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Palestinian-Israeli Conflict Strikes Personal Chord with Loss of Friendship




By Mona Shadia
Up until about four months ago, I called a pro-Israeli Persian Jew my best friend.

She and I were initially drawn to each other through an appreciation for a commitment to our respective faith — Islam for me and Judaism for her. We saw each other as representatives of the strong, intelligent women we seek and appreciate. We connected through various other life experiences, ones that Middle Eastern women encounter in America, like our struggle with a culture in America that defines beauty differently from our kind of beauty. We connected through a yearning for peace and freedom in the Middle East — Iran for her, Egypt for me, Jews and Muslims for both of us.

We connected through a craving for authentic love, the kind where there’s mutual respect and shared religious connection between a man and a woman. We found a connection through an appreciation for the Middle East’s rich culture, its intoxicating romance, extravagant music, seductive beauty and ancient civilization. We connected through heartbreak.

When it came to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a subject that would inevitably be discussed considering our respective religions, we found a common ground in wanting peace for both sides, in rejecting injustice and murder. We also felt that the foundation upon which our friendship stood was unshakable by this conflict.
I used part of a column I wrote about life as a Muslim in America for a local newspaper to showcase how through our friendship peace is possible, how peace is the ultimate goal and the ultimate liberator on earth.

Although we didn’t always agree on everything, we provided for each other a safe place to discuss the conflict. She knew I was a supporter of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel as a peaceful measure to pressure it to give Palestinians their freedom, to stop the continued illegal building of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to eliminate the more than 50 Israeli laws that distinguish and discriminate against Palestinians living in Israel.

She knew it all, and when she felt differently about some of my views I always refrained throughout our friendship from challenging her. I did it in the name of compromise, peace, friendship, the bread we broke together and the laughter and tears we shared. I also knew that she struggled to justify the immoral and criminal behavior and policies of Israel, and I didn’t want to make it harder on her.

There were times when I felt a deep sense of guilt for not presenting the Palestinian side more forcefully in our conversations. After all, I openly criticized Arab nations and Muslims for their shortcomings and the destruction of which they’re responsible. How can I not do the same in the face of all injustices?

Things changed when she fell in love with a man who didn’t have the capacity for our kind of intelligent dialogue or debate.

Although I didn’t notice it at first, his tendency to slip a few hateful words here and there against Muslims and Arabs and lash out unexpectedly revealed his character to me overtime.

But the real problem was her attitude also changed. She was less inclined to talk about a solution and always concerned that Israel is being unfairly pointed out.

Then came the day when I posted a Los Angeles Times op-ed that identified Israel as an Apartheid state.

The boyfriend exploded, insulted me, my profession, journalism and journalists and told me that because I have Jewish friends, I should think twice before sharing these sort of articles or holding these beliefs.

There seemed to be no middle ground: To him, I either supported Israel or I was the enemy.

And my friend’s reaction? Silence. The reaction of the rest of our mutual friends, who also support Israel? More silence.

Here was I: someone she had known for years, with whom she had shared friendship, heartbreak, laughter. And there was he: someone she had known for less than a year.

I realized something through her silence, and the rest of the mutual friends’ silence. This silence wasn’t actually about the nature of her relationship with him or her desire to protect it. I realized her actions personified the current culture and attitude of Israel and its supporters: The Israeli culture of hate and vengeance that is unwavering even with the systematic murder and dehumanization of Palestinians. It is a culture that is not interested in prosecuting the mobs of settlers who torment, torture and burn alive Palestinians. A culture celebrated by Knesset members, rabbis and public figures.

And silence is what led that culture to where it is today. Because criticizing Israel and suggesting that its policies and behavior are reminiscent of crimes committed by others throughout history is considered a betrayal, self-hate or equated with hating Jews and being anti-Semite.

Criticizing other countries — like Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Mexico — and taking them to task for their behavior is viewed as an honorable and important cause. Criticizing Israel’s actions are equal to being anti-semitic, anti-Jewish, anti-democratic, immoral.

It was very tormenting for me to walk away from our friendship. She and I would at times talk about the day we’d both be married to our dream husbands and how our kids would grow up together — Muslims and Jews, side by side. But I knew stepping away was the best option for me. She didn’t look back and I wouldn’t allow myself to remain in any sort of a relationship where I wasn’t valued and appreciated.

But even after I stepped completely away from both of them, the hostility on her partner’s part continued. After Israel began its Operation Protective Edge, killing more than 2,000 people, injuring thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands, I received an unsolicited message from him telling me to enjoy the destruction Israel was causing to the Palestinians. He told me to not mess with the Jews, hurtling unspeakable insults about my gender and religion my way.

What I came to understand is this behavior was not the ranting of one crazy man. This for me became a snapshot of the culture and attitude Israel breeds. It’s a snapshot of the Israeli Defence Force soldiers who post celebratory photos of the destruction they do to the Palestinians. It’s a snapshot of the more than 90 percent of Israelis who are supportive of the ground incursion and don’t want a ceasefire. A snapshot of the Israeli leaders who call for revenge and who describe Palestinian children as snakes who should die. It is a snapshot of the chants on Israeli streets of no more schools in Gaza because there are no children left. A snapshot of the attacks and intimidation toward those Israelis and Jews who are speaking out against the occupation and murder of Palestinians. It is a snapshot of how the occupation continues and what has justified the dehumanization of a whole group of people.

This silence is what is keeping this culture alive and thriving. The silence is what brought it to where it is today.

The irony of course is this is exactly how six million Jews were killed: It was due to silence.

Mona Shadia is an Egyptian American writer and journalist living in Southern California


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    September 2, 2014 at 4:00 AM

    So heartbreaking to lose a trusted bestie.. All for a guy with immoral values! Huh.
    May Allah replace her for you with someone even better.

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    Mow Sow

    September 2, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    Good stuff !! I love the punchline at the end ! But I think it is crucial for people to understand that the media plays a big role in the radicalization of Israeli society and that this radicalization is the tool used by Israeli politicians to accomplish their political gains. Because things did not used to be like that before the right wing wackjobs took power in Israel. Also the settlers movements is another thing that exercise a huge bully power on the government itself.
    So hate has more of a political motive and a land theft tool. The indirect result is the radicalization of the entire society, that takes hate for the sake of hate.. exactly like what the nazi regime did to German people, and everyone followed.
    We need to warn about this phenomena at every occasion .. especially that we see it happening under our own eyes in our own backyard.

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    Joyce Larsen

    September 2, 2014 at 8:04 PM

    I have heard a quote by someone living in Germany at the time of the horrible crimes committed against the Jews. He said
    “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” – Martin Niemoller-

    As Muslims, we must speak out against all injustice- and this is where Allah (swt) commands us to rise above human tendencies- even if it is against “our” own people…. who we may even love. Silence kills.

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    September 3, 2014 at 1:34 AM

    This was a great post. It is sad to see such issues come between people. Inshallah, if it is good for your akhirah, deen and dunya I hope that eventually your friend will come around. Sometimes friendships need distance and time to become stronger than they were before.

    You said something that is puzzling.

    You said…

    “The Israeli culture of hate and vengeance…It is a culture that is not interested in prosecuting the mobs of settlers who torment, torture and burn alive Palestinians.”

    You make it sound that EVERY Israeli has hate and vengeance in their heart. I don’t deny that from childhood, many (but not all) Israeli’s are taught to hate, and distrust the Palestinians and to see them as the enemy.

    Unfortunately we have that on the Palestinian and Muslim side too. If you ever lived in the Middle East, you will hear many Arabs refer to Jews as pigs or dogs. Even during Friday sermons. I have seen and hear this first hand for many, many years.

    You can even see it in Arab And Iranian media. I have seen cartoons on Iranian State TV which teach kids that Israelis are cunning, liars and so on. You can see them on Youtube if you don’t believe me. that doesn’t mean that Iranians have a culture of hate. It just means that the Iranian government takes part in propaganda just like many governments around the world.

    Alhamdulilah I am a Muslim. And the injustice that is happening to Palestinians is horrific. But I cant deny that this culture of hate (towards Israelis and Jews) exists among Muslims, Iranians and Arabs too.

    What is disappointing here is the author of the article above has with the brush of her pen painted every Israeli as being hateful, when we know that isn’t true.

    How do we feel when people say that “Islam teaches terrorism”?

    Don’t we feel upset and angry?

    Dont we feel frustrated when the news portrays Muslims as “jihadis” and “extremists”?

    We know that Islam teaches only good. And yet, we are judged because of the actions of certain misguided groups.

    And yet what you wrote above is doing the same thing to Israelis.

    This statement “The Israeli culture of hate and vengeance…It is a culture that is not interested in prosecuting the mobs of settlers who torment, torture and burn alive Palestinians.” is essentially creating more hatred and ignorance among us and not conducive towards peace and understanding at all.

    Imagine if i said the following statements

    “The black culture teaches gun violence and gang mentality”

    “The Saudi Arabian culture teaches controlling and abusing women”

    “Islam teaches terrorism”

    Can you see how the racist and ignorant the above statements are?

    We shouldn’t make such black and white statements.

    You also mentioned that Israeli’s have a culture of “silence” towards injustice. That too is not true either.

    Many Israeli’s are vocal about the injustice that their government is committing towards the Palestinians. Many Israeli soldiers defected from the army and refused to serve because of the injustice.

    That is like me saying that American Muslims have a culture of silence because The USA government went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan and killed hundreds of thousands.

    Anyways….let us not do to others, what we dont want done to us.

  5. Avatar


    September 3, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    More fool you for taking a pro-Israeli as a best friend

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    September 4, 2014 at 1:10 AM

    It seems muslimmatters is censoring comments. I had posted a comment expressing my opinion and it has not been published. My comment had no profanities or anything distasteful.

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala

      September 4, 2014 at 9:45 AM

      Dear Sara

      Your comment had been flagged due to some reason by our filters and was approved by me earlier today. We do censor comments that don’t comply with our Comments Policy but in this case it was just a comment waiting for approval.

      Best Regards

      Comments Team Lead

      • Avatar


        September 4, 2014 at 5:41 PM

        Jazakallah khair akhee. Does that mean all of my comments will be flagged and not published from now on?

        I wonder if my IP is blocked.

        Allahu Allam

        • Avatar

          Aly Balagamwala

          September 5, 2014 at 8:39 AM

          Was specific to one comment not a regular thing.


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    September 4, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is a chant by Pro-Palestinian protesters

    “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

    Hamas Covenant. So, the Palestinians want to wipe out Israel and the Jews and The majority of Gazans support them through their vote.

    Add to that Hamas using Gazan civilians as human shields. Add to that the Anti-semitic attacks by Palestinians against Jews in many European countries and you begin to see the nature of the Pro-Palestinian crowd: hatred of jews and thirst for vengence.

    When you see the “culture of hate and vengeance that is unwavering even with the systematic murder and dehumanization” you’re not looking at your Zionist friend; you’re looking in a mirror.

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      September 5, 2014 at 10:32 AM

      Scorpius you are right but you are typical. You can clearly see the hate and wrong done by the other side. It is your excuse to condemn an entire people and to refuse to see their humanity and for you to refuse to see them as individuals and for you to refuse to see a world where they are given basic human rights. While you paint your side as Lilly white and right. Either you are a white Christians engaged in subtle KKK behavior (some not whites are less than) or you are Jewish and you, like many in Israel are showing signs of Stockholm Syndrome.

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    September 4, 2014 at 12:11 PM

    I thank Muslim Matters for being such a well-run, informative website. Palestine is really so much on my mind. I am black American. As such, I constantly deal with questions of identity and authenticity, of what it means to be truly Muslim black and American in America in 2014 and beyond. I love Jews, but I am not on the side of the Israeli government when it comes to the Palestinians. I see the fundamentals of a powerful Muslim Jewish alliance. We are both high-achieving minorities.
    What separates us Israel. What I am tired of is that when I try to talk to non-Muslims, they assume a basic part of my religion is hating Jews. I just read a Muslim magazine. Sami al Arian this and Gaza that…. We spend so much energy talking politics under the guise of standing up to oppressors, that we end up misleading the entire West about what are supposed to be our core beliefs. There is a hadeeth where a companion says, if someone were to put a blade to his throat, he would recite the Kalimah to that person. I am wrong for not giving the source so please call me out if I am spreading falsehood. I am trying to be brief.
    Our first obligation is to make the world know that we believe God is One. He has no partners. God is not in need of any special trick in order to forgive His creation. His only demand is that we NEVER associate any thing or person with Him and His majesty. This is the message of Muhammad. This the message we are supposed to carry forth with our very lives.
    I am not supposed to die over Palestine, just because Muslims are there. The Jews will never allow a full Palestinian state. In America, the Native Americans were pushed into reservations and they died by the millions. This the equivalent of the Muslim demands for a two state solution. Why, when you know the people you are dealing with will never fairly divide the resources of the region, would you insist on a line where they have resources you have no say over?
    In the West (I am a Western Muslim) in America, the power lies with the vote and the goal is always the vote. This is how we fight the oppression: with sound arguments based in democratic traditions combined with the vote. This is why I am dumbfounded. The obvious solution and goal for the Palestinians is FULL Israeli citizenship. If the Palestinians demanding Israeli citizenship it will force America to back away from Israel and once the argument is successful, it will gives Palestinians an equal political say in the region’s resources. It saddens me that we have let this issue define us as Muslims.
    Hamas should not set the agenda for Muslims living in America. In the West our obstacles are clear. We should be about freedom of worship, free from discrimination and dispersing the truth given to us by God through His Prophet. This is my uniformed opinion. I thank Allah for making me Muslim. I love all the Muslims in the world because of Allah’s blessing, but I am confused at how we don’t understand mass communication and long-term ideological stands the way Allah blessed our Prophet to understand them.

    Allah is the Most High. Peace and blessings be upon the messenger of Allah.

    • Avatar


      September 4, 2014 at 9:39 PM

      Full Israeli citizenship for Palestinians is a good, workable idea if this were 10 years ago. But in the interim the people of Gaza elected Hamas with all their racist and genocidal ramblings. Now the people of Israel can’t afford to let those same people vote.

      • Avatar


        September 5, 2014 at 10:14 AM

        People make stupid votes. That’s a part of democracy. The hope of democracy is that after the people make stupid votes, they get to see the results and make smarter votes as they move forward. The Palestinians need a lot of development, but they only have one path and their mistakes are not an excuse to ban them from the equality that is due to all people, regardless of religion or race.

      • Avatar


        September 6, 2014 at 3:18 AM

        Hamas are resistant fighters. How much land has israel stolen? How many lives has israel taken?

        Did you really expect the people of palestine to just sit back and take it?

        The french had resistance fighters to combat the cruelty of king louis. South africa had resistance fighters to fight the racist apartheid regime.

        Israel is reaping what it has sowed all these years

    • Avatar


      September 12, 2014 at 2:29 PM

      well said. let’s leave aside politics and focus on God and the mission at hand. pray globally, dawah locally.

  9. Avatar


    September 12, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    honestly, i don’t think the choice the author made to see her friend’s reaction as a manifestation of a particularly israeli trait (being silent about current wrongs) is entirely correct. it’s understandable, and useful to talk about a larger issue, but i really think she just took the position she did to keep her boyfriend and not lose him, and to accommodate his needs in a way many women do, for the sake of the same harmony you talk about – harmony in their relationship with a man they love. she did not participate in insulting you, and she did not want to come out against her man, so she took the middle road: silence. i can understand and sympathize and i think you as her friend should as well. she wants to get married- just like you talk about – do you want her to sacrifice her possible marriage for you?


  11. Avatar

    L Glaser

    January 9, 2015 at 9:10 AM

    I find it funny, when a comment support the author, Mona Shadia, a thumbs down response is ignored and only thumbs up ratings are registered. When the comment is not supportive of the author, any rating works. Very biased website.
    As for content, Mona is certainly entitled to her opinion, but her viewpoints are similar to the man she attacks, i.e. ALL Palestinians or ALL Israelis are evil.

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#Current Affairs

Questions About My Political Activism | Imam Omar Suleiman

Imam Omar Suleiman



Imam Omar Suleiman activism

Bismillah Al Rahman Al Raheem,

I thank Allah for the blessing of in person interactions. The simple joy of meeting your brother and sister in the Masjid with a smile and salaam that removes the shaytan from our hearts. The ability to ask questions clearly and immediately bury hatchets (which some forgo for destructive emails and WhatsApp threads even with their neighbors). I’m blessed to live in the incredible Valley Ranch Islamic Center community where I serve as Resident Scholar in a voluntary capacity. Members of my Masjid and the Dallas community can approach me and ask me anything about something I’ve said or something being said about me, and we walk away as brothers and sisters. I had the same blessing in New Orleans where I served as full-time Imam for 6 years. And I am blessed to meet people around the country and around the world that I love for Allah. Those are lifelong bonds that I pray continue in the hereafter under Allah’s shade. 

I also thank Allah for the online world that allows people to connect in good when otherwise they would not have been able to benefit. Without social media and expanding ways of technology, good content and avenues for charity would be far more limited. I’m grateful for all of you that have connected with me and prayed for me over the years. I don’t want to take away from any of that. With that being said, the online world does of course have its pitfalls. There can be a lack of mercy and husn al dhann (good assumptions) with one another, and widespread gossip and slander. It’s also uniquely destructive to those who garner large followings even due to good reasons. It’s very easy to praise someone you only know through videos and pictures, as it is to tear them down. Allah has tested some of us with fame through this machine, and it is a mighty test. I pray that Allah allows all of the people that I’ve been blessed to benefit in this world to be witnesses for me on the day of judgment, and that He not shame me or raise me amongst the hypocrites who didn’t practice what they preached. 

As the great sage Imam Ibn Al Jawzee (ra) said, “Know that if people are impressed with you, in reality they are impressed with the beauty of Allah’s covering of your sins.” It is very easy to deceive and be deceived through a screen. I pray that Allah allow any unjust critiques that I receive to be an expiation for all the undue praise I receive. People are usually imbalanced in their love and hate. The test is whether that love stops you from correcting your brother when he is wrong, or that hate that causes you to swerve from justice.

With that introduction, I’d like to address questions about my political positions and affiliations. Why? Because I do believe in accountability and transparency. Deceptive voices should be ignored, concerned ones shouldn’t. Certainly, there are falsehoods and hit pieces that often are disguised as legitimate critiques. But there are also legitimate critiques and/or requests for clarification. Over the past several years, I have had both types forwarded to me. I am not concerned with those who use deception to falsely portray me or my work. I am concerned about those who genuinely have questions, and don’t have them answered. I have sought to clarify my own political positions through my work on numerous occasions such as here, here, and here. I will quote some of that content here. But I hope this will be a thorough article that can be referenced any time in the future when questions about who I am and what I represent are brought up. Moreover, I hope it can be a conversation starter about what types of political frameworks are actually beneficial to the community.

The Foundation and Legitimate Differences

I believe that the Quran and Sunnah should be the foundation for everything that we do, public and private. That means never exceeding their boundaries, and also manifesting their calls. Many people forget the latter, and only focus on the former. If the only time the Quran and Sunnah are invoked in discussions of activism and justice is to shut down something deemed illegitimate or impermissible, we suggest that our divine sources have stagnated and are unable to converse with the world around us today. I believe in amplifying the beautiful solutions from our religion to confront the ugly realities of the climate around us. The Deen is rich and beautiful. The Seerah is an incredible guide to everything in life. Through Yaqeen Institute, I had the blessing of doing the 40 on justice series that spanned for over a year and a half where I hoped to articulate a Sunnah-lens to the issues around us. My goal is to now develop that into a book. I believe the person and message of the Prophet (saw) speaks to us as clearly now as it did in the year 620, and that everything we do should be in accordance with it.

There can be reasonable debate about the Sunnah and how it’s lived in certain aspects around us. Some use Hudaybiya to justify every form of engagement and say things like, “if the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) were alive, he would do this.” I don’t want to project anything on the Prophet (saw). My attempt is to draw from his Sunnah, not legitimize my shahawat. There are areas where the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) showed compromise, but he never lost clarity. While the treaty of Hudaybiya had to omit “Al Rahman Al Raheem” from the name of Allah, and “RasulAllah” from the name of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), none of the companions were confused about their realities.

The legitimate debates around how to truly implement the Sunnah today largely emanate from what aspects of the Prophetic call are it’s defining features, and what our priorities and timelines, political or otherwise, should be. Tawheed is the foundation and primary basis for it all. As for what aspects of the call are defining features, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was sent us a mercy to the worlds, defined his mission as perfection of character, said that Allah loves gentleness in all of His affairs, and was revolutionary in his compassion to everything around him. That doesn’t mean he didn’t at times get angry or use power to eliminate evil. He was not limited by his mercy, but always enhanced by it.

As for priorities and timelines, even the companions frequently differed. There are examples from the life of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and after. During Hudaybiya, Ali (ra) did not want to erase from the treaty what the Quraysh wanted him to. Omar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) wanted to proceed forth to Makkah that very moment. The companions found themselves unwilling to accept that they would have to turn back. Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) saw things the way the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) saw them. Umm Salama raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) advised the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in those difficult times how to get everyone on the same page despite those strong feelings.

The debates about this were deep in many aspects of Fiqh (jurisprudence) after the death of the Prophet (saw), none so more than regarding political issues. We know the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us to seek both justice and stability. But at what point and at what cost is it permissible to challenge the power structure? No one was ambiguous about tyranny, but they differed greatly as to how to challenge it. In the first massive fitna to engulf the community, the painful debate over the assassination of Uthman  put Ali raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) on the defensive about whether or not he was interested in pursuing his killers in the first place. He was of course, but believed in stabilizing the Khilafa before pursuing the assassins to not cause more bloodshed. When Omar Ibn AbdulAzeez (ra) who pushed legendary reforms in his 2 year Khilafa was questioned by his son about some of the things he wasn’t pursuing, he responded, “Oh my son, do you want me to try to compel them upon the religion all at once, so that they abandon it all at once?”

My work politically revolves around eliminating suffering, domestically and abroad. This shapes how I view militarism, poverty, policing, mass incarceration, environmental issues, healthcare, immigration, and torture. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “find me amongst the oppressed. Are you given aid and support by Allah except by how you treat your most vulnerable?” I believe that we as Muslims, especially those who claim orthodoxy, should assert ourselves in these areas. This doesn’t mean that I think this is the only area in which Muslims should be active. Different people should work in different areas of good, and not undermine one another. Good efforts should be complementary to each other. My background suits this particular role. I grew up with deeply humanitarian parents, worked as a field coordinator in disaster relief, and feel strongly moved towards these causes. While most came to know me through Islamic lectures, I have never not been involved in these things. Fighting exploitation and oppression are part and parcel of our religious identity. Not only should Muslims be present in these areas, they should be leading the way. And that’s not because it’s good political strategy or public relations, but because it’s scriptural imperative.

I’m also concerned with Religious Freedom and think we should assert our right as a Muslim community, as should other communities, to live out our faith unhindered, and our institutions un-harassed. Conservatives tend to leave Muslims out in their calls and lace them with other forms of bigotry we can’t stomach, and liberals often alienate religious communities like Orthodox Jews, Black Churches, Muslims, etc. while claiming to be for pluralism and inclusivity.

I cannot in good conscience support anything that is opposed to the Sunnah, even as a matter of political expediency. I believe in working together with communities on things we agree upon, and learning to respectfully coexist with things we don’t agree upon. On such affairs, I maintain political neutrality with religious clarity and relationship building that allows us to have these hard discussions as human beings seeking to reduce societal tension and promote the common good. I use multi-faith work as a blueprint for this. If people can harmoniously coexist despite strong beliefs about God, purpose, salvation, and scripture, surely they can learn to coexist on political issues that are of far lesser consequence to them in their worldviews. 

All of this warrants discussion on priorities, pragmatism, gradualism, and political programs. As Muslims, we should have vibrant disagreements that start off with: 1. What Allah and the Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) deem as good is good, and what they deem as bad is bad. 2. People can disagree on how to apply those realities to the world around us without obscuring the lawful and the prohibited. 3. People should maintain good assumptions about one another and not accuse their intentions when they disagree. 

At the end of the day, these are largely areas of Ijtihad and we’re all on the same team.

Pictures and Associations

I rarely request anyone to take pictures with me, but I never turn them down. I have my reasons for that. It is primarily a personal decision I formed after going to the funeral of Muhammad Ali (may Allah have mercy on him) in Louisville. I was deeply moved by how everyone from the shuttle driver, to the hotel clerk, to the gas station employees, etc. had a story about meeting him. He never turned down a request, and that meant something to people. My colleagues and I differ on this issue. On one hand, we don’t want to feed celebrity culture. On the other hand, we don’t want to disappoint, hurt, or leave people feeling slighted. This is where I’m at on this, and I don’t think I have it in me to say no to someone who asks for a picture. 

My “associations” are widespread because I engage numerous spaces. I get invited to conferences and campuses, mosques and festivals. Anywhere I go, I try to be courteous to people and that should not mean an endorsement of all that they do or stand for. I do not believe appearing in a picture with someone or in a common space is me promoting them, or even them promoting me. 

Guilt by association is the most deceitful way of targeting someone. It’s what the Khawarij do. It’s also what Islamophobes have been doing to take down every Muslim leader in the community since 9/11. They draw the association as wide as possible, then associate you with every position through that association making it impossible to defend yourself.

My positions are only the ones I actually espouse.

Platforms and Panels

As for platforms and panels, I typically will not turn them down unless I feel like the platform itself is so biased that I won’t be able to speak my mind, or there is no value in my opinion even if I’m allowed to speak it. Most recently I sat on a panel at the Texas Tribune Festival on religious freedom with Sr. Asma Uddin from the Freedom Forum Institute, and staunch republicans like Rep. Matt Krause and Kevin Roberts, the Executive Director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. I’m in dialogue at an event early next year with the most prominent evangelical preacher in the country. I often share the stage with staunch liberals who agree with me on issues of militarism, torture, policing, and immigration, but are quite hostile to religion. I try to do right by my part on panels regardless of who else is serving on it. The only time I would participate in a public boycott of a panel or platform is if it’s a collective push to purge someone who has just taken a position or done something that would inherently tarnish the panel or platform. I did this, for example, in the wake of the Rabaa’ massacre with scholars who legitimized it. When I’m invited to a highly partisan place like the Texas Democratic Convention, I try to be very specific with my subject matter (where I spoke about children victimized by policy here and abroad, and brought up Gitmo and Abu Ghraib).

How Do I Choose Whether or Not to Accept an Invitation

Istikhara (prayer) and Istishara (consultation). I have turned down many high profile events because I thought my presence would be tokenizing and unsubstantial. With my invocation in Congress, I literally forwarded the invite to my teacher and asked him whether or not I should do it. He advised me to go forward and give an invocation that would leave people thinking. I hope that was achieved even though I must admit I wasn’t expecting the flurry of attacks afterwards. Imam Siraj traces the beginning of the avalanche of hate against him to his invocation in congress, but I had hoped that all the relationships I had built would ward off some of that.

Most of my invites are not so confusing, but some of them are. Have I regretted accepting certain invites? Yes. But I don’t lament too much over them so long as I did proper Istikhara and Istishara.

Demonstrations, Coalitions, and Alliances

In our tribal politics in America, platforms are wide and coalitions are narrow. I believe in the exact opposite. I believe we should have specific issues that we determine important and meaningful, and form broad coalitions around those specific issues. This way the work is focused, the ally-ship is clear, and the advocacy is unproblematic. When it’s a bunch of people working on a small set of issues, the issues dominate the conversation as opposed to who is at the table. It’s about what we’re at the table for. 

So if we’re going to organize a march on the border, against ICE deportations, or against police brutality, I don’t care who else is coming to march or where they stand on other issues. This to me was the essence of Hilf Al Fudul. The tribes came together for one purpose of supporting those who were exploited because they didn’t have the protection of belonging to powerful classes, and the Prophet (saw) said he would take that pledge in jahiliya or Islam.

Partisan Politics

I don’t believe in uncritically adopting a platform, or letting a party take advantage of our vulnerability. We need to challenge Democrats just as strongly as we do Republicans, while remaining independent and principled. We have a right to an agenda like any other community. Politicians should have to work for our vote, and we shouldn’t shy away from where we differ with candidates even when we vote for them.

You can read my article on voting here in which I lay out those principles.

As a side note on endorsements, I’ve only endorsed 2 candidates in my life, one a Muslim candidate for city council and another a candidate for county chair. With the Beto campaign against Ted Cruz last year, who I believe is the most dangerous man in the Senate for various reasons, I particularly reached out to the campaign to clarify some concerns about the criminalizing of BDS. I applauded him for taking the time to meet me and clarify those concerns. With the recent news on his  comments on revoking the tax-exempt status of religious institutions, I once again reached out to those who I know from the campaign to register the community’s disapproval and was able to have a fruitful conversation about it. And no, I’m not endorsing him or any candidate for president right now.

Left vs Right

I wrote an article in the Dallas Morning News about transcending the left/right divide. In it, I said, “Most of the religious presence in our political discourse seems to be superficial with the religious left and the religious right often simply representing nothing more than the political left and the political right with collars.”

I believe Muslims should be engaging well-meaning people on different issues from different backgrounds. While the political right may have taken on an overtly Islamophobic posture, there are conservative religious groups that may be willing to work with us and dialogue on issues of mutual concern. I welcome that 

We need to be a part of constructing the moral center in America instead of waiting for it to happen without our input whether its on domestic or foreign policy. We don’t have to adopt anyone else’s blind spots. We can talk about the child from Guatemala and the child from Gaza. We can talk about the sanctity of the child in the womb, and the sanctity of the child in the cage. We can talk about Gitmo and Abu Ghraib abroad, and our own mass incarceration systems at home. If some Republicans are the only ones willing to speak about the Muslim Uighurs in the name of religious freedom, we can work with them on that.

Not everyone has to work in all of these spaces simultaneously, but we should appreciate those who do so long as they don’t forsake their principles in the process.

On Engaging Government

This is a hard one so I’ll break it down into a few things:

  1. Local, State, Federal

I strongly believe in the idea of most politics being local, and that Muslims need to have a strong presence in city and state government. My invitation to Congress was due to my local work with Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson who has been an incredible ally to our community. I think it gets trickier at the federal level. I’ve personally never been inside the White House under any administration for an Iftar or otherwise, but I don’t fault all who have. I know some who have tried very hard to do right in those tricky spaces. I was invited to the last Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at the State Department and declined. I think this is the trickiest space of them all, and wish those who engage it well. My hope is that anyone who does engage it raise our issues and make it clear to the community that they are doing so. I have never participated in CVE work, nor has Yaqeen ever taken CVE money, and I am opposed to it as a framework due to how it’s used exclusively against the Muslim community.

I differentiate between patriotism and nationalism and believe that our government should be held accountable for its violation of human rights like any other government. And war crimes have spanned administrations of both parties for a very long time.

  1. Foreign Governments

I am particularly skeptical of many Muslim governments considering the role that installed dictators and despots have played in suppressing the Muslim community worldwide. They have been the greatest violators of our rights, and the most shameful purveyors of Islamophobia as evidenced by the support given to China’s genocide of the Uyghurs. I don’t think it’s impossible to work with foreign leaders on specific issues, but that it requires crystal clear clarity from those who do on the issues those governments are criminally implicated. Granting religious legitimacy to tyrants who have themselves harmed or enabled harm towards the global community is incredibly dangerous. And it is important to not become co-opted by the lesser aggressors from the Muslim world. While some foreign leaders do better than others on certain issues, they will consistently disappoint on others. None of them should be able to buy the silence of the American Muslim community.

On Muslim Politicians

No politician, Muslim or otherwise, deserves our uncritical support for their political positions. Every Muslim, politician or otherwise, deserves our dua for their guidance and wellbeing. 

This is a tricky reality to navigate. When they take bold political positions, they should be qualifiedly praised specifically for those actions. When they do things that are problematic, they should be measuredly criticized specifically for those actions. We should want them to do well, and want well for them. As politicians, they naturally make decisions that they have to be accountable to the public for. As brothers and sisters, we should pray for them to make the right decisions and be enabled with and for the truth. As a community, we can’t put it on them to save the Deen. There will be more politicians that will come up in coming years, and our Dawah needs to continue independent of them while reminding them with good manners, supporting them with Dua and Naseeha, and politically engaging them like any other politician.


“Donate your reputation to Allah.” by Imam @OmarSuleiman504 Click To Tweet


I will not engage in mudslinging or callouts personally, even when they’re against me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen something that I could easily respond to with one line. But Allah is sufficient for me, and He is the best disposer of all matters. I would hope people can see through unfair attacks. And even when they can’t, I trust that Allah will make the best of the situation and I’d rather not take the community on a ride. Through one of these particular episodes, my teacher and friend told me, “Donate your reputation to Allah.” That stuck with me. If I’m doing what I’m doing for His sake, I shouldn’t be too bothered when other than Him deals with me uncharitably. If I am, I need to work harder on my own intentions.

As for others, I will not use social media to put people on blast. I discuss concepts, not people. Now two fair questions arise from this:

  1.  Can one assume that because I’ve supported people by name in certain contexts, but not criticized them by name, that I support all of their positions? I understand why people could derive that conclusion, and it’s not something I’ve particularly figured out. I don’t think ambiguous cheap shots are the solution either. I personally don’t burn bridges with people in fear of wronging them, and in hopes that I can still advise them. I feel like that’s the best I can do. I hope that people can appreciate that approach not as the only approach, but as an approach.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to employ the language of “what is it with a people that do such and such” (ما بال أقوام يفعلون كذا وكذا ) without actually naming the person in several narrations. This could be seen by some as passive-aggressive, but it’s about clarifying the concept and not focusing on the individual. I typically will try to employ this approach, and will sometimes fall short of it.

  1. Should there not be those who explicitly address wrongdoings, fairly hold leaders accountable, and ask important questions? There absolutely should be, but with good character and fair critique. We can’t adopt the tactics of Islamophobes against our own community. Half-truths, guilt by association, casting aspersions on character, etc. are grievous sins. They also take away from the legitimate critiques. Unfortunately, social media seems so drenched in toxicity that it seems impossible to discuss things with balance. With that being said, we need more forums to have important conversations and I can’t blame people in the meantime for feeling left out of those conversations and confused. As a rule of thumb, try to keep things depersonalized and to the issues. And when you have to say something critical of your brother or sister, try to say something about their good as well. 

What is considered public vs. private

There seems to be this prevailing idea that if it isn’t posted or tweeted, it’s not public. I try to be open in discussion with brothers and sisters when they meet face to face and am much more willing to discuss sensitive issues then. I don’t know of any basis in the Sunnah that would suggest social media is the only way to have a public position. I don’t mind being quoted in what I say in my halaqas or public settings, but simply don’t prefer to engage in certain discussions on social media.

Yaqeen’s direction and funding 

I am not Yaqeen. My political activism is not Yaqeen. I serve as the President of the organization with one vote on the board. I am blessed to work with an incredible team of over 60 people and growing that believe in the mission of the organization to foster a strong viable Islamic identity that preserves the religion in the hearts of our future generations, takes back the narrative from Islamophobes of all sorts, and demonstrates a path forward that doesn’t depart from our divine sources. Some of the writers are my teachers. Others come from entirely different backgrounds. I contribute a tiny fraction of papers myself, but am fulltime in my role as the President of the organization. Yaqeen set out to be as encompassing as possible of Muslim scholars and academics that believe in commitment to the religion, and contributing to the world through it. I believe strongly in institutions that are bigger than personalities, and that is the culture we try to foster from within.

As for our methodology, we have a course and a paper out soon from our scholars which should clarify further what we view as valid means of interpretation, and valid opinions. We try to do extensive peer review and allow opinions to be published within the fold of Islamic acceptability. 

We have extended our hands to Muslim organizations around the country and world to partner in good, and never charge a dime for our content. And for the sake of maintaining independence and integrity, Yaqeen has never taken money from any government entity or foundation that espouses ideas that would delegitimize it. Al hamdulila, all of it is through generous private donors that have found benefit from our content and I’m grateful to each of them for it.


Let me start with the personal. Anyone that serves as an Imam, activist, or representative of the community will be put in awkward situations frequently. Part of growth is learning from those mistakes and being wiser in future situations. I will still inevitably be put in compromising situations and pray that Allah guides me to deal with them with wisdom and rightful guidance. I will continue to listen to people who lovingly point those mistakes out to me in hopes that I do better in the future. May Allah reward them all. And I will take the best of unforgiving critiques and try to still benefit from them. May Allah reward them also if they’re done in sincerity, and forgive them if done for other reasons.

As for the communal, we haven’t figured out a way to host reasonable disagreements that involve various segments of the community. Yaqeen is meant to be a platform to foster some of that within our scopes of research, and some sites like Muslim Matters have also sought to be that when issues of concern arise. Over the past few years, I’ve had the blessing of being a part of an annual retreat that brings together various Islamic scholars of different backgrounds to foster unity amongst ourselves and create space for critical conversation. Sadly there are too many other divisions that exist in the community though to be remedied through that particular space. I think the community has felt locked out of certain discussions, and I can’t blame them for feeling that way. 


Clarity. People like myself who are involved in multiple worlds need to not leave the community out of our thinking and articulate our frameworks better. I own that, as I have made many assumptions about what the community did or didn’t think about my positions.

Spaces. I’ve been blessed to be a part of forming some wonderful onsite spaces and forums where we have had some of these difficult conversations. I want to be a part of forming some of these spaces online with the realistic expectation that they will never equal the blessing of sitting with one another. I hope our community invests in more retreats where scholars of different backgrounds, activists, etc. can come together and discuss tough things, and then produce their findings. 

The Rope of Allah

Allah tells us to hold firm to the rope of Allah. The rope isn’t a political idea or opinion, it’s divine revelation. We are bonded by it and should honor that bond. We can disagree with each other and still love each other. We can debate ideas intelligently without descending into tactics unbefitting of the ummah of the Prophet (saw). We should be just with one another and not use the ways of our enemies against each other. I’m sure not everyone agrees with my framework above, and I may also change some of my opinions as time goes on. I pray that none of it ever swerves from what is established through the divine sources, or into anything divisive, hateful, or unjust.

The Quran speaks of justice, unity, and accountability. Those themes are not contradictory in Allah’s book, nor do they have to be in our lives. The Sunnah manifests that in a way that we can all learn how to conduct ourselves. This doesn’t mean we excuse everything in the name of Adab, it means we use Adab even when holding people accountable.

I end with this: Yunus al-Sadafi reported: I have not seen anyone wiser than Al-Shafi’i, may Allah be pleased with him. I debated him one day over an issue, and then we separated. He later met me and took my hand, then he said, “O Abu Musa, can we not continue to be brothers, even if we disagree on an issue?”

May Allah keep us united upon good, faithful to Him always, carriers of His Prophet’s way, and beneficial to the entirety of humanity. May He forgive us for our shortcomings, guide us to the straight path, and remove from us all that displeases Him in our worship and work.

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ أَنْ أَضِلَّ أَوْ أُضَلَّ أَوْ أَزِلَّ أَوْ أُزَلَّ أَوْ أَظْلِمَ أَوْ أُظْلَمَ أَوْ أَجْهَلَ أَوْ يُجْهَلَ عَلَىَّ

O Allah, I seek refuge with You from going astray or stumbling, from wronging others or being wronged, and from behaving or being treated in an ignorant manner.

Read: Our Brothers Who have Transgressed Against Us | Imam Omar Suleiman

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Prayers Beyond Borders Offers Hope to Separated Families




border wall in tijuana

On the border of San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico, several families live their lives torn apart—they were born on the wrong side of a wall. Now, faith groups are joining together to give them hope through prayer. Since the Mexican-American War in 1848, the boundary that divided the two countries transformed from an imaginary line, to a monument, to a simple barb-wire fence where people on either side could meet, greet, hold hands, or exchange a warm smile, to a heavily monitored steel wall stretching across almost 15 miles between San Diego and Tijuana. 

In recent years, crime, drug trafficking, an influx of undocumented workers, and increasingly white nationalism created stricter immigration policies in the U.S., directly impacting those who live straddling both sides of the border. Included in these are families whose loved ones have been deported – parents, spouses, children, and other relatives – to Mexico, undocumented workers providing for their families, and relatives who have not made physical contact with each other in years, sometimes decades. They gather along the steel mesh barriers of the border wall at Friendship Park to touch each other’s fingertips and pray.

The documentary, “A Prayer Beyond Borders,” produced by CAIR California, MoveOn, and Beyond Borders Studios captured some of these emotive moments during a Sunday prayer service held by the Border Church in partnership with the Border Mosque. Christians and Muslims came together in solidarity at Friendship Park on September 30, 2019, and held a joint bilingual ceremony, led by Reverend John Fanestil, Pastor Guillermo Navarrete, Imam Taha Hassane, and Imam Wesley Lebrón.

Imam Lebrón, National Hispanic Outreach Coordinator for WhyIslam, witnessed the nightmare families separated at the border endure when he was invited to participate in this first meeting of the Border Church and Border Mosque. As a Puerto Rican, U.S. born citizen who never experienced the hardships of immigration, he was moved by what he witnessed. He said, 

“I entered Mexico and reached the border at Friendship Park and immediately noticed families speaking to each other through the tiny spaces of an enormous metal wall. They were not able to touch except for their fingers, which I later learned was the way they kissed each other.”

He described families discussing legal matters and children crying because they could not embrace a parent who traveled for days only to speak to them briefly behind the cold steel mesh partition. 

“Walls are meant to provide refuge and safety from the elements and they are not meant to prevent human beings from having a better life,” he explained, “As I stood behind that wall, I felt hopeless, angry, and had many other mixed emotions for our Mexican brethren who have been completely stripped of the opportunities many of us take for granted.” During the service he addressed the crowd gathered on the Mexican side of Friendship Park and recited the Adhan, the Muslim call to prayer. It was the first time the call was heard in Friendship Park, but not the last. 

The Border Church and Border Mosque will continue to provide a joint service on the last Sunday of every month and are calling for a binational day of prayer on Sunday, October 27th. They will be joined by Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and indigenous spiritual leaders to “Pray Beyond Borders.” The event will be filmed and possibly live-streamed to a global audience with the objective of raising awareness and requesting financial support to address issues related to family separation in the region. 

On October 7th CAIR California with MoveOn, Faith in Action, MPower Change, and a social media team and distribution partners released the film “A Prayer Beyond Borders,” With the digital launch of this film in English and Spanish they wish to reach millions of viewers in telling the story of the Border Church and the Border Mosque and bring more faith leaders and activists on board to protect families’ right to gather. Please join them at Pray Beyond Borders – A Binational Day of Prayer – Sunday, October 27th at Friendship Park. 

when the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles(Psalm 34:17 – NIV).

“And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah ]” (Qur’an 2:45)

Photo by Max Böhme on Unsplash

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#Current Affairs

Zahra Billoo Responds To The Women’s March Inc. Voting Her Off The New Board

Zahra Billoo



Women's March 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.

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