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Reporting From the Texas Democratic Convention

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June 17, 2016: Pigs and guns

My husband and I took a stroll through the convention’s Expo Hall, populated by a mix of organizations and causes, from candidates for office to women selling handmade jewelry. (I didn’t stop at the “Bernie For President” table; more about Bernie supporters in a post to follow.)

We were surprised to come upon a table sponsored by the Texas State Rifle Association. An organization that advocates gun use seemed at odds with traditional Democratic views.  My husband immediately asked the Association rep about the dangers of the AR-15 rifle, used in many recent mass shootings and commonly referred to as an assault weapon. The gentleman manning the booth explained that it is incorrect to call the AR-15 an assault rifle because it is semi-automatic, as opposed to a machine gun, which is an automatic that shoots continuously until the trigger is released.  He compared the choice of an AR-15 over other types of rifles to purchasing a Mercedes over a lower-end car.

Gun control advocates often question the need for individuals to own AR-15 rifles, and we asked the Texas Rifle Association rep about that issue. He told us there is a big problem in Texas with feral pigs who decimate crops throughout the state and occasionally eat farm animals. The AR-15, he told me, is an excellent tool for killing feral pigs.

As I walked away from the booth I struggled to clear that scene from my imagination – a barrage of bullets from an AR-15 decimating a litter of pigs snuffling through the grasses in the Texas Piney Woods, hunters hollering with victory as blood spreads across the ground.  I tried not to think of the children in their classrooms at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn., or the Christmas party guests in San Bernardino, Calif., or the moviegoers in Aurora, Colo.  They were all killed by the gun which is not, according to the Texas State Rifle Association , an assault weapon.

Friendly to Muslims and LGBT alliance

There is a good Muslim presence at the convention, which doesn’t surprise me, based on my experience with the Democratic party.

I wasn’t politically active before moving to Houston in 2004, when I married my husband, who has been involved with Democratic politics since Jimmy Carter’s campaign. I attended a meeting of his local Democratic club and immediately was impressed with their sense of inclusiveness – real inclusiveness, not lip service and not fleeting courtesy. I spoke with another reporter who remarked to me that he got that sense from other Democrats at the convention. A Democratic meeting is like a refreshing oasis.

Friday afternoon I attended a meeting of the Muslim Democratic Caucus of Texas, a group focused on increasing the Muslim voice in politics. Sarwat Husain, board member (and executive director of the San Antonio CAIR chapter), was one of the first speakers. “The Democratic party is a very welcoming party,”  she said. “Each one of us has a responsibility to get more Muslim votes. Run for something; we have to fill up the party with our faces.”

I heard in the meeting – and have heard over and over in different settings – reference to the newly strengthened alliance between the gay community and the Muslim community, forged immediately after the Orlando shootings.

It is based partly on a shared sense of marginalization and perhaps victimization, and partly a reflexive defense to the assertion that the Orlando killer was Muslim.

Daniel Haqiqatjou recently wrote about this on MuslimMatters, noting that this developing friendship is more complex than it seems on face value.

In the setting of a political convention, this LGBT-Muslim alliance adds to the sense of enthusiastic shared purpose that goes with the event’s goal of coalescing party members as the general election approaches. In Texas it’s particularly refreshing because the state has a steady Islamophobic trend as well as anti-gay incidents.

Time will tell where this alliance takes the Muslim community.

June 16, 2016: Why I’m at the convention

I’m in San Antonio, Texas, for the Texas Democratic Convention which will last from Thursday evening through Saturday afternoon. I’m attending as a delegate for Hillary Clinton. I will be blogging about my experiences at the convention over the next few days.

I support Hillary for three reasons. Her candidacy brings the possibility that the United States will finally have a woman as president. She is more electable than Bernie Sanders.  And above all, I feel compelled to do whatever I can to keep Donald Trump away from the oval office.

Yesterday evening I gave a group of teenage girls a short talk about activism. When Trump’s so-called Muslim ban came up, I asked the girls which of them had relatives overseas. About half of them raised their hands. The tragedy of Trumpism is that something as benign as a grandmother’s visit could fall prey to the illogical demagoguery of Trump and his minions’ blind support.

I became politically aware toward the end of Nixon’s presidency, so cynicism colored my view. For these girls, politics is personal; they face the serious suggestion that they and their families have less value than non-Muslims.

Trump and other “outsiders,” including former presidential candidate Ted Cruz, the US senator from my state of Texas, talk about rejecting political correctness and jettisoning “politics as usual.”

What some call politics as usual is actually democracy as usual. Our press gets to cover what goes on in our country, including presidential elections. Our laws prohibit religious discrimination. Political parties get to choose their nominees and their platform, and that is why I’m going to San Antonio. This year, being part of the democratic process is my stand against Trump and every fascist and bigoted and untrue thing he says. This year’s presidential election is a fight for survival.

It takes a thick skin to walk out your door wearing a hijab or kufi in today’s social climate. When I started blogging for the Houston Chronicle I was treated almost daily to comments that expressed hatred of my religion, my opinions, and even my face (a reader once said I should wear a niqab because I looked like a dog). I permitted many of the ugly comments; once in a while I threw a hissy fit but I tried to persevere because I was serving a mission: to share the experiences of an American Muslim in the hope that readers would become more familiar with Islam. I hoped to provide the one opportunity known to combat anti-Muslim bigotry: getting to know a Muslim.

It takes courage to stand for your beliefs. Trump is a coward who by his statements and actions, now and in the past, appears to be motivated only by relentless self-interest. In the end those who are guided by a belief in something greater than themselves, who are humble and compassionate, will win.

That is the kind of people I expect to meet at the convention. Stay tuned.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Avatar

    The sceptic B

    June 17, 2016 at 6:58 PM

    Assalamualaikum Ruth. Nice article but couple of questions :)
    Can Clinton be trusted as president given her track record of dishonesty? As the wife of Bill Clinton, who imprisoned millions in the US, bombed the Sudanese medicine factory and increased sanctions on Iraq, punishing the people for their oppresor – should this dynasty be revived? Most important to the Muslim community is our duty to stand for Palestine which I doubt Clinton will. Thanks

  2. Avatar

    Ruth Nasrullah

    June 17, 2016 at 10:35 PM

    Walaikum salaam and thank you.

    I doubt there will ever be an American president who is as just and principled as a leader of that stature should be. That’s just reality, unfortunately, and if there were such a candidate he or she would probably be unelectable. Certainly a candidate who didn’t unequivocally support Israel would never be elected. The choice to American voters this year (and probably every year) is to choose the lesser of two evils. Trump simply cannot become president. He has already proven dangerous not just to America but to the world, given his talk of leaving NATO, his free support of nuclear arms to any nation that wants them (except Iran) and his praise of Putin and Kim Jong Un. He also offhandedly said he thought the UK should leave the EU, without apparently giving it much thought. He has also made us a laughingstock.

    Hillary has baggage and has just been criticized by the State Department for her improper handling of emails, for which an FBI indictment may still come. She’s not ideal but we cannot have Trump as our president.

  3. Avatar

    Andrew Purcell

    June 18, 2016 at 10:24 AM

    Just a technical note.
    Ted Cruz is a United States Senator from Texas, not a state senator.
    State senators in Texas meet in Austin once every two years for a three month session.
    The United States Senate meets in Washington DC for two year sessions.

    • Avatar

      Ruth Nasrullah

      June 18, 2016 at 12:25 PM

      Oops! I know that yet wrote too fast. Thanks for the correction. I’m going to correct within the post.

  4. Avatar

    Shahrukh Kureishy

    June 18, 2016 at 11:28 AM

    AA Ruth,
    If we sit back and look rationally at the results of primaries over last decade we can see that people like Ted Cruz , Matt Sheehan, Judie Laurenbrg, Ken Paxton and Jeff Leech were elected in Collin County Texas by a margin of few thousand votes. This was made possible as either the Muslims did not vote or voted for the democratic primaries.
    I think it is time we stop following party lines get together and vote out the people with worst track records esp those who propose or support Anti Shariah bills. We have about 10K muslim names in Collin county but only a small number vote and then if they do vote they vote for Democratic candidates who have no chance of winning for next 10-20 years becuase of the demographics of this county and state.

    • Avatar

      Ruth Nasrullah

      June 18, 2016 at 12:46 PM

      Walaikum salaam. I agree entirely. It’s a constant struggle to get out the Muslim vote and you make an excellent point about supporting the right candidate for us no matter which party.

      One case that I think illustrates this well is Texas Rep. Molly White, who on Texas Muslim Capitol Day in 2015 (a day when Muslims visit/lobby their elected officials) wrote the following on her Facebook page:

      “Today is Texas Muslim Capital [sic] Day in Austin. The House is in recess until Monday. Most Members including myself are back in District. I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws. We will see how long they stay in my office.”

      She lost the Republican primary last March by 108 votes. Every vote counts.

  5. Avatar

    ireminisces

    June 18, 2016 at 1:11 PM

    thx for sharing, come share your thoughts on my latest two posts Fasting – رمضان
    Pilgrimage – الحج

  6. Avatar

    Taweez to Make Someone Love You

    June 21, 2016 at 4:05 AM

    Taweez to Make Someone Love You ,” Agar Aap Kisi Se Mohabbat Karty Hai Ya Kisi Ke Dil Me Mohabaat Paida Karna Chahty Hai To Is Nayab Tawiz ko Nochandi Aitwar ko likh kar apney dain bazu(Right Hand) per bandh le to matloob na khatam hone wali mohabbat peda ho jayi ge. :write this on the first sunday of the new month and put it on your right arm an end less love will flow in your lovers heart.

  7. Avatar

    Omer Riaz

    June 21, 2016 at 7:35 AM

    Gun Law is a big issue since many years. .A lot of damage has been done already. .Its high time they should strictly control it.
    Online Quran Classes

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#Islam

What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.

Reem Shaikh

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The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.

In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.

It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.

Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.

With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:

“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”

The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.

The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.

While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.

First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.

Web MD

The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:

One Hundred and Twenty Days:

The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.

This view is shaped by  the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..

“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”

Forty Days:

The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.

This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…

“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”

Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.

Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.

No Excuse Required:

The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.

Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.

Only Under Extreme Risks:

The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.

Other Views:

As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.

Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.

For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.

The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.

This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.

Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.

Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:

Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:

((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)

Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.

Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.

As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.

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#Current Affairs

Faith Community Stands With Peace And Justice Leader Imam Omar Suleiman During Right Wing Attacks

Hena Zuberi

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In a follow up to the right-wing media platforms attack on Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists, as well as criticism of Israel policies, Faith Forward Dallas issued a statement.

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanksgiving Square – Faith Leaders United for Peace and Justice is a Texas-based interfaith organization that has worked on many initiatives with Imam Omar Suleiman.

The statement reads:

“Imam Omar Suleiman a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice!!!!!

Time after time in our city, in the United States and around the world, Imam Omar Suleiman has been a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice. When others seek to divide, he calls for unity. Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square works to unite faith leaders for justice and compassion. Imam Suleiman has been a trusted leader among us. In the wake of his beautiful prayer to open the House of Representatives on May 9, he has received threats of violence and words of vilification when instead he should have our praise and prayers. We call upon people of good will everywhere to tone down the rhetoric, to replace hate with love, and to build bridges toward the common good.

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square”

Commenters on the Faith Forward Dallas statement have left comments of support.

The group has invited locals and other leaders to endorse and share the statement. “Endorsed! I love and fully you Imam Omar Suleiman!” wrote Karen Weldes Fry, Spiritual Director at Center of Spiritual Learning in Dallas (CSLDallas), commenting on the statement.

Some commentators do not understand the manufactured controversy.  Heather Mustain writes, “What people are writing is so vile. They obviously didn’t even listen to his prayer!” Imam  Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives on May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas, TX.

“I’m grateful for the faith leaders with whom I’ve built relationships with and served with for years that have shown full support throughout this process. Together we’ve stood with one another in solidarity in the face of bigotry, and in the support of others in any form of pain. We will not let these dark forces divide us,” said Imam Omar Suleiman in response to the outpouring of love from the people he has worked with on the ground, building on peace, love, and justice.

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#Current Affairs

#UnitedForOmar – Imam Omar Suleiman Smeared by Right-Wing News After Opening Prayer at US House of Representatives

Zeba Khan

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Sh. Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives yesterday, May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas.

Immediately since, right wing media platforms have begun spreading negative coverage of the Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists as well as criticism of Israel policies.

News outlets citing the criticism have pointed to a post from The Investigative Project on Terrorism or ITP, as the source. The  ITP was founded by and directed by noted Islamophobe Steven Emerson. Emerson’s history of hate speech has been documented for over two decades.

Since then, the story has been carried forward by multiple press outlets.

The immediate consequence of this has been the direction of online hate towards what has been Imam Omar Suleiman’s long history of preaching unity in the US socio-political sphere.

“Since my invocation I’ve been inundated with hate articles, threats, and other tactics of intimidation to silence me over a prayer for unity,” Imam Omar Suleiman says. “These attacks are in bad faith and meant to again send a message to the Muslim community that we are not welcome to assert ourselves in any meaningful space or way.”

MuslimMatters is proud to stand by Imam Omar Suleiman, and we invite our readers to share the evidence that counters the accusations against him of anti-semitism, bigotry, and hate. We would also encourage you to reach out, support, and amplify voices of support like Representative E.B.Johnson, and Representative Colin Allred.

You can help counter the false narrative, simply by sharing evidence of Imam Omar Suleiman’s work. It speaks for itself, and you can share it at the hashtag #UnitedForOmar

JazakAllahuKheiran


A Priest, a Rabbi, and an Imam Walk Into a Church in Dallas

At an interfaith panel discussion, three North Texas religious leaders promoted understanding and dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Amid a vexed political and social climate, three religious leaders in North Texas—a priest, an imam, and a rabbi—proved it’s possible to come together in times of division. Source: DMagazine.com


Muslim congregation writes letters of support to Dallas Jewish Community

The congregation, led by Imam Omar Suleiman, penned more than 150 cards and letters. source: WFAA News


Historic action: Muslims and Jews for Dreamers

“We must recognize that the white supremacy that threatens the black and Latino communities, is the same white supremacy that spurs Islamophobia and antisemitism,” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Bend The Arc


Through Dialogue, Interfaith Leaders Hope North Texans Will Better Understand Each Other

“When any community is targeted, they need to see a united faith voice — that all communities come together and express complete rejection of anything that would pit our society against one another more than it already is.” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Kera News

 


Conversations at The Carter Center: Harmonizing Religion and Human Rights 

Source: The Carter Center


Imam: After devastating New Zealand attack, we will not be deterred

My wife and I decided to take our kids to a synagogue in Dallas the night after the massacre at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh to grieve and show solidarity with the Jewish community. My 5-year-old played with kids his age while we mourned inside, resisting hate even unknowingly with his innocence…” Source: CNN

 

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