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The Conflicted Muslim Voter And The Flawed Candidate | Imam Omar Suleiman

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With the midterm elections upon us, many familiar discussions in the community are taking place including how we vote for candidates that have unsatisfactory platforms with views that depart from our values. It is impossible to find a candidate that is going to hold every position we want them to, but these are just a few thoughts on how to approach the situation.

Disclaimer: These are only my thoughts so feel free to disagree as I may myself disagree with some of them one day:

 

  1. Holistic Strategy: In order to build political clout, we have to have a full strategy that includes the best use of our vote. Voting is an important element of our engagement and should be understood within that overall strategy. Almost every point that follows is going to tie back to this one.

 

  1. Make Them Hear You. You cannot hold politicians accountable if you do not participate in the vote. So candidates will only further depart from our views and priorities if we don’t participate at all. They’ll also stop putting any effort into hearing or understanding the Muslim community as candidates or elected officials. If we want to be heard, we have to make ourselves heard.

 

  1. Make Sure We Hear Each Other. Determining those priorities is going to require deliberation on the part of people who have knowledge, wisdom, and experience. That deliberation won’t take place over a Twitter battle or in the heated comments of a post. But we need more strategy sessions locally and nationally with trustworthy people sitting in rooms together hashing this stuff out so that we can determine our priorities better, and act/vote accordingly.

 

  1. Reasonable Requirements. We need to secure certain promises from candidates— while they’re still candidates. The asks our votes depend on should be reasonable, but our support is not unconditional. We cannot and shouldn’t accept being tokenized anymore as a community, and have our vote taken for granted by people running against raging racists.

 

  1. Accountability after Election. Once our vote helps put candidates into office, we need to hold them accountable to those promises. Too often, politicians we help get elected only hear from us again at the Ramadan Iftars. We have no one to blame but ourselves for that. This to me is similar to how some people approach protest. Protesting without sustained organizing is extremely limited in its impact. So too is voting for a candidate without continued strategic engagement.

 

  1. Drop All or Nothing Thinking. An agreeable candidate with whom we disagree on certain issues should be welcomed and engaged on the condition that we are not forced to agree with them or their party on those issues that run counter to our ethics. Too often in our insecurity with our faith, power, and selves, we start to embrace ideas that aren’t authentic because acceptance becomes our singular political goal. This isn’t a zero sum game. There is an option between embracing a candidate’s full platform, and not voting at all. Yes, it is tricky, but I hope we can get there with sincerity to God and frequently consulting amongst each other as to what the best approach should be. Moral clarity can be maintained even while seeking political efficiency.

 

  1. Learn from Mistakes. We are going to make mistakes, but those mistakes should be reasonable. Furthermore, we should always be open to reassessment of our approach and not insist upon destructive ways. Where the Divine revelation is clear, we should never overstep. But most of what we are engaging involves frequently encountering uncertain territories both religiously and politically. We should be committed to always striving for sincerity, consulting the right people, and working together with those also trying to figure this all out. We must be humble both in accepting and giving critique. Though abstaining in uncertainty is usually deemed the safer way, I would argue that it’s unsafe to abstain in situations like this (especially when this guy is your senator).

 

  1. Never stop engaging Prophetic service. You don’t need any further incentive to work in anti-poverty or fight clear exploitation and oppression. 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, but because it’s good Prophetic action. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said “Find me amongst the weak. Are you supported or given help from Allah except by how you treat the weak amongst you?” The work of khidma ie. service to Allah’s creation, particularly the vulnerable amongst them, must be a constant no matter where the political winds sway.

 

  1. Do not shy away from engaging partisan spaces if they aren’t restricting you to a partisan message. We have a beautiful message to share that people can appreciate if appropriately delivered. A good example of that is Dr. Sherman Jackson’s prayer at the DNC in 2016.

 

  1. Every single vote counts. Do not sit on the sidelines or diminish your potential influence. So while we research how to engage better in the grander scheme of things, don’t forget to do your part (which includes casting the ballot).

Further reading: Muslims and the Left: Can Social Conservatives Work in Social Justice?

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Imam Omar Suleiman is the Founder and President of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, and an Adjunct Professor of Islamic Studies in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at SMU (Southern Methodist University). He is also the Resident Scholar at Valley Ranch Islamic Center and Co-Chair of Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square. He holds a Bachelors in Accounting, a Bachelors in Islamic Law, a Masters in Islamic Finance, a Masters in Political History, and is currently pursuing a Phd. in Islamic Thought and Civilization from the International Islamic University of Malaysia.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Heather Gilvary-Hamad

    November 3, 2018 at 8:19 AM

    SA, brother and kind readers.
    I have early voted so I meet your condition to vote and then comment. (I like that).
    I agree with all of your points. I especially agree with the follow through with politicians. It is not enough for them to get our vote and get us to campaign/support their (re)election. We must be visible and vocal after the election, too.
    Finally, I ran for office this past April. I am a revert who put on hijab the day of the woman’s march. I thought if they are going to make a Muslim registry, I will no longer hide behind my fluent English, blue eyes and fair skin. I am unabashedly Muslimah.
    But when I ran for local Alderman I was met with surprise and concern by my local muslim community. One woman (a hijabi) said I shouldn’t include my picture in the campaign material. Being the stubborn person I am, I recklessly made sure my hijabi face was on everything. I want for our politicians to know that our community is vital and active. I will not hide any more. I have no reason to hide. And you know what? Besides two out-of-state internet trolls, I found full support. The larger community was glad to see a muslim running for office.
    I lost my election, but as a kind brother told me during the campaign, “No matter what, you’ve already won”.
    We need to identify strong, intelligent and vocal muslims to run in local elections. We need to be more visible so that we can bring Muslim value systems (e.g. care for the poor and disenfranchised, medical care and education) to the our larger communities.
    JAK for your article

  2. Avatar

    Greg

    October 19, 2019 at 6:09 PM

    Omar,

    Go and run so we can have a decent candidate to vote for.

    We need more educated, qualified Muslims running, who have formally studied the din. Qalam Institute is highly recommended.

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#Current Affairs

Coronavirus And The Impetus To Close The Chinese-Run Concentration Camps

My Appeal to the International Community to Save the Lives of 3+ Million Uyghurs in China’s Concentration Camps

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According to Dr. Adrian Zenz, an independent researcher based in Germany who has testified on several occasions on Capitol Hill, the concentration camps in East Turkestan number up to 1,400 (8 Nov 2019, [1]). It has been estimated that the number of the Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic minorities being held in those concentration camps can add up to more than 3 million.

On February 5th, 2020, when the official Chinese government’s media were reporting that coronavirus death toll on mainland China was 600 – 700 [2], Tencent briefly listed 154,023 infections and 24,589 deaths from Wuhan coronavirus [3]. That is, the actual death toll is about 40 times higher than what the Chinese government reported. East Turkestan (known as Xinjiang) is far from the epicenter of the outbreak and just 55 cases have been reported in the region so far [4]. We can easily believe that the actual number of the people who fell victim to coronavirus in East Turkestan is tens of times more than the above figure.

Among those who died in Wuhan, 61% died in their homes. Currently, almost all the Uyghur population in East Turkestan is locked up in their homes. 

The situation of the 3+ million Uyghur concentration camp detainees is worse by several degrees. Keeping 3+ million Uyghur alive detainees is a complex, expensive and extremely difficult project. Are the 3+ million detainees still alive? Are they still being fed? How and from where? 

There is a real reason to fear a rapid spread of coronavirus in the controversial Chinese camps. “The virus spreads from person to person through droplets disseminated by sneezing or coughing, and confining large groups of people together, possibly without adequate access to germ-killing soap and water, will increase the likelihood of an outbreak.” [4] 

I have started to panic. Most Uyghurs in the United States have families there, and they are dealing with the camps and the virus, and we do not know if they have enough to eat, have masks and enough heat to survive.

“If the international community fails to pressure China to take adequate actions to prevent outbreaks in the region, the nature of its mass network of concentration and forced labor camps will add an entirely new dimension to China’s ongoing genocide against the Uyghurs.” [5]

“Uyghurs in the diaspora fear if the virus isn’t already in the camps, when it does reach them, the consequences will be catastrophic, leading to mass outbreaks and high mortalities very quickly given reports of overcrowding, starvation, forced labor, sexual abuse and torture in the camps. As China has largely ignored the issue of the virus spreading in the region and its crimes against humanity in the region are ongoing, it’s unlikely the Chinese government will allocate resources to address the issue.” [5]

I call for:

  1. UN to send a delegation to the region to find out if the concentration camp detainees are being provided with enough food and heat to survive.
  2. WHO to send a delegation to the region to evaluate the spread of the virus, assess the risks in the camps and take all measures necessary to prevent mass outbreaks and deaths. 
  3. WHO, the UN, international human rights groups, national governments and the rest of the international community to pressure China to close the camps and release the millions detained immediately as part of the global response to the coronavirus outbreak.
  4. Global health and humanitarian organizations to send medical supplies and teams to screen, diagnose and treat affected individuals in the Uyghur region including those in China’s concentration camps. (Items 2 – 4 are almost identical to those in [5])

[1] https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/detainees-11232019223242.html

[2]https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/cloneofcloneofchina-coronavirus-outbreak-latest–200207231158175.html

[3]https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3871594?fbclid=IwAR1k3x27tW2jNmmQzbaNOWtciIwlP3z70GWvj2XcRhestwB6T6l16pSqL18

[4] https://www.france24.com/en/20200212-exiled-uighurs-fear-spread-of-coronavirus-in-china-camps

[5]https://www.change.org/p/demand-china-release-3-million-uyghurs-before-coronavirus-outbreaks-in-concentration-camps?utm_content=cl_sharecopy_20183581_en-CA%3Av2&recruiter=53261213&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition

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Civil Rights

Podcast: Lessons from the Life of Malcolm X | Abdul-Malik Ryan

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One of the things that happens with historical figures who continue to remain well-known and influential years after they can continue to speak for themselves is that others seek to speak for them.  Attempts are made to co-opt their legacy, either in sincere efforts for good or in selfish efforts for ideological or even commercial gain.  This is especially true of Malcolm X, who is not only a historical and political icon but in many ways a “celebrity” remembered by many primarily for his style and attitude.

The only real and meaningful tribute we can pay to Malcolm X is to follow his example. Click To Tweet

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Audio

Podcast: We Are All Slaves of Allah | Hakeemah Cummings

Guests
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Once, while in class at college, an Arab girl I was sitting next to said quite loudly to another, “Hey, give this paper to the ‘abdah” referring to a black girl in the class. I wondered if she was even aware of what she was saying in English. Did she think that ‘abdah translates to “black girl” and never thought of its true meaning? Did she think that I didn’t understand?

 

Read by Zeba Khan, originally posted here on Muslimmatters.org.

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