The DVD is a 60-minute expose of militant Islam called “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” and is ideologically slanted toward painting Muslims as evil and bent on the destruction of the United States. It was nationally premiered on Fox News during the 2006 mid-term elections. Labeled highly divisive by many mainstream religious groups, “Obsession” shows Islam as a radically dangerous religion bent on the destruction of Western civilization,
The author also mentions how terrorism has struck America only a few times in history, and while waging foreign wars, the government
has done nearly nothing with regard to domestic defense measures except to marginally increase airport security and restructure the various intelligence agencies”.
[the Clarion Fund tactics] are meant to appeal to fears of the voters. It is meant to appeal to an emotional level. In psychological terms, this might precipitate a fight or flight response. With no direct threat of immediate personal harm, the fight response will most likely prevail
Fear is the strongest motivator of human action. The perception of security from that fear will have a very strong influence on the way an individual votes. The Clarion Fund is employing that motivator in swing states to potentially bring those states into the Republican fold and deliver to John McCain the electoral votes needed to become the next president.
To some, like the Clarion Fund, the truth may be irrelevant. Getting the candidate of their choice elected is all that matters.”
Some of the claims of the DVD:
- That the world stands today as it did in 1938. Radical Islam is as great, if not greater, of a threat than the Nazis presented to the world. And action [not specified] must be taken.
- That the attacks in Iraq, Palestine, Chechnya, and Iran present a global Muslim conspiracy against Israel and “The West.”
Just like the individuals mentioned above who leading the charge of Islamophobia, other players in the video share similar background including Carline Glick (Israel On Campus Coalition), and Nonie Darwish & Walid Shoebet (these two are of the evangelical Christian persuasion, but no less obsessed with Israel). What I would like the reader to contemplate the following:
- Consider the cost of such of production and distribution of such an effort. My own back-of-the-envelope estimate puts this at between $50-150 million! Who is bank-rolling it?
- Consider the timing and states chosen for the distribution. A few weeks before the presidential elections where one candidate, Obama, despite his pro-Israel stance, is just not as “tried and tested” as McCain. The tiny bit of risk that Obama may be actually fair in Middle East policies is strategically unacceptable for the neocons. The states are of course the swing-states, which makes the political motive even more obvious
- Consider the channel of distribution. Newspapers. They could have done it through a myriad of other distribution channels, but they chose newspapers. Why? While there is the efficiency argument in that they are using an established distribution network, there is a more Machiavellian reason at play. In one word- credibility! How many people may not have noticed the “advertisement” disclaimer (if there was even one)? The average American still maintains some trust in newspapers, and by agreeing to distribute hate-literature, our newspapers have failed us in the sense of their social responsibility.
Who is behind it?
For this, I will be depending heavily on Omid Safi’s (a Professor of Religious Studies at UNC) research, much of which is excerpted below. The DVD references the “Clarion Fund” as its creator. Clarion was incorporated in 2006. It uses the website, “radicalislam.org”. As most Muslims now recognize, “radical” is just a softener, the intention is to malign all Muslims. In essence, if you practice Islam, you are a radical.
The DVD was produced by a person called Raphael Shore (yes, sharing the same social identities as the other culprits). Raphael Shore is part of a missionary Israeli “Jewish penitent” (baal teshuva) group, called Aish HaTorah (“Fire of the Torah”), whose mission has been to call “assimilated” Jews back to Judaism. Although Aish HaTorah denies involvement,
Ronn Torossian, spokesman for Aish HaTorah, said that his group would in “no way be involved with Clarion Fund or Obsession because Aish HaTorah is a charity and must remain apolitical.”
Ross, the Clarion spokesman, was listed as an Aish HaTorah international fundraiser on a federal election donation form in June 2007. [Source]
More from Omid:
It turns out that Raphael Shore, a Canadian rabbi, is also the director of the International wing of Aish HaTorah. His business card is available as a PDF on line. According to the paperwork filed with the Delaware state authorities, Clarion uses the same address as Aish HaTorah in New York.
Raphael Shore is also the director of Hasbara Fellowships, a group with the transparent website: http://www.israelactivism.com/ Here there is another connection to Aish HaTorah, as Hasbara is part of the Aish HaTorah network. The connections between Obsession and Israeli groups like Aish HaTorah and Jewish advocacy groups on behalf of Israel like Hasbara Fellowship and Honestyreporting.com is beyond dispute. The producers of the documentary just don’t want you to know about it.
The spokesperson for the Clarion Fund, Gregory Ross, did not deny that this article had appeared on their site, he was only upset that they had been caught with it! The Clarion Fund has been established as a 501(3)c non-profit organization. These types of non-profit organizations are not to endorse one political candidate over another, precisely what Clarion seems to have done, and is now busy hiding its track records. NPR reported on this, and the possibility of a forthcoming FEC probe.
Who Distributes the DVD?
According the New York Times, when Shore and Co. could not find any traditional distributor for their propaganda, they formulated a strategy of working with Neo-Conservative organizations like Heritage, College Republicans, and above all, Jewish organizations.
NPR has reported that an organization called Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), is also responsible for distribution of the Obsession DVD. The positions of EMET are the positions of Likud party in Israel, and that of the illegal Settler movement It was EMET that on March 25th, 2008 sponsored a showing of Obsession on Capitol Hill.
“EMET was also requested to help the Republican Policy Committee with a Sense of the Congress resolution talking about Israel’s inherent right to defend itself…” In other words, Clarion Fund claims to be non-political, but uses a pro-Israel ally of Republicans to distribute its product.
In short, the distributors of the Obsession DVD are the most ardent and fanatical supporters of Israel, a fact that the Obsession DVD conveniently omits, and the newspapers who spread the 28 million copies of this DVD like a virus never looked into. EMET also has a cozy relationship with the right-wing Jewish billionaire Sheldon G. Adelson, who has a proven track record of using his wealth to push both Israeli and Republican agendas. A recent investigative piece in the New Yorker proved many details of his agenda.
To place Adelson on the political spectrum, it is good to recall that he has described himself as a critic of AIPAC—from the far right! In other words, he feels that AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) has been too soft on Palestinians. (!) Adelson has been a longtime contributor to Jewish and Republican causes, including the campaigns of George W. Bush. Initially, he had designs of spending $250 million dollars to set up an organization called Freedom Watch to keep Obama out of the White House.
It should not come as a huge surprise as to how much influence the Israeli lobby holds in American politics, especially its hawkish, right-wing section. It is a taboo of course to talk about this influence as the writers of the “Israel Lobby” book learned. What is a bit surprising is how easily foreign entities from Israel have been able to register charitable organizations in America, and using supposedly apolitical entities, to influence elections in the States.
What is particularly disappointing is that more newspapers did not refuse to distribute this video. Would they have distributed it if the video was on radical Judaism or radical Christianity? Would they have distributed it if was about the Israeli settlers’ harassment and stalking of Palestinian locals? If it is all about freedom of speech, then why is the speech that maligns Muslim, incites hatred and potentially hate-crimes, acceptable, yet the speech that highlights other injustices unacceptable?
We don’t know for sure if the video caused the hate-crime at the Dayton mosque. But, we cannot deny the proximity of timing of distribution of the DVD and the crime. Common sense suggests that if you inculcate enough hatred in individuals, it will be a matter of time before this hatred develops into actions of hate. History provides sufficient proof for this claim. What is especially ironic, and I conclude with this, is that while the video tries to portray Muslims as Nazis, it is the video itself that is spreading the same sort of hatred and intolerance about Muslims similar as what the Nazis created towards Jews, which ultimately led the Nazis to execute one of the greatest crimes against humanity. Contemplate that!
What can you do?
If this all bothered you, and it should for moral reasons, regardless of your religious identity, then don’t just sit there and bemoan this miscarriage of media responsibility. Do your part:
- Write a letter to your local newspaper, wherever you are, but especially if you are in one of the states where the distribution took place (consider these guidelines). You have a better chance of getting published than writing to one of the national newspapers.
- Write to the national newspapers. But be very succinct and add some “color” or “reasoned emotion”, it may increase your chance of getting published
- If you have the time, write an op-ed. There is enough information in this post for you to cobble together a short piece (different newspapers have different word limits)
- Cross-post on your own blog or on facebook or wherever you “communicate electronically”.
- Email about this post, or excerpts from it to your friends and family.
- If you are into making videos, make a short video that highlights a bit of the DVD, and a 3 minute talk about how you feel about it. Post it on youtube.
- If you do any of the above, add a comment below to encourage others. Even copy/paste your letter so others can use it as template for doing their own writing.
- Please demand that this come up at the VP debate by sending a message to Gwen Ifill as a comment on a previous diary mentioned.
What am I supposed to say to them? My words can’t keep them safe from what is nothing less than terrorism, American style. Isn’t losing loved ones, their homes, jobs, possessions and homeland enough? Is there no place where they can be safe?
She didn’t want me to leave her tonight, but it was after midnight, and I needed to get home and write this to my friends. Tell me — tell me — what am I supposed to say to them?”
- How Muslims are Treated in the USA – ABC Primetime
- Islamophobia: “Christian Identity” White Supremacists Charged on Plan to Destroy US Mosque
- The Blowback of Fear-Mongering and Islamophobia — Haunting GOP??
- What would you say to America’s leading Islamophobes if given the opportunity?
- Islamophobia Part-1: It Exists
- Anti-Muslim bigots are often racist too
Zahra Billoo Responds To The Women’s March Inc. Voting Her Off The New Board
Earlier tonight, I was voted off the Women’s March, Inc. national board. This followed an Islamophobic smear campaign led by the usual antagonists, who have long targeted me, my colleagues, and anyone else who dares speak out in support of Palestinian human rights and the right to self-determination.
The past 48 hours have been a spiral of bad news and smear efforts. Part of the smear campaign is motivated by opponents of the Women’s March, because the organization has traditionally challenged the status quo of power and white supremacy in our country. However, much of the campaign is driven by people who oppose me and my work challenging the occupation of Palestine, our country’s perpetuation of unjust and endless wars, and law enforcement operations targeting the American Muslim community.
The Women’s March, Inc. is an organization I once held dear. I spoke at the first march, spoke at regional marches every year after, spoke at the convention, participated in national actions including the original Kavanaugh protests, and worked to mobilize Muslim women for their efforts.
During the past few years right-wingers, from the President’s son to the Anti-Defamation League and troll armies, have targeted the Women’s March, Inc. For so long, I’ve admired their resilience in speaking truth to power, in working together, and in never cowering. Over and over again, the co-founders of Women’s March, Inc. put their lives on the line, winning power for all women in all of our diversity. The Women’s March, Inc. that voted me off its board tonight is one that no longer demonstrates the strength that inspired millions of women across the country.
To see and experience its new leaders caving to right-wing pressure, and casting aside a woman of color, a Muslim woman, a long-time advocate within the organization, without the willingness to make any efforts to learn and grow, breaks my heart. This isn’t about a lost seat, there will be many seats. The Women’s March, Inc. has drawn a line in the sand, one that will exclude many with my lived experiences and critiques. It has effectively said, we will work on some women’s rights at the expense of others.
To be clear, anti-semitism is indeed a growing and dangerous problem in our country, as is anti-Blackness, anti-immigrant sentiment, Islamophobia, ableism, sexism, and so much more. I condemn any form of bigotry unequivocally, but I also refuse to be silent as allegations of bigotry are weaponized against the most marginalized people, those who find sanctuary and hope in the articulation of truth.
In looking at the tweets in question, I acknowledge that I wrote passionately. While I may have phrased some of my content differently today, I stand by my words. I told the truth as my community and I have lived it, through the FBI’s targeting of my community, as I supported families who have lost loved ones because of US military actions, and as I learned from the horrific experiences of Palestinian life.
In attempting to heal and build in an expedited manner within Women’s March, Inc., I offered to meet with stakeholders to address their concerns and to work with my sisters on the new board to learn, heal, and build together. These efforts were rejected. And in rejecting these efforts, the new Women’s March, Inc. demonstrated that they lack the courage to exhibit allyship in the face of fire.
I came to Women’s March, Inc. to work. My body of work has included leading a chapter of the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organization for over a decade, growing it now more than six-fold. In my tenure, I have led the team that forced Abercrombie to change its discriminatory employment policies, have been arrested advocating for DACA, partnered with Jewish organizations including Bend the Arc and Jewish Voice for Peace to fight to protect our communities, and was one of the first lawyers to sue the President.
It is not my first time being the target of a smear campaign. The Women’s March, Inc., more than any place, is where I would have expected us to be able to have courageous conversations and dive deep into relationship-building work.
I am happy to have as many conversations as it takes to listen and learn and heal, but I will no longer be able to do that through Women’s March, Inc. This action today demonstrates that this organization’s new leadership is unable to be an ally during challenging times.
My beliefs drive my work, and I am not seeking accolades or positions of power. These past few days have been the greatest test of that. My integrity, my truth, and my strength comes from God and a place of deep conviction. I will continue my work as a civil rights lawyer and a faith-based activist, speaking out against the occupation of Palestine and settler-colonialism everywhere, challenging Islamophobia and all forms of racism and bigotry in the United States, and building with my community and our allies in our quest to be our most authentic and liberated selves.
Onward, God willing.
The Duplicity of American Muslim Influencers And The ‘So-called Muslim Ban’
As we approach the beginning of another painful year of the full enforcement of Presidential Proclamation 9645 (a.k.a. ‘the Muslim ban’) that effectively bars citizens of several Muslim majority countries from entering into the United States, the silence remains deafening. As I expected, most of the world has conveniently forgotten about this policy, which thus far has separated over 3,000 American families from their spouses and other immediate relatives. In June 2019, the Brennan Center of Justice notes that: The ban has also kept at least 1,545 children from their American parents and 3,460 parents from their American sons and daughters. While silence and apathy from the general public on this matter is to be expected— after all, it is not their families who are impacted— what is particularly troubling is the response that is beginning to emerge from some corners of the American Muslim social landscape.
While most Muslims and Muslim groups have been vocal in their condemnation of Presidential Proclamation 9645, other prominent voices have not. Shadi Hamid sought to rationalize the executive order on technical grounds arguing that it was a legally plausible interpretation. Perhaps this is true, but some of the other points made by Hamid are quite questionable. For example, he curiously contends that:
The decision does not turn American Muslims like myself into “second-class citizens,” and to insist that it does will make it impossible for us to claim that we have actually become second-class citizens, if such a thing ever happens.
I don’t know— being forced to choose exile in order to remain with one’s family certainly does sound like being turned into a ‘second-class citizen’ to me. Perhaps the executive order does not turn Muslims like himself, as he notes, into second-class citizens, but it definitely does others, unless it is possible in Hamid’s mind to remain a first-class citizen barred from living with his own spouse and children for completely arbitrary reasons, like me. To be fair to Hamid, in the same article he does comment that the executive order is a morally questionable decision, noting that he is “still deeply uncomfortable with the Supreme Court’s ruling” and that “It contributes to the legitimization and mainstreaming of anti-Muslim bigotry.”
On the other hand, more recently others have shown open disdain for those who are angered about the ‘so-called Muslim ban.’ On June 6th, 2019, Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, a Senior Faculty Member at Zaytuna College, Islamic scholar and the founder of the Lamppost Education Initiative, rationalized the ban on spurious security grounds. He commented that,
The so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his potential. But, to be fair, a real Muslim ban would mean that no Muslim from any country should be allowed in the US. There are about 50 Muslim majority countries. Trump singled out only 7 of them, most of which are war torn and problem countries. So, it is unfair to claim that he was only motivated by a hatred for Islam and Muslims.
First, despite how redundant and unnecessary this point is to make again, one ought to be reminded that between 1975 and 2015, zero foreigners from the seven nations initially placed on the banned list (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) killed any Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and zero Libyans or Syrians have ever even been convicted of planning a terrorist attack on U.S. soil during that same time period. I do not think these numbers have changed over the last 4 years either. If policy decisions are supposed to be made on sound empirical evidence and data, then there is even less justification for the ban.
Second, Bin Hamid Ali comments that ‘the so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his [Trump’s] potential.’ Whoa… hold on; on edge about his potential? For the millions of people banned from entering the United States and the thousands of Muslim families connected to these millions of people, this ‘potential’ has been more than realized. To reduce the ‘so-called Muslim ban’ to just targeting ‘war torn and problem countries’ is to reduce our family members—our husbands, wives, and children—to (inaccurate) statistics and gross stereotypes. Are spouses from Syria or Yemen seeking to reunite with their legally recognized spouses or children any less deserving to be with their immediate family members because they hail from ‘problem countries’? How can one be concerned with stereotypes while saying something like this? Is this not the exact thing that Abdullah bin Hamid Ali seeks to avoid? Surely the Professor would not invoke such stereotypes to justify the racial profiling of black American citizens. What makes black non-Americans, Arabs, and Iranians any different when it comes to draconian immigration profiling? From a purely Islamic perspective, the answer is absolutely nothing.
More recently, Sherman Jackson, a leading Islamic intellectual figure at the University of Southern California, King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity, also waded into this discussion. In his essay, he reframed the Muslim ban as a question of identity politics rather than basic human right, pitting Muslim immigrants against what he calls ‘blackamericans’ drawing some incredibly questionable, nativist, and bigoted conclusions. Jackson in a recent blog responding to critiques by Ali al-Arian about his own questionable affiliations with authoritarian Arab regimes comments:
Al-Arian mentions that,
“the Muslim American community seemed united at least in its opposition to the Trump administration.” He and those who make up this alleged consensus are apparently offended by Trump’s so-called Muslim ban. But a Blackamerican sister in Chicago once asked me rhetorically why she should support having Muslims come to this country who are only going to treat her like crap.
These are baffling comments to make about ‘Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.’ Jackson creates a strawman by bringing up an anecdotal story that offers a gross generalization that clearly has prejudiced undertones of certain Muslim immigrants. Most interesting, however is how self-defeating Jackson’s invocation of identity politics is considering the fact that a large number of the ‘blackamerican’ Muslims that he is concerned about themselves have relatives from Somalia and other countries impacted by the travel ban. As of 2017, there were just over 52,000 Americans with Somali ancestry in the state of Minnesota alone. Are Somali-Americans only worth our sympathy so long as they do not have Somali spouses? What Jackson and Bin Hamid Ali do not seem to understand is that these Muslim immigrants they speak disparagingly of, by in large, are coming on family unification related visas.
Other people with large online followings have praised the comments offered by Abdullah bin Hamid Ali and Sherman Jackson. The controversial administrator of the popular The Muslim Skeptic website, Daniel Haqiqatjou, in defense of Jackson’s comments, stated:
This is the first time I have seen a prominent figure downplay the issue. And I think Jackson’s assessment is exactly right: The average American Muslim doesn’t really care about this. There is no evidence to indicate that this policy has had a significant impact on the community as a whole. Travel to the US from those four countries affected by the ban was already extremely difficult in the Obama era.
What Haqiqatjou seems to not realize is that while travel from these countries was difficult, it was not as ‘extremely difficult’ as he erroneously claims it was. The US issued 7,727 visas to Iranian passport holders in 2016 prior to the ban. After the ban in 2018, that number dropped to 1,449. My own wife was issued a B1/B2 Tourist visa to meet my family in 2016 after approximately 40 days of administrative processing which is standard for US visa seekers who hold Iranian passports. On the other hand, she was rejected for the same B1/B2 Tourist visa in 2018 after a grueling 60+ day wait due to Presidential Proclamation 9645. At the behest of the Counselor Officer where we currently live, she was told to just finish the immigration process since this would put her in a better position to receive one of these nearly impossible to get waivers. She had her interview on November 19, 2018, and we are still awaiting the results of whatever these epic, non-transparent ‘extreme vetting’ procedures yield. Somehow despite my wife being perfectly fine to enter in 2016, three years later, we are entering the 10th month of waiting for one of these elusive waivers with no end time in sight, nor any guarantee that things will work out. Tell me how this is pretty much the same as things have always been?
What these commentators seem to not realize is that the United States immigration system is incredibly rigid. One cannot hop on a plane and say they want to immigrate with an empty wallet to start of Kebab shop in Queens. It seems as if many of these people that take umbrage at the prospects of legal immigration believe that the immigration rules of 2019 are the same as they were in 1819. In the end, it is important to once again reiterate that the Muslim immigrants Jackson, Bin Hamid Ali and others are disparaging are those who most likely are the family members of American Muslim citizens; by belittling the spouses and children of American Muslims, these people are belittling American Muslims themselves.
Neo-nationalism, tribalism, and identity politics of this sort are wholly antithetical to the Islamic enterprise. We have now reached the point where people who are considered authority figures within the American Islamic community are promoting nativism and identity politics at the expense of American Muslim families. Instead of trying to rationalize the ‘so-called Muslim Ban’ via appeals to nativist and nationalist rhetoric, influential Muslim leaders and internet influencers need to demonstrate empathy and compassion for the thousands of US Muslim families being torn apart by this indefinite Muslim ban that we all know will never end so long as Donald Trump remains president. In reality, they should be willing to fight tooth-and-nail for American Muslim families. These are the same people who regularly critique the decline of the family unit and the rise of single-parent households. Do they not see the hypocrisy in their positions of not defending those Muslim families that seek to stay together?
If these people are not willing to advocate on behalf of those of us suffering— some of us living in self-imposed exile in third party countries to remain with our spouses and children— the least they can do is to not downplay our suffering or even worse, turn it into a political football (Social Justice Warrior politics vs. traditional ‘real’ Islam). It seems clear that if liberal Muslim activists were not as outspoken on this matter, these more conservative voices would take a different perspective. With the exception of Shadi Hamid, the other aforementioned names have made efforts to constrain themselves firmly to the ‘traditional’ Muslim camp. There is no reason that this issue, which obviously transcends petty partisan Muslim politics, ought to symbolize one’s allegiance to any particular social movement or camp within contemporary Islamic civil society.
If these people want a ‘traditional’ justification for why Muslim families should not be separated, they ought to be reminded that one of al-Ghazali’s 5 essential principles of the Shari’a was related to the protection of lineage/family and honor (ḥifẓ al-nasl). Our spouses are not cannon fodder for such childish partisan politics. We will continue to protect our families and their honor regardless of how hostile the environment may become for us and regardless of who we have to name and shame in the process.
When I got married over a year prior to Donald Trump being elected President, I vowed that only Allah would separate me from my spouse. I intend on keeping that vow regardless of what consequences that decision may have.
Photo courtesy: Adam Cairns / The Columbus Dispatch
5 Quick Things Americans Can Do For Uyghurs Today
“I may die, but let it be known that my nation will continue their struggle so long the world continues to exist.” Kazakh leader Uthman Batur. He said these words as Chinese authorities executed him for resisting the communist occupation. Currently, China has, one million Uyghurs (Uighurs), Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities held in concentration camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) (East Turkistan) in northwestern China.
Their struggle surpasses the 10 or so years since we have become aware of it. Just like the Rohingya genocide, we waited till the last minute. We are always late and say, “Never Again.” It happens again and again.
In my lifetime, there have been horrendous genocides that could have been prevented to stopped. As a child, I remember Rwanda in the headlines, then a year later Bosnian genocide. Then we hear these demonic stories after the fact. I remember stories from survivors from Bosnia, and thinking to myself, “How are you here and functioning?”
Let us not be fooled to why this is happening now. It is related to economic advantages. The Chinese government’s present signature foreign policy initiative is the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) that seeks to connect the PRC economically to the rest of the Eurasian continent through massive infrastructure projects that will stimulate international trade. The western and south-western components of the BRI require the XUAR to serve as a transportation and commercial hub to trade routes and pipelines that will join China with Central and South Asia, the Middle East, and the entirety of Europe. As a result, the XUAR has become an important strategic region for the Chinese, and the state views its indigenous populations as an obstacle to developing its vision for this future critical center of international commercial networks.1
The expansion of their trade route also ties in Iran hence the sanctions placed, but that’s a different report for a different time. China, of course, has defended their actions by claiming its an anti-terrorism plan. Getting reliable information is hard. China has made it a point to make things difficult for reporters. Yanan Wang, a China-based journalist from the Associated Press, has reported extensively on and from Xinjiang.
In a ceremony at Asia Society on Tuesday commemorating AP’s 2019 Osborn Elliott Award for Excellence in Journalism on Asia, Wang described the subtle ways government minders worked to thwart her reporting: “(Both of the times we went there we arrived at the airport, we had a welcoming committee from the local authorities. They’re always very polite and professional. They say that “you’ve arrived in Xinjiang and we’re here to assist you in your reporting. Tell us what you’re working on so we can help you.” They offer us drives in their car and plenty of hospitality.
Basically, from the moment we arrive, we’re followed by at least one car. There are a bunch of interesting scenarios that we came across. You can see that the local handlers are trying hard to be professional. They are members of the propaganda department, so they’re PR professionals. They don’t want to make it appear like it’s so stifling. At one point, we were taking photos, and someone suddenly appeared on the scene to say he was a “concerned citizen.” He said he’d seen us taking photos and that it was an infringement of his privacy rights. He had this long monologue about privacy rights and about how it wasn’t right for us to take photos of him without his knowledge. We asked him, “Well, where are you in these photos?” and he’d go through all of them. He said we had to delete all of them. He’d say, “This is my brother,” or “This is my place of work, you have to delete it.”
They had all of these interesting tactics to work around the idea that they were trying to obstruct our reporting and make it appear that someone who claims to be a concerned citizen.)”2
On top of that, locals that talk to journalist are punished, sometimes go missing.
I decided to do something this time around; I got in touch with an Uyghur community near my residence to see how an individual could help. It started at a Turkic restaurant, and from there, I have been involved in whatever capacity I am able. Through this effort, I got in touch with a Turkic professor in Turkey who has students stranded as they are cut off from contacting family back in Xinjiang. He helps them out financially; my family and friends help with what they can.
As Muslims in the West, there is no doubt we should act. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart, and that is the weakest of faith” (Muslim).
How Can You Help Uyghurs
Here are a few things you can do to help:
1. Ask Congress to pass To pass S.178 & H.R.649 Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019. Urge your senator and representative to support this cause. It has been introduced. This bill can help the Uyghur community to be treated like Tibetans (another region oppressed by China).
2. Stay informed. The mainstream media is not the place to get accurate information on the situation. Be skeptical of where the data is coming from, stick to reliable sources that are verified. As mentioned above, journalists find it difficult to report.
4. Boycott or reduce buying Made in China products
5. Follow these links for updated information: facebook.com/Uyghur-Human-Rights-Project-227634297289994/ and facebook.com/ChinaMuslims
This crisis is an ethnic cleansing for profit. These are dark days as we value profit over people.
1.Statement by Concerned Scholars on mass detentions | MCLC …. https://u.osu.edu/mclc/2018/11/27/statement-by-concerned-scholars-on-mass-detention s/
2.Why It’s So Difficult for Journalists To Report From …. https://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/why-its-so-difficult-journalists-report-xinjiang
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