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Texas Falls Victim to Terror

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Syrian boys, whose family fled their home in Idlib, walk to their tent, at a camp for displaced Syrians, in the village of Atmeh, Syria, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012

Syrian boys, whose family fled their home in Idlib, walk to their tent, at a camp for displaced Syrians, in the village of Atmeh, Syria, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012

Terror has taken over Texas.

Not with guns or bombs, but with fear and xenophobia.

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Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, the state in which I live (sometimes to my embarrassment), sent President Obama a letter today informing him that the state of Texas will not accept any Syrian refugees, and he urges the President to stop his plans to accept Syrian refugees in this country.  He is joined in this refusal by the governors of Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Illinois, and Michigan. The number of governors denying refugee settlement is growing (22 by some online reports).

I do not feel safer because Governor Abbott has closed our doors to Syrian refugees.

Rather, I feel vulnerable because this refusal reflects our government’s inability to find a way to keep us safe from terrorists, as the governor himself states.

I am ashamed that the fear engendered by the terror attacks in Paris has defeated us.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said in a statement that he will do “everything humanly possible to stop any plans from the Obama administration to put Syrian refugees in Mississippi.”  That almost sounds like a feeble call to war.

It is rhetoric that appeals to those who feel threatened by the ‘new’ others, who accuse the president of weakness.

I don’t consider these governors to be honorable men. They are cowards who are not inclined to use their intellect or resources to devise a plan for America to be safe and compassionate.  They don’t really care for the hungry and homeless of Syria any more than they care for the children who walk hundreds of miles across deserts alone to breach the Mexican border.

They prefer partisan talk and talk of states’ rights.

Laura Turner writes in the Religion News Service: “Syrian refugees need the aid and shelter of the global community, and Christians should be the first to answer the call for hospitality.” In a Christian-majority country, where is the hospitality of which she speaks?

Perhaps the governors’ refusal reflects their ignorance of current events in Syria, that many are fleeing the Assad regime, which commits atrocities against men, women and children daily. But Assad doesn’t violate buildings in Parisian neighborhoods; the Eiffel Tower cannot be lit with any color representing his victims.

And perhaps Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal chooses to ignore the possibility that his own parents, immigrants from Punjab, might have been refused entry to the United States were an ISIS-type entity operating in India and our elected officials closed our doors.

Adding to the mix are reports that the Syrian passport found at one of the attack sites was fake. A top EU official claims,

“Let me underline—the profile of the terrorists so far identified tells us this is an internal threat. It is all EU citizens so far. This can change with the hours, but so far it is quite clear it is an issue of internal domestic security,” High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini stated, following a gathering of EU foreign ministers.”

Are Americans not strong enough, smart enough, willing enough, to compassionately open our borders to the lost and vulnerable?  Or are we so fearful we hide from the enemy behind metaphorical walls?

The pedestal of the statue of Liberty contains these verses meant to honor all those who flee poverty and oppression:

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Today at Lady Liberty’s feet rest the ghostly voices of drowned children, terrified mothers, fathers begging Christian Europeans for bread, for shelter, for warmth.

Will America allow terror to win?

[Update 11/17/15]: Following these refusals to admit Syrian refugees (now made by over half the nation’s governors), a number of media outlets and refugee services organizations have shared details about the rigorous process for approving refugee status.  Here is one, from CNN. It’s worth noting one commentator’s logical point: that refugees can move into one of the states whose governors have pledged not to admit Syrian refugees.  That is because the approval process is a federal one.

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29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Keith

    November 17, 2015 at 3:02 AM

    One other thing all the terrorists who attacked Paris have in common is that they are all Islamic, there are no Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs or Hindus fighting with the Islamic state, why not?
    Yes there are muslims who are good people who do condemn the violence being carried out by the Islamic State, but I have not heard anyone challenging the theological arguments and verses from the Koran and Hadiths that they use to justify the violence. In fact I have been told by one Muslim that those verses do not exist at all and that I am lying. Why can I read them then?
    Why can’t Muslims debate what is in the Koran and what those verses of violence mean to the rest of the world, including Muslims who want to live in peace, as they are understood by a lot of Muslims. It may only be a minority but when ComRes conducted a poll for the BBC in May this year it showed that 24 percent of the Muslims in the UK believe it is acceptable to use violence against those who, they believe, have insulted YOUR prophet. Very nearly a quarter of all Muslims is not a tiny minority, especially when you consider that in the 1930’s the Nazi party only had 4 percent of the German population of Germany as members and by the start of WWII there were only 7 percent of Germans as members of the party. Think what that 24 percent minority can do to turn the rest of the world against Muslims.
    But all we hear from people like the author of this article is blame everyone else for Islams problems.

    • Avatar

      Ali Davoudi

      November 17, 2015 at 7:09 AM

      The holy Quran is a scripture that can be interpreted in a number of ways. Your claim that Muslims don’t refute the ISIS interpretation is a faulty one. Look for example at the “open letter to al Baghdadi”, a letter in which a number of prominent muslims, denounce the Islamic State and it’s self proclaimed leader.

      I think that every non-believer who is scared of Islam or Muslims should try to understand one simple thing:
      When the human mind creates an idea and chooses something to justify it with, that’s where the problem starts. One must indeed fear the individual who plans to do something terrible in the name of something or someone.
      To say that Islam has nothing to do with ISIS is wrong in my opinion. But, the thing is, ISIS or any group for that matter, could have chosen any number of religions or causes to justify their acts of war against innocents. The fact that they use Islam is what makes it so sad for the majority of Muslims.

      One more thing though.
      If it’s true what the media portrays about Islam and it’s followers. That Islam is a hateful religion, having the sole purpose of eradicating every non-muslim. That every muslim is secretly planning to kill non-believers and overthrow their governments.

      There are over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and this number is growing every day.
      If a small group like ISIS is capable of so much death and chaos, what if all Muslims joined this cause? Wouldn’t it be just a matter of time before we took over the world?
      Or even if we didn’t take over.
      Wouldn’t there be more attacks in western countries? Kidnappings? Beheadings?

      The fact that this isn’t the case, shows that it’s a very small percentage of people who believe in violence against non-believers AND act upon it.

      • Avatar

        Truth

        November 19, 2015 at 2:26 AM

        Yes Ali Davoudi I agree. Muslims do dispute ISIS. However there is obviously a crisis of authority in Islam. Who is right and who is wrong? Islam cannot agree itself about itself. The clear solution is to simply Purge Quran and hadith of all violent verses
        Ali DavoudinI I disagree that any group or religion can justify their actions like ISIS. Take Buddhism and Christianity for example. Yes atrocities have occurred in Buddhist and Christian countries but they are much harder to justify by using their foundational scriptures. Take the New Testament for example. I challenge you or or any one to find even one directive to violence. You will Not find one. Nil. Zero. Contrast this with the Quran and hadith and you will find hundreds.
        You Say There are over 1.5 billion Muslims and If a small group like ISIS is capable of so much death and chaos, what if all Muslims joined this cause? Wouldn’t it be just a matter of time before we took over the world? There can be any number of reasons for this … I think you would agree however even if Muslims do not pick up bombs or guns many support arrogant notions of Islam just in their thinking. Look at the Turkish soccer crowd that booed during the one minute silence for the Paris victims. There is much in Muslim thinking and attitude that is antagonistic to the non Muslim world and the West in particular.
        Further more many Muslims are only Muslim in name. Many don’t even know the Quran and many who do are sane enough to not follow it.

    • Avatar

      Mustafa

      November 17, 2015 at 11:03 AM

      We don’t blame everyone else for Islams problems(it doesn’t have any) but we do blame you for your problems. Stop Western terrorism and imperialism in Muslim lands. It is regrettable that some extremist Muslims have decided to follow the terrorist ways of the West and assault innocent people and they are a group we are doing everything we can to eradicate.

      Hence, the majority of people fighting DAESH are themselves Muslims in Iraq and Syrian and Kurd lands.

      • Avatar

        Truth

        November 22, 2015 at 4:07 AM

        To Mustafa
        What garbage. Islam is pulling itself apart and you say islam dosnt have problems. Read the news. And cut your victim blame game of “western imperialism and terrorism”. It’s the same old Muslim blame game rather than facing up to its own failings. No doubt you think the US shouldn’t have gone into Afghanistan to defend itself.
        The West is far more open and honest about its mistakes than any Muslim nation. Look at the Muslim Turkish genocide of more than 1 Million non Muslim Armenians during WW1. And Turkey still refuses to admit it even happened let alone apologise.

    • Avatar

      Ruth Nasrullah

      November 20, 2015 at 3:58 PM

      Thanks for the comment, Keith. There are numerous articles on this site regarding the issue of Islam and violence.

  2. Avatar

    Asim

    November 17, 2015 at 10:53 AM

    Keith

    ” I have not heard anyone challenging the theological arguments and verses from the Koran and Hadiths that they use to justify the violence. ”

    All you have to do is a simple search to find many refutations of ISIS on religious grounds by many leading scholars.

    Please do a google search on refutations of ISIS by Yasir Qadhi, Waleed Basyouni, and Hamza Yusuf.

    You will find what you need.

    • Avatar

      Asim

      November 17, 2015 at 10:55 AM

      FYI…I tried to post direct links to some of these talks, but MM filters were not allowing me to post it.

    • Avatar

      Sean

      November 20, 2015 at 2:30 AM

      Yasir Qadhi is on record as saying that the lives and property of the mushrikoon are legally his in a state of jihad. Whether he disagrees with ISIS on the fine points of jihadist practice hardly matters to me. I regard anyone who says what he did as my sworn enemy.

      And how many Muslims agree with him? I no longer talk to any Muslim who is not willing to disavow the Koranic dictates towards non-Muslims. I am not going to pretend to have a civil discussion with someone who would dominate, enslave or kill me if only the circumstances were right.

      The reason there are not more beheadings and attacks in Western nations today is because we spend untold billions in exposing and foiling terrorist and extremist plots with a very sophisticated system of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. What we hear about is the tip of the iceberg. The money and effort we spend on Islamic terror detection is taken from the mouths of needy and vulnerable Americans.

  3. Avatar

    Aafia

    November 17, 2015 at 11:55 AM

    It is saddening that People blame our scripture out of ignorance.I eally pray to Allah to give hidaya to People who think that Quran contains ayah of violence.Quran strictly warns against making corruption on land.http://islamhashtag.com/why-islamic-terrorism-is-not-islamic-at-all/.You may find some verses which looks as if it is calling for violence but when you studt the context in which the verses were revealed you won’t feel the same.Sadly People pick up ayahs or part of ayahs to prove Islam as a violent religion but in reality Islam is nothing but Peace.

    • Avatar

      Truth

      November 19, 2015 at 2:29 AM

      Aafia
      you can talk about context all you like but the fact is the Quran and hadith are full of orders to violence. Also remember Mohamad was a War Lord. So to say that Islam is a religion op peace is historically and theologically wrong.
      Until the Quran and hadith are purged of all violent verses then Islam will continue to be inherently dangerous and violent.

  4. Avatar

    Wael Abdelgawad

    November 17, 2015 at 4:22 PM

    These sorts of refugees have always been on of the pillars of American strength. Many are highly qualified, and all are willing to work hard. People like this tend to appreciate American freedoms and democracy all the more because of the anarchy and dictatorship they fled. One famous descendant of a Syrian immigrant was Steve Jobs, who created one of the most dynamic and inventive companies in America.

    Will there be violent individuals among these refugees? No doubt, yes, just as there are violent individuals already here in our nation, including white supremacists and other home-grown whackjobs. But that’s not a reason to deny the need of innocent suffering people.

    • Avatar

      Truth

      November 19, 2015 at 2:28 AM

      Yes Wael Abdelgawad
      America is a country founded by immigrants. However im not aware of any time in US history where it has taken in a group conditioned in distrust or out rightly antagonistic to it like Muslims generally are. Muslims need to be honest and admit that Islam has a natural distrust to the non Islamic world. This began with Mohamad and the early Caliphs invasions of Roman Southern Europe and the Persian Empire.

      • Avatar

        Ruth Nasrullah

        November 20, 2015 at 4:08 PM

        Hello Truth. Throughout American history, Native Americans, black slaves and their descendants have been, and to some extent continue to be, the most distrustful and/or antagonistic groups within this country. Something to think about.

    • Avatar

      Faisal

      November 19, 2015 at 4:44 PM

      Why do you make such a strong assumption that there will be violent individuals among Syrian refugees?

    • Avatar

      Truth

      November 22, 2015 at 4:09 AM

      Hi Ruth
      regarding US distrust of Native Americans and black slaves. None of the above had the same organised fascist theology or philosophically that currently permeates Islam. As I said the Muslim natural distrust of the non Islamic world goes as far back as Mohamad and the early Caliphs invasions of Roman Southern Europe and the Persian Empire. My point about Sheikh Muhammad Ayed speech being a further case in point.

  5. Avatar

    Mohammed Khan

    November 18, 2015 at 1:03 AM

    An article posted just couple of days before on Muslim Matters explains what Islam truly calls for and why ISIS is not representative of Islam.
    http://muslimmatters.org/2015/11/15/isis-and-its-faulty-logic/

  6. Avatar

    Ruth Nasrullah

    November 18, 2015 at 12:46 PM

    The Washington Post wrote a well-reported article revealing that the terrorists’ ability to travel easily from Syria through Europe was created in part by poor border control of European countries. By contrast, the US does extensive vetting of applicants for refugee status, which includes investigation by DHS and FBI.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/the-mystery-surrounding-the-paris-bomber-with-a-fake-syrian-passport/2015/11/17/88adf3f4-8d53-11e5-934c-a369c80822c2_story.html?tid=pm_world_pop_b

    • Avatar

      Truth

      November 19, 2015 at 2:31 AM

      Ruth what you are over looking is that the majority of terrorist acts in Europe have been perpetrated by home grown second generation Muslim kids.

      • Avatar

        Ruth Nasrullah

        November 20, 2015 at 4:09 PM

        That has no bearing on the issue of Syrian refugees coming to the US.

    • Avatar

      Truth

      November 22, 2015 at 4:19 AM

      Hello Ruth
      I believe it does have bearing on Syrian refugees coming to the US if a similar a situation develops in the US as exists in Europe where second generation Muslim members of the country become philosophically opposed to their own country.

  7. Avatar

    Truth

    November 19, 2015 at 2:18 AM

    America is a country founded by immigrants. However im not aware of any time in US history where it has taken in a group conditioned in distrust or out rightly antagonistic to it like Muslims generally are. Muslims need to be honest and admit that Islam has a natural distrust to the non Islamic world. This began with Mohamad and the early Caliphs invasions of Roman Southern Europe and the Persian Empire.
    Ruth. You write “Rather, I feel vulnerable because this refusal reflects our government’s inability to find a way to keep us safe from terrorists…”But that’s just what the Governor is doing Ruth. Keeping his people safe by curbing Muslim immigration.
    You quote Laura Turner “In a Christian-majority country, where is the hospitality of which she speaks?” What you need to understand is that the Bible makes it clear the responsibility of the State is to wield the sword. That means it has the states responsibility to protect its people. Any Christian charity that is expressed is the responsibility of individual Christians – not the state.
    And in terms of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal perhaps you chooses to ignore the fact that the Punjab is predominantly Sihk. Without the same inherent violence found in the Quran and Hadith.

    • Avatar

      Ruth Nasrullah

      November 20, 2015 at 4:17 PM

      Please see my reply above to a similar comment you made regarding groups who distrust America.

      To say that the US is vulnerable to terrorist infiltration is a form of surrender. If we are courageous enough and smart enough to improve our vetting system, let’s hurry up and do it. If not, we are sending a message to our enemies that we’re just not capable of keeping them out.

      Today Indiana Gov. Pence “turned away” a Syrian refugee family slated for assignment in his state. As I have mentioned on social media, the irony lies in the fact that his state has some of the highest murder rates in the country. I’d rather have a refugee family in my own home than set foot in Gary.

      As for my reference to Gov. Jindal, the point is that in the scenario I mentioned his family would have been innocent victims of the evil of others.

      • Avatar

        Faisal

        November 20, 2015 at 10:32 PM

        The bottom line is that America should be taking in the highest number of Syrian refugees and doing much more to rid the region of ISIS. America is guilty of creating this whole mess and it’s time to step up and show the world some humanity for a change. Until then, America remains the biggest terrorist threat to the world.

      • Avatar

        Truth

        November 22, 2015 at 4:24 AM

        To say the US is vulnerable to terrorist infiltration is not surrender. It is a reality. But yes I agree. Lets improve the vetting system. Or perhaps[s another alternative would be for the US to preasure the wealthy Gulf countries to take refugees. They appear to have done very little for their bretheren. Or perhaps the US should help fund the camps in Turkey or Jordan In terms of the murder rate in Gary I believe you are unnecessarily complicating the issue and in terms of Gov Jindal your analogy was hypothetical and as such appears to have little practical application to this situation.
        As I said im not aware of any time in US history where it has taken in a group conditioned in distrust or out rightly antagonistic to it like Muslims generally are. Islam has a natural distrust to the non Islamic world. This began with Mohamad and the early Caliphs invasions of Roman Southern Europe and the Persian Empire.
        In regards to US distrust of Native Americans and black slaves none of the above had the same organised fascist theology or philosophically that currently permeates Islam.
        Look at the speech Sheikh Muhammad Ayed gave at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem where he encouraged Muslim refugees going to go Europe and breed as some kind of Islamist expansionist plan. You can Google it if you wish. I believe this kind of Islamist fascist thinking is more common than most Muslims would admit.

    • Avatar

      Truth

      November 22, 2015 at 4:28 AM

      Faisal
      The US did not create ISIS Faisal. It had some influence but the main reason for the ISIS problem lies with the failed “Arab Spring”, the Sunni Shiite divide and the inherent violence found in the Quran and hadith.
      If any thing the US needs preasure the wealthy Gulf countries to take refugees. They appear to have done very little for their brethren. Why is that ?

  8. Avatar

    Faisal

    November 19, 2015 at 3:25 PM

    Salaam sister,

    The real terrorists are ignorant fools like your governer and the like in the US who have no humanity. They don’t care about the Syrian refugees, the women and children who have seen and felt so much pain and suffering. Syria is in a state of civil war because of the abhorrent foreign policy of the US. How can you feel proud of such an ugly monster!?

    • Avatar

      Truth

      November 22, 2015 at 4:03 AM

      More of the Muslim blame game. Playing the victim card and not facing up to its own failings.

  9. Avatar

    Chantelle

    November 19, 2015 at 11:35 PM

    ISLAMIC STATE’s attacks are attacks on Muslims, too
    1. So-called “ISLAMIC STATE” did this! NOT the “Muslims.”
    France’s Muslim population between 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 (May census) are targeted right along with other French citizens.
    So-called “ISLAMIC STATE” operatives and “involved network” individuals total around fifteen hundred, who may have shown desire to leave for “controlled zones” of “ISLAMIC STATE JIHADIS”. 460 reached the region, but 210 came back (most likely disillusioned).
    2. So-called “ISLAMIC STATE” attacks everyone, everywhere – including Muslims.
    Muslims were not spared in cosmopolitan and integrated places under attack. So-called “ISLAMIC STATE” terrorists could care less they were injuring and killing Muslims right along with everyone else.
    3. France’s Muslims immediately spoke up against these (and other) attacks by “ISLAMIC STATE” terrorists.
    Charlie Hebdo and HyperCacher grocery store attacks in January were clearly the work of antagonists and instigators were actually in direct opposition to Quran and Islamic teachings.
    4. French Muslims Also Worry About Violence & Attacks.
    Muslims worry about threats, attacks and violence against Muslim in coming days. Mosques and Muslim school children under attacks already and increasing even before Paris attacks.
    In France this year, anyone who even looked like Northern African (all of Northern Africa are Muslims) have been slandered and even physically attacked.
    5. Refugees did NOT cause the problem – They were the TARGET too!
    Refugees have already risked everything, even death while escaping terrorism in their home land.
    Refugees are running from violence and fear of so-called “ISLAMIC STATE” (IS)! They fear the very source of the terrorism that we all fear.
    The possibility that one out of thousands running to safe countries might be a terrorist posing as a refugee – only adds to the serious threat these poor people experience in very strict investigations for identification by immigration authorities.
    6. REAL MUSLIMS Joined Others to Give Security and Shelter for Everyone
    Many Parisians including Muslims, used hashtag ‪#‎porteouverte‬ offering shelter and protection for anyone stranded on city streets, afraid or uncertain how to return safely.
    French civic spirit was demonstrated within Muslim hearts as well as Christians, Jews and other faiths.
    France approaches regional elections next month (December). Question: “Will French leaders echo this spirit of openness to all French population, including Muslims?”
    Or will they echo the likes of racism and prejudice, using so-called “ISLAMIC STATE” rhetoric and propaganda to promote further division, while offering justification for more violence to already unstable “Jihadist” mentality?
    What if we all take a break here, look into what REAL ISLAM is teaching, not media hype over so-called “ISLAMIC STATE” or “ISIS”? – Yusuf Estes
    More? http://www.ShareIslam.com (look for About Jihad)

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#Society

Beyond 2020: Grounding Our Politics in Community

Kyle Ismail, Guest Contributor

Published

As tense and agonizing as these unending election days have been, it pales in comparison to the last four years.  I plainly remember how it all began on the night of November 07, 2016. I watched as the political map of the US became increasingly red late into the night. All the social media banter, conspiracy theories and left-wing critiques of candidate Hillary Clinton, formed an amorphous blob of white noise as I heard Trump announced as the next president. Now that Trump has run for re-election, half the country was hoping for a repudiation but will have to settle for the fact that despite a small margin, Donald J. Trump will not have a second chance to erode our democratic institutions and divide us. But we can’t move forward until each of us acknowledges our own pathological role in what we’ve become as a deeply divided country. 

We need to grapple with how we can gradually improve the circus-like reality that has become our ordinary, daily politics. We’ll relive more and perhaps improved “Trumps” if we don’t accept our own responsibility in creating a divided America. This starts with being better members of local communities. Here are a few of Trump-induced realizations that I’ve come to accept:

  1. Caring about our immediate neighbors and listening to their challenges and concerns is the part of political engagement that we all have to embrace above and beyond actually voting if we hope to be more than a 50/50 nation.
  2. Social media and its profit-driven algorithms are actually eroding how we see each other but could also be altered to help better educate us about our local social/political landscape.
  3. Local Politics has direct impact on our lives and is also at the heart our religious obligations to our neighbors. It also sets the tone for where the federal level derives policies that prove to be best practices (some examples are included below).
  4. Agitation and protest are not the same as being politically organized on a local level. Protest is sometimes needed, but it will never replace consistent and patient work. We learned this lesson with the Arab Spring as that movement failed to transform into a movement that was able to govern effectively. And the same appears to be true about the Black Lives Matter movement.

The voting is over for now. But voting is really the smallest part of being committed to bettering our communities. It was Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) who gave the most specific definition of community/neighbor and encouraged his followers to guard the rights of the neighbor:

“Your neighbor is 40 houses ahead of you and 40 houses at your back, 40 houses to your left and 40 houses to your right” Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

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

Why does this relate to being politically organized?? The need for political organizing comes when any group of people want to create change in accordance with their values. We’ve all watched protest after protest that change little to nothing at the neighborhood level. This will continue to happen without organization, which span school boards, block clubs, nonprofits, and religious community outreach.  How can Muslims enjoin right and discourage wrong in any meaningful way? It comes through having authentic relationships with neighbors and turning that into organized and engaged communities.

Rosa Parks

Nothing illuminates the value of such relationships better than the story of Rosa Parks in her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. People often think that she was the first brave soul to defy the custom of allowing whites to sit before African-Americans could be seated on her city’s buses. Nothing could be further from the truth. The difference was that her sets of relationships were so interwoven into her local community that it forced a massive response. Park’s connections spanned socioeconomic circles as she had close friendships from professors to field hands. She held memberships in a dozen local organizations including her church and the local NAACP. She was a volunteer seamstress in poor communities and provided the same for profit in wealthy white circles. When someone with her relational positioning was able to leverage the political organizing ability of MLK and Dr. Ralph Abernathy, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was sparked.

When something happens to Muslims, who can we mobilize to respond? Who becomes angry? Who do we work with in our communities to create policies that reflect our values And what are our internal barriers to such cooperation?

“Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart—and that is the weakest of faith.” Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

Our Predecessors Organized Locally

At some point in time voting became the sum total of political engagement in the minds of many and is now deemed by some as worthless. We quickly forget that the organizations that battled for voting rights were first locally organized to improve communities. SNCC, SNCC, CORE, NAACP, and the Urban League all formed to create change in various ways and the fight for voting rights was a component of these local agendas. So when we’re tempted to believe that voting doesn’t matter, it’s likely due to our lack of engagement in local issues that form the contours of our community life. If you’ve ever heard of Ella Baker or Fannie Lou Hamer (worth researching!), you probably never bought into this type of logic.

One of the many lessons we can pull from this rich history is that we cannot pursue policies, seek alliances, or negotiate a position with political parties (see Ice Cube’s debacle in negotiating with Trump) without first being organized from within. No set of friendships or outside philanthropic support can supplant the need for internal organization. This lack of organized political engagement has weakened Muslims in general but has fatally weakened African-American Muslims as voices within the larger Black community – a voice that gave Islam its first fully accepted and influential place in American society.

Immigrant-based Muslim communities could also benefit from a local approach because despite being several generations in America, their American bonafides are still not set in stone. Concerns about Islamophobia will not change outside of developing authentic relationships with non-Muslims.

This also pushes back against a culture shaped disproportionately by social media algorithms that promote isolation and division for the sake of profit. Our attention to the national news cycle also takes our attention away from local communities where our power is formed. In this type of political malaise, re-engagement in local politics and community relationships can bring us back to important principles that resonate with the values of Islam.

Local politics help shape federal policy

The final word on any law or policy rests with the federal government, but much of what becomes orthodoxy begins with a few concerned citizens in local communities. As with community policing, criminal justice reform, climate sustainability, or any issues that has not caught on, the federal government will often step back to see how a new law plays out at state and local levels. Illinois didn’t wait for Obamacare but has a well-established program to ensure that anyone 18 and younger in Illinois has health insurance through a program called All Kids . Colorado has, in the midst of protests against police brutality, altered their law of Qualified Immunity to make police more accountable. And California has advanced the conversation on reparations  by sanctioning a study to understand how the state could benefit by redressing the descendants of American slavery.

By advancing issues and electing representatives who support the causes we believe in, we insert ourselves into a narrative that would’ve otherwise been forged without us. There’s no shortcut in this process short of rolling up our sleeves to understand our local systems and existing organizations. Moneyed interests are prepare to control the narrative regardless of who the president is and we have to remake this system from the ground up. Our history provides us with a roadmap to do this and it goes far beyond being citizens who only argue over national issues while standing on the sidelines. Remembering our 40 neighbors as advised by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is the best place to start.

Some helpful links:

Local Elections

State Legislatures

School Boards

County Prosecutors

Mayors

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Why Boycotting France is the Wrong Response

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“I don’t think it’s safe to come visit you in France with your Aunt…she wears a hijab, and she will have trouble getting around”, my mother nervously quipped as we discussed travel arrangements for their trip. 

“Of course it’s safe! How could you say that? There are women wearing hijab all over this country!”  I protested, as I tried to assuage her concerns.

I was living as an expat in France when my family was planning their visit to the country last year. I was surprised to hear the reservations from my own folk; it went on to highlight the pre-conceived notions Muslims often have about the French. “They hate Muslims!” “They are racists” “They insult our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)!”. The list goes on.  

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Having spent a considerable amount of time in France, Quebec and Suisse-Romande, I’ve developed an affinity towards the French culture, language and people. I’ve never felt marginalized in these lands because of my dark skin, my Muslim faith, or my never-ending struggle with French conjugation. Yes, I am privileged in many ways, but that doesn’t negate the validity of my experiences. 

I was thus naturally taken aback by the recent calls to boycott France in light of the opportunistic and contemptable actions of Emmanuel Macron. If these boycotts made me uncomfortable, I can imagine how much more offended the average French person would have been. Macron’s decision to first politicize an unspeakable crime, and then to insult our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was a deplorable move. It exposed his true colors and showed us that he is just another disdainful politician who seeks to divide, rather than build bridges. 

As pitiful as Macron’s actions are, is the Muslim response calling for boycotts of France justified? Is it fair to hold all of France guilty for the comments made by its President? Are we not only advancing the ‘Us vs Them’ narrative that extremists on both sides want? No one holds all of America responsible for the ridiculous comments that Trump makes – why a different standard for France? 

Collective guilt is a serious disease that we must overcome. We need to stop holding a people accountable for the actions of a few. We need to stop blaming a people for the actions of their ancestors. French corporations, that employ thousands of Muslims across the world, did not insult the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) – so why take them to task? French Muslims have not called for these boycotts, so why are we advocating for them?  If we collectivize and boycott all of France, how are we any different from those who hold all Muslims responsible for the violence perpetrated by a few? 

We need to abandon the ‘Us vs Them’ mindset; this parochial idea of ‘Islam vs the West’ or ‘Islam vs France’. We need to adopt a post-nationalist worldview where we look at all people as one, as our own. There is no ‘Them’ – it is all ‘Us’. It is ‘Us’ against hatred, bigotry, divisiveness, and racism. It is ‘Us’ against those in power, on both sides, who seek to exploit ‘Us’ for political and personal gain. 

As one people, we should never advocate for boycotts which seek to create divisions and animosity between ‘Us’. Blanket consumer boycotts are short lived and have a minimal impact regardless. What lives long past the boycott are the feelings of resentment, hatred and enmity directed towards an entire nation. Our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is a prophet to all people, to the French people – our people. We must not partake in actions which alienate our kin from being receptive to his message.  

Know that paltry cartoons will not take away from the rank of the Chosen One. One of his miracles in these modern times, is that those wishing to disparage him have been unable to succeed. His enemies have caricaturized him over and over again, but none of their images have stuck around or gained acceptance. Despite all of these attempts, the only descriptor with which he continues to be universally recognized is that of prophethood. You read a headline: ‘Artist makes images of the Prophet’, and you know instantly who ‘the Prophet’ refers to regardless of who you are. Unqualified, the word always brings to mind the thought of one man!   

Even those that don’t believe in him call him ‘the Prophet Muhammad’ – lips refuse to utter his name with anything other than his noble epithet. So, fear not about the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) rank – for the one being praised by angels in the Heavens cannot be belittled by lowly men here on Earth. 

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OpED: Sri Preston Kulkarni’s War on Facts

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“Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.” — Dorothy Allison (American Writer)

By Ghazala Salam, Founder & President, Muslim Caucus

Elections are a time when stretching the truth is the norm rather than the exception, and “fact checking” an imperative for anyone who wants to make an informed decision about their vote. However, nowhere has the narrative collided as head on with the truth as in the campaign of Sri Preston Kulkarni, Democratic candidate for the Texas Congressional District #22. Such is the brazenness of Kulkarni’s lies that multiple groups that have vowed to vote President Trump out of office believe it is in the best interest of the district and the country if Kulkarni loses his second bid for a place in the US House of Representatives, his purported commitment to the Democratic platform notwithstanding.

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Many are understandably curious about the reason for so many Democrats turning against a candidate from the party they normally support. To be clear, it is not so much Kulkarni’s campaign narrative, as the conflict between that narrative and the truth. To many voters of District 22, Kulkarni’s campaign ostensibly stands for human rights and religious freedom, and against fascism and nationalism. Unfortunately, and as multiple exposes that are now going viral have demonstrated, Kulkarni’s association with fascist and nationalist elements both in India and the US run deep, and indeed are the key drivers of his candidacy.

Kulkarni is no ordinary immigrant success story, having come from a family with deep connections to India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS is one of the world’s largest militia, and the ideological fountainhead of Hindutva, a fascist and supremacist ideology that seeks to turn India into a Hindu state, where Christians, Muslims and other religious minorities are relegated to the status of second-class citizens with few rights. In the last two decades, front organizations of the RSS in America have fielded multiple candidates for political office, some of whom have gone on to make significant contributions to advancing Hindutva’s agenda in Washington, DC. It is no surprise therefore, that the RSS’s American affiliate, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), are among the primary backers of Kulkarni’s candidacy. The irony of a man who claims to stand against racism, fascism and nationalism, being backed by the same forces that assassinated Mahatma Gandhi is something Kulkarni would prefer voters don’t pay attention to.

However, the connection with RSS is based on more than just mutual benefit. Kulkarni is the nephew of the late Pramod Mahajan, a highly influential Indian politician and minister, who was an RSS veteran and the BJP’s chief strategist. He held several important cabinet positions including Defense, and until his murder in 2006 by another uncle of Sri Kulkarni, Mahajan was considered the “heir apparent” to the Hindu nationalist Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee. Mahajan was among the key organizers of L. K. Advani’s Rath Yatra, a campaign that finally led to the criminal demolition of the Babri Mosque and the subsequent killing of over 3,000 people in sectarian violence across India.

What is striking about Kulkarni’s candidacy is not just these RSS connections that are now falling out of the proverbial closet, but Kulkarni’s silly attempt at feigning ignorance about the RSS, claiming he did not know it was an organization until two years ago. This is rich, coming from a man who claims to have been a career diplomat, and whose next posting before he quit the Foreign Service was going to be in New Delhi. Kulkarni has gone on record to say that Ramesh Bhutada, the Vice-President of HSS, was “like a father,” to him, and his son Rishi Bhutada was among those without whose support the campaign itself might not have been possible.

Another relative of Sri Kulkarni is the well-known Indian politician Gopinath Munde, who married Mahajan’s sister. Munde was a member of Modi’s cabinet before his death in a road accident, and was once in charge of the RSS branches in the city of Pune. Kulkarni’s cousin Poonam Mahajan, currently a member of the Indian Parliament, was once the national President of the BJP “Youth Wing” and the Secretary of the BJP in 2013.

Much to Kulkarni’s discomfiture, his fascist friends are actually flaunting their connection to him, starting with BJP ideologue Subramanian Swamy, hailing Kulkarni’s candidacy as “Hindutva’s hope in Houston.” Yet, Kulkarni wants voters to believe him when he claims ignorance about the RSS.

The struggle with facts continues, with Kulkarni claiming without proof, a lineage from the famed General Sam Houston. Short on facts are also Kulkarni’s claims of expertise on issues of national security, as he has provided almost no details of his tenure in the Foreign Service. Kulkarni’s complete refusal to acknowledge his campaign’s connections to RSS should also be seen in light of the fact that the RSS’s nationalist and Islamophobic agenda finds a natural ally in the Republican Party, particularly in Donald Trump. It is no surprise therefore, that Prime Minister Modi was welcomed in Houston by President Trump and prominent Republicans at a massive “Howdy Modi” rally in September 2019. The same Rishi Bhutada who helped Kulkarni launch his campaign was one of the main organizers and spokesperson for the event. Not to be outdone, Prime Minister Modi broke protocol in giving President Trump a rousing endorsement for reelection during the latter’s visit to India.

None of these would have been uncomfortable truths for Kulkarni, had he been running as a Republican. However, Kulkarni’s candidacy as a Democrat flies in the face of facts, and the support he is getting from many of the district’s Democrat voters is more the result of revulsion against President Trump than a proper vetting of Kulkarni’s politics.

If Kulkarni makes it to Capitol Hill, expect stonewalling on issues of human rights and religious freedom by right wing forces around the world. With Kulkarni as their representative, South Asian voters can forget about any accountability for India, for its egregious violations of human rights and religious freedom. In a “letter to the Muslim community,” apparently conscious of the growing disquiet about his candidacy among Muslims, liberals and progressives, Kulkarni brags about having taken a stand on the “violence in Delhi” and the “situation in Kashmir,” as evidence of his commitment to human rights and religious freedom. In truth, both statements by Kulkarni are ritualistic expressions of standing for peace and human rights, while failing to call out the role of ideologically driven violence against religious minorities. The perpetrators of such violence are widely known to be proponents of the same ideology whose affiliates in the US are among his donors. Such statements are actually a disservice to the victims of sectarian violence for they seek to obfuscate the role of Hindu nationalism in driving such persecution.

Kulkarni’s has apparently promised to take a public position against the use of India’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to strip citizenship away from India’s Muslim citizens. Absent from Kulkarni’s narrative is any mention of how the CAA and NRC are discriminatory in their essence against people of the Muslim faith, and a clear violation of India’s secular Constitution. Clearly Kulkarni is not on the same page as respected human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. How Kulkarni is expected to be vocal about civil rights in the US, while actively shielding those who are eroding these very rights abroad defies explanation.

Similarly, Kulkarni has issued a statement on the “situation” in Kashmir that does nothing to shine the light on the historic betrayal of the Kashmiri people represented by the revocation of Article 370, and the enormous human suffering caused by the Government of India’s tyrannical curfew and lockdown, imposed long before Covid-19. In this regard, Kulkarni apparently does not want to displease his RSS supporters by condemning the unprecedented human rights catastrophe in Kashmir, something many prominent Democrats have done, in the form of statements and House resolutions. For Kulkarni to call out the role of the India’s Hindu nationalist government in causing such suffering on Kashmir’s civilian population is unthinkable. In fact, Kulkarni is loath to even call out the Indian military’s tyranny in Kashmir, and instead prefers to advise the Indian government “behind closed doors,” through the “ladder of diplomacy.”

The truth about Sri Kulkarni’s campaign is closely tied to the money trail. Kulkarni has accepted in excess of $80,000 from just 10 families linked to RSS affiliates in the United States. Despite repeated demands by voters in his district to return such tainted donations, Kulkarni has instead doubled down, attacking those raising concerns as “nefarious actors,” while claiming he was unaware of the RSS as an organization.

It is possible that Kulkarni is genuine in his advocacy for the environment and his concern about gun violence. However, his janus-faced campaign is being weighed down by its own internal contradictions and his refusal to come clean on important facts that affect his prospective constituents. Among all the lies of the 2020 elections, Kulkarni’s claim that he is against fascism and nationalism must rank among the most brazen.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.

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