#MuslimResponse The GOP Debate

downloadAP_undercard_debate_jef_151215_12x5_1600On December 15, 2015, America and much of the world, were given nearly 5 hours of the best the GOP has to offer when it comes to national security. Vying for the Republican Presidential nomination viewers were presented with a CNN Debate that had the production value and hype of a major sporting event. I eagerly awaited the entrance music, fireworks, and Micheal Buffer’s famous “Let’s Get Ready to Ruuumble.” The Party faithful were given so much of the red-meat they crave, that they’re going to have to schedule a colonoscopy.

Those of us who aren’t part of the GOP base heard “Ruuuun the Moozlums are coming!” and war, war, war, fear, fear, fear, and the country was better off with George W. Bush!

The debate was about National Security or in GOP speak: What are you going to do about the Moozlums and Russia? No mention of gun violence, domestic terrorism which by the way 90% is committed by White Male Christians, nor Climate Control.

As a Black, American, Muslim, Veteran, I was left more than a little underwhelmed. In truth, I spent more time tweeting in all caps due to my outrage at some of the things that were said, than anything else. After all the debating was done, I felt as if I were a wet rag, wrung out and left to dry. To even think that any of those candidates could possibly be the next President of the United States is terrifying, some (Trump/Cruz) more than others.

Being a Black man, I didn’t expect any issues regarding the Black community to be addressed and I was right. No mention of Black unemployment, disproportionate incarceration and sentences, or any #BlackLivesMatter causes. Outside of having a Black man on the stage, the GOP had zero to offer Black Americans. I guess these issues will have to wait until they get around to discussing domestic policy, but I won’t hold my breath.

As an American in general, I’m disturbed by the vision these candidates put forth in both debates. In no uncertain terms, the candidates mostly agreed that we should be engaged in perpetual war in the Middle East, that we should give up our privacy for security’s sake, and that the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, should be suspended or not apply at all to some Americans. For a Party that calls itself Conservative, the proposals put forth, which would see an increase in our Defense spending (55% of our budget already goes to Defense), requiring private companies to give the government customer data if suspected of crimes, and drastically changing the Constitution, were the direct opposite of anything conservative. Add to the fact that they mocked Climate Change as a concern and you’d have to wonder if the GOP has a different English dictionary than everyone one else defining the word conserve.

It was definitely not a good night if you are a Muslim and I seriously doubt the GOP cares if they get any votes from American Muslims at all. With notable exceptions such as Senator Lindsey Graham’s passionate appeal to end this anti-Muslim rhetoric, Muslims were bombarded with accusation after accusation that made me feel as if Islam were on trial. In the 1st debate, Rick Santorum spoke at great length about Islam not really being a religion thereby excluding it from the same legal protections as other religions. To hear him speak about Sunnis, Shia, Jihad, and the Caliphate you’d think he were an expert on Islamic Studies. Except all his “facts” were wrong. Huckabee agreed which isn’t surprising and Graham and Kasich looked on uncomfortably. You could see in their eyes that that they realized that the inmates are running the asylum these days.

The second round of debates weren’t that much easier on Muslims either. The suspension of rights, surveillance of Mosques, and even the indiscriminate killing of innocent women and children either through carpet bombing or targeted assassinations of terrorist’s families were openly discussed as serious policy proposals and not the insane, fascist, rantings they were. Trump and others double downed on the barring of Muslims immigrating into the US and Cruz had a fascination with the term Radical Islamic Terrorism. Unfortunately, for Cruz and those like him who couldn’t strategize out of a wet paper bag, what they call being PC i.e. being correct in politics, is the right way to do things. The phrase “Radical Islam” is insulting to potential Muslim allies. When you insult your allies, you help recruit for ISIS. The war they claim to want to win is prolonged ever time they put their low information base above the safety and security of all Americans and our troops overseas. Actual professionals in the Federal Government, Private Sector, and even the Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, have pointed out that this way of speaking about Muslims only helps the enemy.

If a bunch of voters from the GOP Base want to hear derogatory and inflammatory rhetoric towards Muslims, if it’ll get votes, these candidates are all to eager to comply. Votes apparently, are more important than national security in a supposed national security debate.

As a veteran I was more than a little upset. In the first debate Santorum with his women should be barefoot and pregnant rhetoric, suggested that not only should women not be able to serve in combat roles, but also that the generals had it all wrong and though he a guy who’s never served in the Military a day in his life, had all the answers. He promised in no uncertain terms that he’d roll back the Military’s rules that allow women to serve in combat roles. I imagine he’d do the same for DADT as well. Rick Santorum’s comments were offensive because they presumed that women weren’t capable and that the leadership of the military would change it’s standards and weaken readiness, just to appease politics. Or worse, that the Pentagon leadership is incompetent.

This idea the the military didn’t know what it was doing, continued to be the talking point of the night. In the first and second rounds of debate the reoccurring theme was that the military was weak and couldn’t do its job, the Generals at the Pentagon were clueless puppets for Obama, and that America was worse now than it has ever been in American history apparently. This line of commentary was especially troubling, because all of these candidates are vying to be Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces, yet before they’re even close to remotely being sworn in, they’ve already disrespected those whom they’d potentially lead. A leader who doesn’t respect those under his or her command isn’t much of a leader at all. They’re a figurehead who inspires no loyalty or confidence and is just an inept politician.

I could go on, but in the end, this isn’t about me regardless of my background or perspective. This is about the future of our country. We can choose to live in a country that sees diversity as the enemy, hope as weakness, and respect as a pointless exercise in being PC, or we could choose to rise above our prejudices and the differences that divide us, knowing that true strength is when we rise above fear and move forward in hope, love, peace, and strength.

Semper Fidelis

 

 

 

How To Defeat ISIS

rt_ISIS_syria_march_kb_140924_16x9_992ISIS our favorite talking point of the moment, is enshrined in American politic as the quintessential threat that all must address. They’re more dangerous than gun violence, mass killing, poverty, unemployment, and lack of affordable healthcare and education. We’re told by the punditry in the media, that if we don’t do something decisive about them now, Western Civilization as we know it will collapse. As a result, the President and anyone vying for The White House in 2016, are putting out plans that have just enough red meat to appease the unknown masses.

Unfortunately, Americans with our longstanding tradition of cowboy antics, are not in the mood to hear knowledgeable, nuanced discussion on what is necessary to defeat ISIS. Instead, we eagerly size up the President and Presidential candidates based on how tough their language is and how willing they are to send troops into yet another Middle East quagmire. Though it seems hard to believe, talking tough, will not be enough to stop the rise and spread of ISIS.

Nearly every plan offered from all the candidates as well as the President himself, involve some variation of increased military action, along with platitudes about homeland security, much of which dangerously walks the line of giving up freedoms as a necessity of security. What you will not hear is the obvious, which is that ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other like-minded groups exist based on an ideology of hate. This ideology helps them recruit, it’s in their messaging and in their branding. ISIS has a social media and online presence that rivals many Fortune 500 companies.

Therefore, the question that no one seems to be asking, is how can sending troops into Syria/Iraq or dropping more bombs, stop the ideology from spreading? It can also be argued, that the increased destruction and murder of innocent women and children due to drone strikes and bombing campaigns, help ISIS far more than harming them. In other words, you can’t bomb an ideology into submission. If that were so, we would have ended the so-called General War On Terror (GWOT) during the George W. Bush era.

The greatest weapon ISIS has is it’s ability to spread it’s message. Any plan to destroy ISIS that doesn’t include a comprehensive strategy that addresses ISIS ideology, should be ignored as yet another attempt at politics and or a plan  paid for by the Military Industrial Complex. The best way to isolate and hurt ISIS is to delegitimize them as an entity.

What’s In A Name?

ISIS or ISIL stands for the Islamic State in Syria or Islamic State in the Levant (region). This terrorist group calls themselves an Islamic State. There is a specific reason why they chose to do that. By calling themselves an Islamic State complete with a Caliph, means that they are trying to convince Muslims that they should be accepted as a legit state that must be accepted and supported as the entity for all Muslims ordained by God. Many Muslims long for a legit Islamic State, with a religious head, the Caliph. The Caliph would be the supreme leader for all the world’s Muslims. It’s a big deal.

However, the so-called Islamic State doesn’t follow or behave in any way Muslims would expect as taught in a basic Islamic Studies class. They kill innocents, they destroy religious buildings, and they openly defy Islamic law. However, potential recruits aren’t aware of these things, because the counter arguments are not reaching them. In fact, ISIS can claim that it’s all Western propaganda.

Furthermore, when we call them an Islamic State, we give credence to the name. Our media outlets and politicians are so eager to connect their actions with Islam, that instead of calling them a name they hate Daesh, which means ISIL in Arabic, but sounds familiar to words that mean one who sows discord, we persist in calling them a name they love. This is important because in calling them what they love we simultaneously do the will of Daesh and make them seem like a viable, real, Islamic State. We backhandedly do their will and aid in their propaganda. We also alienate Muslims worldwide on our insistence on referring to anything they do as Islamic.

Muslims Our Unused Ally

Speaking of Muslims in general, it seems that politicians are falling over themselves to turn their greatest ally against Daesh into the greatest recruits for them. Politicians eager to appease their anti-Muslim base, openly joke that any attempt to use terms that don’t anger Muslims is political correctness. They laugh, joke, and even increase the rhetoric because it’s red meat for the base. However, what they dismiss as being too PC is actually the appropriate way to marginalize Daesh. Every time the word Islam or Islamic is used in association with any terrorist group, we reinforce their message that they are acting according to Islamic teachings, principles, and values which is incorrect. Even if you hate Islam as a religion, one should not be so eager to do what the terrorists want. If a terrorist main way of gaining recruits is to convince them that they are doing Islam’s work, why would we want to validate that claim? Why would we support the terrorists?

There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Nearly 7 million live in the US according to some estimates. When it comes to domestic terrorism even in the last 50 years, according to the FBI crime statistics, Muslims accounted for less than 4% of domestic terror. It should be obvious that the majority of Muslims are not terrorists. As such, we should do whatever we can to deny Daesh potential recruits by bolstering our support of Muslims and enlisting them to help fight Daesh. It does not help when major media outlets, politicians, and others with a platform go out of their way to treat otherwise loyal Muslim citizens as outsiders and the proverbial other, and even going so far as to connect their beliefs and ideals with those of terrorists. When Daesh and other terrorists, as part of their recruiting pitch tell Muslims that the West is at war with Islam and are vehemently anti-Muslim, all they have to do is look to our media for evidence.

If we were truly serious about defeating Daesh instead of good soundbites, appeasing an anti-Muslim base, or doing the bidding of those who stand to make billions off perpetual war in the Middle East, we should embrace, enlist, and promote Muslim scholars, activists, leaders, and others who could contradict the message of hate that Daesh and others spread. By reiterating what Islam actually is, versus what it is not, and with the full backing of those concerned with defeating the terrorists, Muslims could be our greatest weapon against them.

In this war against ideology, the only way to defeat the ideas spread by Daesh and other terrorists, is to put forward a better ideology that people of conscious could readily embrace. We have to defeat evil with what is better.

This Isn’t Necessarily About Trump

donald-trump-muslimsDonald Trump has set in motion a serious discussion about the American consciousness. He’s forcing people with common sense to come together in order to make lemonade out of his very sour lemons and this is a good thing. On TV and the Internet many have voiced their disgust at Trump’s dangerous and hateful rhetoric, proving that just when you’re losing your faith in humanity, we can rise to the occasion to prove that at our core, we are better than how we are often perceived.

Celebrities, Politicians, and people of all backgrounds have rightly condemned Donald Trump for advocating policies that sound more like he’s running for Fuhrer than President of the United States.

Let’s not kid ourselves and think for one moment that Donald Trump is a serious candidate. Trump is a businessman at his core and his goal is to convince people in order to make a deal. Maybe he really wants to be President or this is an attempt to raise his star so high that he gets to be Kingmaker for the GOP, but whatever his motives and secret ambitions, one thing is for sure, Trump has proven time and time again that he will say whatever it takes to make the deal.

This is why in nearly every speech and television appearance Trump makes note of his polling numbers. He sounds like someone mentioning their quarterly gains and stock prices. In Trump’s world numbers prove whether or not your strategy is working, even when the methods are questioned. So when Trump says horrible things about Immigrants, African Americans, Refugees, or Muslims it doesn’t matter how vile the comments sound, what matters to him is whether or not his numbers back his strategy.

So Trump is selling a product that many find inadequate and harmful to the general public. However, he has plenty of buyers and therefore instead of fixing his wares or taking them off the shelves, he’s ramping up production. The question is, how does he stay in business?

The media has been laser focused on Trump’s words and the reactions of both supporters and dissidents. What the media has not done a good job of is focusing on how we got to a point where Trump even has a platform that is so loud to ignore.

Trump leading the GOP Presidential hopefuls did not happen in a vacuum. In order for Donald Trump to be so successful, he had to have a captive audience who approved of his message and a willing apparatus to help spread his ideas far and wide.

The land that Trump sewed his seeds of hate in was very fertile by the time he got there. The GOP’s rhetoric about Muslims in particular, has morphed from President George W. Bush’s declaration that “Islam is a religion of Peace” to GOP candidates and supporters who have repeatedly called Islam a cult, questioned whether Islam is actually a religion, proclaim that Islam is not compatible with Western values, and much, much, more… The GOP base has been molded and shaped by its politicians since the 2008 primary and has become more and more hostile and radical toward Islam and Muslims ever since. We got our first taste of the hate to come when Obama was called an Arab by an elderly White woman on the McCain campaign trail. Though McCain corrected the woman and distanced himself from the comments, the GOP as a whole saw an opportunity in the ignorance of their mainly older, White base, and sought to maximize the hate as an electoral strategy.

So when Donald Trump made his first serious attempt for the White House in 2012, he played on the major Republican rhetoric of the day which was the infamous Birther controversies and allegations that the President was not a Christian but a Muslim. Now that Obama is no longer going to be on the Presidential ticket, Trump is capitalizing on the current rhetoric of the day which deals with immigrants, Daesh, Muslims in general, and refugees. Trump is not as silly as he appears and should not be written off as simply a carnival barker, because rhetoric is dangerous and people are being hurt.

Trump could not be successful without a ready made audience. The GOP for nearly a decade has been vehemently hostile toward Muslims and Islam. Conservative politicians, radio personalities, pundits, and celebrities have continued to decry, warn, and radicalize their base and supporters toward the idea that all Muslims are the same, Islam is a threat to America, and Muslims regardless of their background are not to be trusted and their loyalties questioned at all times.

Now Trump has taken the Republican Party by storm to the chagrin of seasoned GOP politicians and there have been coordinated attempts to knock him down a few notches prior to the first primaries. Nearly all GOP candidates have come out to condemn Trump for his latest comments calling for a ban on Muslim immigrants, but prior to Trump’s latest rhetoric the same people condemning Trump now, not even two weeks ago were saying things like referring to Syrian refugees as dogs, advocating a ban on Syrian refugees and passing legislation to back it up, some like Jeb Bush, even said that we should only accept Christian refugees. Their condemnation rings hollow to those who have a memory longer than 72hrs.

To add insult to injury, the polls that Trump proudly quotes as evidence to back up his claims about Muslims, come from Frank Gaffney a beloved Republican National Security Expert and notable Islamophobe. Most, if not all, GOP candidates have attended his conferences in the past as speakers and as guests and will also be attending his latest forum next week.

The media also plays a role in both the rise of Trump and helping promote the idea that Muslims and Islam are the foreign other that must be scrutinized.

It would be easy to target Fox News, as the chief culprit in helping create this narrative and though they share some of the blame, most major media outlets are at fault. The culture of the media and especially cable news is a if it bleeds, it leads, philosophy. Ratings are key and punditry is a replacement for actual journalism.

In a week where two unarmed young Black men were shot more than a dozen times and cover-ups alleged with massive protesting in Chicago, the media largely ignored these events once Trump made his infamous comments. Instead of dealing with the comments and moving to other topics, the major media outlets focused solely on Trump and the Muslim response. Once that began to get old, the media reverted to covering the San Bernardino Shooting non-stop again, which was the previous ratings champion supplanting the anger in Chicago.

Injustices against Black Americans are worthy of coverage when there’s a riot, trial, or some other sensational component, but when it comes to covering Muslims, Islam, and terrorism connections, all other news can wait.

Breaking News, used to mean information was being reported for the first time and  was being announced and reported. Breaking News today, is a moniker that is repeated 100 times a day as a sensational, eye-popping, graphic with sounds, used to introduce a segment that the media wants us to constantly focus on.

The focus, more than any other topic in the last decade or more, is terrorism and specifically, terrorism committed by Muslims, which ironically, only accounts for about 4 percent of all domestic terrorism.

The damage created by the media in continuing the Muslim terrorist narrative isn’t necessarily the amount of coverage, but how terrorism is covered.

Sensationalist headlines, offensive terminology that implies that terrorism is inherently Islamic, and round the clock imagery of angry Muslims screaming or committing acts of terror are the sole picture displayed on television screens.

The goal seems to be that the media wants make Muslims as scary as possible, in order to help create an atmosphere of fear, so that when viewers see the flashing Breaking News announcement, like Pavlov’s dogs, the response is that we stop what we’re doing and are glued to the television screens so we can hear pundits comment and debate in between sponsor ads.

Even when the media makes an attempt to appear non-biased, by inviting Muslim guests to offer their opinions, they tend to gravitate toward Muslims that fit the narrative that Islam is a foreign religion and that most if not all Muslims are immigrants to the US.

Most of the Muslim guests are either Arab or look like they may be Arab to uninformed eyes, some speak with accents, and many share stories about how immigrating to the US was the best thing that happened to them or their parents.

These guests are very patriotic, promote the values of America, and point out how they are model citizens. They often go out of their way to denounce terrorists and tell everyone how Islam is peace.

Even when they are handled with respect, their time is cut short or they’re asked questions about Islam and Muslims that are far too complex for a 3 minute interview. However, most of the time, these Muslim guests are pitted against so-called Islamic or Terrorism experts, who are vehemently anti-Muslim or anti-Islam some more overt than others, but most of the time these “experts” have no academic background whatsoever in Islamic studies, Qur’an, Islamic History, or sciences. The goal is to have the conversation devolve into a shouting match, that will produce sensational sound bites. An added bonus occurs when the Muslim guest speaks with a thick accent, so that when engaged in a shouting match, they can look flustered, confused, and most likely not telling the truth.

This tactic of promoting Islam and Muslims as foreign, ignores the true history of the American Muslim experience. The majority of Muslims in America are not foreign born. They are not immigrants or children of immigrants. The majority of American Muslims are African American.

Muslims have been in America since before the Declaration of Independence. 20-30 percent of slaves brought to America, were Muslim. Although, slavers did what they could to stop the practice of Islam through the prohibition of education, the separation of families, the force feeding of pork, beatings, and other tactics, some kept their Islamic heritage mostly in tact. The founding fathers were familiar with Islam and spoke highly of the religion in their writings, dealings with Muslim nations, and even about Prophet Muhammad.

In 1777, Morocco under Sultan Mohammad III, was the first country in the world to recognize American Independence from Great Britain, President Thomas Jefferson famously hosted the first White House Iftar in 1805, and also in 1805 Prince Hamet an Ottoman Empire viceroy, presented Marine Corps Lieutenant, Pressley O’Bannon with the Mameluke sword due to the Marine’s valor in Tripoli and it is still used today.

In the early and mid 20th century, not only did Muslim immigration increase, but millions of African Americans converted to Islam, some notable Muslims of the period include Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. In modern times, there are many indigenous American Muslims in Sports, Entertainment, and Politics. For instance, the only 2 Muslim Congressmen are African American. When we think of the past and even many American daily routines that include drinking coffee or using Apple products (Steve Jobs is the son of a Syrian Immigrant), it should be obvious that Islam and Muslims are American as Apple Pie.

The environment that built Trump and allowed for his meteoric rise, has been in place for quite some time. Sensationalism, negative imagery, distortion of the historical facts, and constant manipulation by politicians and the media, all played a role in fanning the flames of hate. Trump isn’t the fire starter, he’s fanning the embers and the flames.

If we want to stop the anti-Muslim rhetoric, we have to make it unpopular. The media should do more to include indigenous Muslims into the conversation, they should report on Muslim efforts that are positive such as marches, blood drives, and charitable actions. Actual scholars, lecturers, and Imams who teach the true, peaceful message of Islam, should be given a platform. The media can create the greatest change, because the media helps shape public opinion and politicians feed off that opinion to develop their rhetoric in order to gain support.

However, positivity in the press doesn’t pay the bills. Americans will have to decide whether or not they’d like to expunge doom and gloom from their media consumption diets, by turning the channel.

Hopefully, we don’t wait until American Muslims are completely under siege. Hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise as the rhetoric increases. Muslims have been beaten, Mosques vandalized, armed protests are being held outside Muslim places of worship, and more and more non-Muslim Americans are feeling emboldened to spew whatever vitriol toward Muslims directly and in the public they want more than ever before.

Civility is no longer a virtue most Americans value.

We’ve seen this before where a minority group has been targeted to this degree. The minority was devalued through constant negative rhetoric and lies, the media helped give a platform to the message, and even as support rose, an apathetic and disbelieving majority ignored it until the radicals became the majority and then it was too late.

We can do better. We are better. Diversity is our greatest strength not our greatest liability. That honor belongs to ignorance which can be eradicated by opening our hearts and our minds.

Semper Fidelis

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Dangerous Escalation

Capture4GOP Candidate for President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, has escalated his commentary against American Muslims. Trump in a newly released policy statement, advocates banning Muslims from immigrating into the United States. This commentary follows a litany of hateful rhetoric from Trump and many others, that places Americans and American Muslims in the “us” and “them” categories. Leading his Party as the #1 candidate vying for the nation’s top office, Donald Trump has used his platform to advocate closing down of Mosques, advocating for a special database or ID program for American Muslims, and linking all Muslims and Islam with the ideology of terrorists such as Daesh.

These provocations against American Muslims should seem outrageous to any American of good conscious, but when you consider his following, his media coverage, and the media’s seeming unwillingness to report on these vicious, bigoted, attacks against fellow Americans in the context that they should be, one has to ask, what is the end game? If Trump were alone in his provocative rhetoric, we could see him as the crazy carnival barker he was called by Martin O’Malley, however when you consider that his closest competitors share similar views and go unchecked in their race to the bottom of hateful commentary, it seems that we are not that far from crescents sewn on clothing and concentration camps.

Some may question the comparison to the horror that was visited upon the Jews under Nazi rule as insensitive or going too far, but we would be ignorant of history if we forget that Hitler’s reign of terror didn’t happen in a single day. It started with rhetoric and preying upon the public’s base fears of the “other” combined with a complicit media apparatus and an apathetic public.

As an American Muslim, I fear for my safety and those of my family and friends. This unchecked and seemingly and new normal commentary from the Right and on the Left particularly from the “New Atheists,” makes it OK to openly critique Islam and Muslims as an evil, diabolical, 5th column engaged in worldwide hostilities against the West, is reaching fever pitch.

Mosques are being vandalized and burned. Muslims and those who “look” like Muslims are being assaulted and verbally abused. Muslim worshipers are having to face armed protesters and vile signs on their way to services. Mosque and cemetery construction community planning discussions which are routine for other faiths are becoming hotbed sessions where any bigot seeking their 15 minutes of fame, hurl insults at American Muslims and Islam.

How long before one of the adherents to this rhetoric against American Muslims and Islam decides that it’s time to take matters into their own hands and more innocent Americans are killed in a mass shooting or some other terrorist attack?

We are living in a time so hostile to American Muslims that it is perfectly OK to say anything you want about Islam or American Muslims and instead of it being repugnant, crossing the line, or dangerous, it’s an applause line at a political gathering.

No other group is being targeted in this manner in America Right Now to this degree and extent. It would be unthinkable for anti-Jewish protesters to conduct an armed protest outside a Synagogue with anti-Semitic signs or vandalizing Synagogues with Pig’s heads and blood. The media would rightfully close any platforms and the individuals would be roundly condemned.

However, for Muslims it is open season and even those groups who historically have fought against these types of injustices are silent. The only groups trying to defend American Muslim’s right to exist in peace are American Muslim groups and organizations. No ADL, No NAACP, No ACLU, No SCLC… When it comes to American Muslims we are on our own.

American Muslims are no less American than anyone else. We serve in the Military, we serve as Police Officers, Firemen, Doctors, Lawyers, Sports Icons, Entertainers, Politicians, and numerous other fields and professions. Yet, we find ourselves constantly having to defend our right to be treated like any other group or religious community in America.

We are asked to apologize, protest, and condemn the acts of others because they share the same religion. Yet no other group is asked to do so, because it’s assumed that the individuals who commit those atrocities are outside the norm of their associated groups.

American Muslims are asked to expunge texts from our religious books, because others don’t like them and asked to prove our loyalty to America as if service and being a law-abiding citizens isn’t enough. These things are never asked of any other group.

What is the potential consequence of this type of rhetoric? What happens when you lump all Muslims in the same basket? What happens when you make statements to adoring crowds reinforcing the idea that 1.5 Billion Muslims are the “other”, their religion false and a cult, and all their adherents are in league with terrorists, and much, much, worse?

How must this language impact the psyche of young people growing up and going to school in an already challenging environment, especially for teens? How much more difficult must it be, day to day, having your name, beliefs, and religion mocked? Where being called “Osama”, “terrorist”, or worse is considered jokes or kids being kids? What world does a Muslim child born a few years before and or a few years after 9/11 have to contend with?

It must delight groups like Daesh or Al Qaeda to no end to see what is happening in America, where the potential future President of the United States is calling for a ban on Muslims. These groups prey on the weak, ignorant, and those in despair, preaching that the West is hostile to Muslims and Islam, is at war with the religion, and hates all Muslims.

If you listened to commentary from Presidential candidates, pundits who question the current President for asking for civility, or watch an accommodating media, all too eager to give us 24/7 coverage of “Muslim terror” while ignoring other crimes, and an apathetic public who won’t take to their respective platforms, pulpits, etc. in support of their fellow Americans…If you listened and watched…

Wouldn’t you come to the conclusion that maybe the terrorists are right about America?

Capture5

UPDATE: Jewish groups have released statements of condemnation against Trump’s rhetoric.

“In the Jewish community, we know all too well what can happen when a particular religious group is singled out for stereotyping and scapegoating,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO said. “We also know that this country must not give into fear by turning its back on its fundamental values, even at a time of great crisis.”

“As Jews who are now observing Hanukkah, a holiday that celebrates a small religious minority’s right to live unmolested, we are deeply disturbed by the nativist racism inherent in the candidate’s latest remarks,” Harris said. “You don’t need to go back to the Hanukkah story to see the horrific results of religious persecution; religious stereotyping of this sort has been tried often, inevitably with disastrous results.”
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/news/1.690635

 

I Hope They Aren’t Muslim

In 2009 upon hearing about the shooting in Ft. Hood, TX, I thought and wrote “I hope it’s not a Muslim.” I was quoted and interviewed about this sentiment for several days afterward, when my fears were realized. Today I reflect on those sentiments as another tragedy unfolds. What I didn’t say in 2009 and the years since, is that as an American Muslim, every time a mass shooting is reported, the tight chest, the accelerated heart rate, the nausea, happens for me and so many others.

We do not live in an America where a tragedy can be a tragedy that brings us all together regardless of race, religion, or politics. Immediately the allegations, finger pointing, and bias runs rampant on social media, in the news, and in every corner of society. When the culprit is revealed, depending on who was right, the emotions range from an “I told you so” to “You people.” I don’t have to reveal what group(s) get the most flak in this regard.

As an American, I mourn for the victims and the loss of life of anyone who started the day not thinking that they would be gunned down by some evil, deranged person. I mourn for the families and the pain they must be going through.

However, what no one wants to say publicly for fear of it sounding a little self-serving, callous, or even narcissistic, is that there is blow back for certain groups of Americans who are often considered guilty by association. Our fear, nervousness, and panic is real, especially in the current American climate, where candidates for President of the United States can say fascist things against a minority group and it not only be considered normal, but their popularity actually rises. We now live in a country where worshipers can be stalked by gun toting activists, vandalism is on the rise, and women are being verbally and physically assaulted because of how they dress, what they look like, and what they believe.

So yes, as an American Muslim and especially as a husband and a parent, I am terrified for my family and my friends when I hear about mass shootings. Granted, less so than many of my coreligionists who “look” Muslim, but even still, I too have to be on the alert when going to pray and I too have to tell my children the reality of being Muslim in America today as if being Black already wasn’t enough.

What adds insult to injury is that for many Muslims our only defense is to take to social media, write op-eds, release press statements, or go on radio and TV interviews to announce our sorrow and do our best to disassociate with the insane, the barbaric, and the evil because they, their supporters, and islamophobes believe and call themselves Muslim.

I for one will never join the ranks of the those who feel the need to make statements that appear to apologize for Muslims or Islam, because I have committed no crimes and Islam in of itself can do nothing. Though I understand why they do this and the reasons why many find that it is necessary. Immoral and twisted individuals with wickedness in their hearts and evil in their intent commit these atrocities and should be doing all the apologizing if that is even possible.

That said, this is not even about a mid-30’s Black guy with a comfortable life in suburban MD. It’s really about my children and their future in this nation I faithfully serve and my country who is in pain and who’s tendency to attack the other is often misplaced and in some cases may even make the situation worse.

I long for an America where tragedy unites us in our prayers and our resolve toward solutions, instead of an America where terrorism divides us along religious, racial, and political lines.

May we work together and pray together in our efforts to produce positive solutions and not create a broader divide. I pray that wisdom and not fear guides our minds and our hands. I look toward a nation that focuses on who we are in our souls not our surface reactions based on fear of the unknown.

May God bless those directly affected by this tragedy and May God bless America.

Semper Fidelis

The Anti-Muslim Comments by Ben Carson

150501182005-ben-carson-in-arizona-exlarge-169In a week that included a 14 year old nerd Ahmed Mohammad being arrested at school for a science project and a supporter at a Trump rally stating “We have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims” without rebuke, Ben Carson, currently in second place for the Republican Presidential nomination, ended the week when he said “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

Ahmed Mohammad received lots of support though some like Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins have made dubious claims against the teen claiming that the arrest was justified or the teen staged an elaborate hoax, Donald Trump has come out and said he has plenty of Muslim friends and that he shouldn’t be held accountable for what people say at his rallies, and Ben Carson is now walking back his comments as best as he can stating that his words were taken out of context.

The issue as I see it has nothing to do with what was said by Ben Carson or the Trump supporter necessarily, it’s what is implied by the statements that prove without a shadow of a doubt that Islamophobia is real, is ugly, and has real world consequences like a 14 year old teen being arrested for something other teens who aren’t Muslims likely would not.

Islamophobia by definition though many claim it doesn’t exist, means that an individual harbors an irrational fear of Muslims and/or Islam. The key word here as with all phobia’s is irrational. In a world that boasts a population of 1.5 billion Muslims, when you hear the claims about Muslims compared with the facts, to still believe in claims like all Muslims are terrorists, are anti-women, hate democracy, etc. to still harbor those beliefs regardless of the facts is an irrational position. So when people believe that the reason behind Ahmed Mohammad’s arrest is perfectly logical because of incidents at schools, even though the facts show that if there was a tragedy at a school, the perpetrator will likely be a White male, ignoring these facts regarding school mass killings, is illogical and point toward islamophobia, especially if the individuals with those beliefs do not have the same ideas about White males.

So what was implied by Ben Carson’s comments on Meet The Press when he stated that he wouldn’t advocate the US electing a Muslim President and that Islam isn’t consistent with the US Constitution? Ben Carson has the right to harbor whatever beliefs he wants to, that is not even up for debate. However, if you’re running to be President of everyone in America, telling 3 million citizens that their faith makes them unworthy to be President and that their beliefs are inconsistent with the US Constitution sets poor precedent and it not consistent with what is expected of a leader.

At issue once again, is this idea that Muslims believe in some different God than the Judeo-Christian God and that we believe in a legal system that is inconsistent with the US Constitution. First and foremost, it doesn’t matter what God Muslims believe or don’t believe when it comes to being an elected official in America, but to state that Muslims do not believe in the God of Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and the Prophets of the Bible, points to a juvenile and ignorant understanding of Islamic beliefs and is really an ideological assault by a certain demographic that is hateful, arrogant, and part of an agenda bent on marginalizing a religious community. Secondly, there is this all to common misconception about Shariah Law used as a blunt object against American Muslims to bludgeon and question their motives and beliefs.

Shariah Law, unlike what many non-Muslims who are anti-Islam claim, is not a static legal jurisprudence that is documented in some book, letter, or document that all Muslims read, believe, and swear allegiance to. In fact, there is no complete anything that can be called Shariah Law. What Shariah Law is actually a concept and idea that every Muslim subscribes to in some shape or form that states that when it comes to laws and living your life, one should try to implement them in a manner consistent with those messages revealed by God. The concept of Shariah Law is primarily derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah (example of Muhammad). As such, what is called Shariah Law is as diverse as those who interpret the Qur’an and Sunnah. This is why this argument that Muslims have beliefs inconsistent with the US Constitution or any government is flawed on the premise. There may be Muslims who disagree with elements of the US Constitution and back their claims with examples from the Qur’an and Sunnah, however there may be just as many Muslims who feel differently and back their claims with example from the Qur’an and Sunnah as well. Shariah Law is open to individual interpretation for the most part.

The mistake people make on this topic of Shariah Law concerns the nature of what Shariah includes. Shariah isn’t just about whether or not there should be capital punishment for crimes, the rights of women, the status of minorities, or other hot topic issues. Shariah also includes how Muslims should pray, marry, bury their dead, how to dress, what to eat, and many other day to day activities. In other words, Shariah is no different from any other religion’s laws, cannon, or rules.

This is why it’s extremely disturbing that Muslims are always singled out exclusively as having beliefs incompatible with the US Constitution, laws, and values. There is no religion without questionable things written in their texts. The Bible states that kids should be killed for disobeying parents, women should obey their husbands like a god, and many more horrific things. There have been doctrines in various religions that any modern person would feel are wrong. Yet, we never question whether or not Christians should be allowed to be President or hold elected office when the very book they profess belief in and swear their oaths on, contains so many unsavory and barbaric passages. As Americans, we give our Christian and Jewish elected officials the benefit of the doubt that even though their texts says these things and even though they haven’t been asked to defend, expunge, or repudiate these verses, that they will act on what they have professed in their campaigns and abide by the oaths they swore to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

This question of whether or not Muslims can be just as loyal or abide by the oaths we swear, is why allegations of islamophobia are relevant. Ben Carson’s comments, just like those often professed by members of the Republican Party and even members of the Left like Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher, that somehow place American Muslims in this unique category different from any other religion regardless of a textual comparison, is very disturbing and should be exposed for the bigotry that it is. I personally find these recent discussions extremely abhorrent because unlike Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, and many others who harbor these beliefs, I along with 2 members of Congress Andre Carson and Keith Ellison, and hundreds of veterans, have actually sworn oaths to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and have kept those oaths by serving honorably. Some have even given their lives on the battlefield as recently called to attention by Senator Harry Reid concerning Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, a Muslim member of the US Army who died in defense of America. Khan was also awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

We cannot continue to allow these comments that single out a single religious minority in America to stand. We would not allow it for any other group and our history bears witness to what harm this type of bigotry can cause. As Catholics, Jews, and others know all too well, the stereotypes, comments, rumors, and allegations can lead to much worse. Islamophobia propagated in comments by Carson, Trump, and others with such large followings, help spread the division in America and ostracism of American Muslims. Right now, in many places in America, Muslims have to fight for their rights to practice their religion freely, to build houses of worship, be able to build cemeteries to bury their dead, and be able to take off from work or school for religious holidays.

When Ben Carson tries to downplay his comments by suggesting that what he meant was that he wouldn’t support anyone who supports theocracy and that as long as Muslims reject those things that he and others feel are inherent in Islam alone, is ridiculous. The presumption that Muslims automatically support theocracy or backward ideas because they are Muslim is why these comments are so inflammatory even after the spin. No one who wants to lead all Americans, should hold ideas that remotely suggest that any religious minority especially one with 3 million members should somehow face a religious litmus test. There is nothing just about judging whether or not Muslims can be President when the appraisal doesn’t consider what Muslims have actually said, done, or even the oaths they have already sworn.

What’s amazing is that the two front-runners of the Republican Party running for President share these views. This says a lot to me as an American, as a Veteran, and as a Muslim, about the vision they have for America, because they do not include me, my family, or my friends.

An American Muslim’s Response to the Tragedy in Chattanooga

americanmuslim-us-flag.jpgMuslims are taught that during the month of Ramadan, Satan and his influences are locked up and the gates of Paradise are wide open. However, I have found—and wth heart-breaking realization today—that the evil within the hearts of mankind can still prevail.

I learned of the tragedy in Chattanooga after work. A close friend of mine asked me would I be responding and when I asked him to what, he gave me the devastating news. Instantly, I was choked up, my eyes filled with tears, and though my heart was overrun with sadness, the rage and anger began to smolder beneath. It was déjà vu for me all over again. I similarly received news in this manner when Nidal Hassan attacked fellow Soldiers at Ft. Hood. Then, as I did today, I gripped the steering wheel tightly and fought back the scream and the tears.

I’m a Marine. I state that with pride, honor, and as a matter of fact. I left for Parris Island when I was 17 and earned the title of US Marine. To hear that my 4 of my brothers were attacked instantly filled me with rage. I’m not ashamed to admit this, but the complex emotions that swam around inside overwhelmed me with a profound grief. A grief that even now I can’t truly articulate how I feel. Stating in my head over and over “how could he” did not do much for my psyche as I made my way through DC traffic. Listening to the news on the radio, trying to find out what texts could not, surely didn’t help either.

This is a last day of Ramadan. The conclusion of a month of fasting, prayers, and trying to be the best person you could be. Revulsion is what I and many other Muslims feel. We know that the killer committed such a crime in general, but especially on this day. It takes a seriously sick individual to call themselves Muslim if that’s what the killer did and then commit an atrocity like this. Was he radicalized, whatever that means? Was he devout? Mainstream media is sure throwing the term around. Though, I was not surprised to hear the terrorist was cited for a DUI in April. Alcohol is forbidden in Islam, and so is the killing of innocents—but neither of those things mattered to this killer. We may never know what motivated the killer, but we do know that his actions have caused a lot of grief and pain for the family and the nation.

As a Muslim and a Marine, terms and titles I never believed to be mutually exclusive, I find this attack unconscionable and condemn it with no condition. I never met the victims but they are my brothers. They earned the title like I did and served their country like I did and they did not deserve to die by this madman. They are heroes in my book and should be honored. I feel betrayed as a Muslim, because when these things happen, we all collectively get blamed.

I have served my country my entire adult life. I don’t know anything else, but when these evil people who call themselves Muslims, commit crimes against humanity like this, they fully realize the admonishing in the Qur’an that states that when one takes the life of another unjustly it’s as if they killed all mankind. My wife and my children and those of many other American Muslims must now be on the alert because of the collective blame that is being leveled against us.

This must remain about the victims and their families, but we can’t exclude the reality that is being Muslim in America. For instance, there was a racially motivated terrorist attack in Charleston, SC last month and the media refused to call it terrorism. Yet, in a similar hate filled attack the media does not hesitate to call this crime terrorism—because naturally only Muslims can be terrorists right?

I truly wish in my heart of hearts the killer was a devout Muslim. If he were a devout Muslim he would be celebrating the end of Ramadan and planning to join in of the Eid festivities and prayers. He would have been fasting, praying for peace, and giving charity like the rest of us and trying to counter terror with love like so many Muslims who have raised nearly 100k for the Black Churches set on fire last month. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make the evil intentions that produce the hate against our fellow man go away, but I don’t. Instead I’ll join in with the billion peaceful well-intention Muslims around the world in praying for a better tomorrow.

Our Corps of Marines were dealt a heavy blow, but we are forever strong and will persevere through our grief. My Ummah will face more scrutiny and challenges here in America in the days ahead, but our faith in God and in humanity will bring us through. I pray for a better, more peaceful, world and country. I pray that no family will ever have to experience what these victims have experienced today. I grieve with my Corps and my Country and I have faith that things will eventually get better. May the peace and blessings of God be on us all.

Semper Fidelis.

Robert Salaam is a former active duty US Marine and an American Muslim blogger and speaker. Follow him on twitter @RSalaam