Being Muslim American in the year of Donald Trump


Muslim Americans describe the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a seminal moment that painfully altered their place in American society.

But when CNN interviewed American Muslims about the presidential election, we heard a startling message: 2016 is worse.

CNN traveled last month to three growing Muslim communities — in Minneapolis, Northern Virginia and Staten Island — which represent the diversity and increasing political engagement of Muslims in the United States. The majority of people we spoke to said it is harder to be a Muslim American today than it was even after 9/11.
“I have never thought I would hear my young daughter say, ‘Dad, people were asking me about my scarf in the school,’ ” said Hamse Warfa, a Somali refugee who immigrated to the US as a teenager and now lives in the Minneapolis suburbs. “After 9/11, there was no ring-leader, so to speak, who was championing, mainstreaming, hate.”
That “ring-leader” Warfa was referring to is Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president.
Trump has run a hardline, anti-immigration campaign built on promises to erect a wall and deport millions of undocumented immigrants. Last December, he announced a proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country. And he has suggested that profiling would be an effective strategy to prevent terrorism.
CNN interviewed more than 40 Muslim Americans who expressed raw emotions ranging from disbelief to anger to fear. Perhaps most disturbing about this election, many said, is the perception that Trump has helped to normalize animosity toward and suspicion of Muslims in the US.

Meet The Muslim Woman Running For State Legislature In Minnesota


ihan Omar is a former refugee, a Somali-American activist, and a proud Democrat.

On November 8, the 33-year-old is poised to become one of the few Muslim women ever elected to a state legislature in the country.

Omar is on the path towards winning a spot on the Minnesota State Legislature, after defeating a 44-year incumbent during the state’s primary election. Her Republican opponent in the heavily Democratic House District 60B suspended his campaign in August.

Born in Mogadishu, Omar was forced to flee her home when she was about eight years old, after war broke out in Somalia. Her family lived in a refugee camp in Kenya for several years. She was 12 years old when she arrived in in the United States, soon becoming part of a wave of Somalis who settled in Minnesota during the 1990s. Her political conscience was awakened when she was 14, after she began attending local Democratic caucus meetings with her grandfather and acting as his translator.

Omar worked in community health and then as a senior policy aide for a Minneapolis City Council member before deciding to run for Minnesota’s state House of Representatives herself.

The Huffington Post caught up with Omar to talk about her remarkable story, her activism, and her faith.


The Chicago Cubs are the Official Team of Jews—Also Christians, Buddhists and Muslims

bn-qj652_holycu_gr_20161020185008Within hours of the Chicago Cubs getting eliminated from the 2015 postseason, a devoted fan named Deric Brazill went online to share a revelation. The next season would mark 108 years since the Cubs had won the World Series.

In Buddhism, he wrote, 108 is a significant number. To mark the New Year, Buddhist temple bells ring 108 times. Strings of Buddhist prayer beads contain 108 beads. If the Cubs win the World Series in 2016, Mr. Brazill says, “the Dalai Lama should probably comment.”

Cubs cap
Cubs cap

Should the drought extend to 109 years, however, Cubs fans won’t be surprised, especially those who are Buddhist. “The Buddha is quoted saying, ‘Life is suffering,’” says the Rev. Patti Nakai of the Buddhist Temple of Chicago, located just blocks from Wrigley Field. “We always say, ‘Us Cubs fans know that real well.’”

All religions, to some extent, seek to understand the value, meaning and purpose of suffering. That includes everyday plagues, such as enduring a calamitous baseball losing streak. It’s no accident spiritual thinkers make the connection.

“All this attention on the Cubs has me thinking about hope, the most underappreciated Christian virtue,” Michael Laskey, a Yankees-loving National Catholic Reporter columnist, wrote last year.

Lauding Cubs fans for braving horrible weather in support of often-terrible teams, Mr. Laskey wrote that “this type of hope—showing up when things are hard—might be exactly the virtue the church most needs right now.”


Islam, Sexual Ethics, and Community Conversations


Sex is described as many things: it can be an act of passion for some, physical gratification for others, a necessity for procreation, an act of worship for people of faith, or some combination thereof. It is also a word and experience that is often loaded with many emotions: joy, love, and all too often, fear, shame, and stigma.

One of the challenges of beginning this conversation is that historically, sex and sexuality have been seen as uncomfortable subjects across most racial, ethnic, and religious communities. In Muslim communities, the strong notions of privacy and modesty are oftenconflated with the shaming of feeling sexual desire, which creates an environment hostile to open discourse, let alone operating outside of religious code. This lack of open, nuanced conversation has long-term consequences: it instills shame and unhealthy attitudes toward sex, which many women carry into their sexual relationships, both within the framework of marriage and outside of it. Islam, like many other faiths, has values around sex and sexuality, and most mainstream scholars would agree that the tradition emphasizes:

  1. Abstinence until marriage
  2. Modesty and privacy around sexual issues
  3. Mutual pleasure between partners, a sexual right that both men and women are granted

It is also noteworthy that Islam as a faith is sex-positive—sex is considered to be a sacred act of worship and the right to mutual pleasure is at the forefront—but cultural baggage and patriarchy has perpetuated attitudes of shame, stigma, and silence about sexuality. So what role does sexuality play in the life of the spirit? The current narrative is that sexuality and faith can be at odds with each other for those who may not operate within the above-mentioned religious code, but do they have to be? Have we created a safe, judgment-free space for all in our communities where individuals can explore values and expectations about sex while still feeling a sense of belonging to the faith community they identify with? Is it possible to have a values-based conversation on sex while still honoring personal agency? How can we reclaim the conversation to one that instills positive, healthy attitudes toward sex, instead of one laden with cultural baggage, patriarchy, and shame?


How Christian entertainment is upending stereotypes about Muslims

Christian comedian Jeremy McLellan, from Charleston, South Carolina has struck a chord with Muslims all over the world but particularly in North America. He has over 100,000 followers on Facebook, and about half are from the United States.

The second highest fan base is from Pakistan, followed by the United Kingdom, Canada and India. McLellan says he knows many of these followers are Muslim through comments and messages he receives.

 McLellan puts social justice at the center of his work and his comedy has turned into an unlikely form of advocacy against Islamophobia.


Christian comedian Jeremy McLellan has struck a chord with Muslims all over the world. His comedy has turned into an unlikely form of advocacy against Islamophobia, and he’s become a staple at Muslim festivals around North America.| Tyler Sawyer

“I didn’t set out to write jokes for Muslims. I tell a lot of jokes about a lot of things — race, immigration, police brutality — all these hot-button topics that I love addressing. But over the past year, a lot of stuff I was saying about Muslims started to go viral, and it actually makes perfect sense. Here is this large demographic, in the United States and around the world who are interested in these exact same issues,” McLellan said.

McLellan, 30, has become a staple at Muslim festivals and events around North America, including the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) annual banquet in Los Angeles, one of the largest CAIR banquets in the country attracting 2,000 people, including prominent American Muslims, interfaith activists and politicians, and the Muslimfest in Toronto, a festival bringing together more than 20,000 people every year to celebrate the best in Muslim art, entertainment and culture.

Dubbing McLellan a rising star, Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR Los Angeles, says McLellan is an important ally to the Muslim community. “We need both voices: a Muslim voice is important because it lives, feels and experiences the challenges. But we also need non-Muslim voices that will humanize our community. You never know, a funny message coming from a Caucasian non-Muslim might resonate with someone who may not be open to listening to a Muslim.”


Bridge Building Between Christians and Muslims

This is a lengthier, more involved article than usually appears on these pages, but well worth reading for those who wish to hear a Muslim perspective on Christian-Muslim dialogue.  Dialogue is by its very nature a two-way street.  Knowing each other’s perspective is a crucial part of that.  

This is a piece by Jamal Badawi appearing on Islamicity:

With nearly one billion followers each, Islam and Christianity are major religions that influence the thinking and values of over 40 percent of the World population. While there are theological differences, some of which might be significant, there are nonetheless other important areas of belief that are shared by both communities: belief in Allah, or God; belief in revelation, in prophets, in the Holy Books of Allah; in the life hereafter and in a divinely inspired moral code organizing and regulating human life during our earthly journey to eternity.


For the Muslim, constructive dialogue is not only permitted, it is commendable. In the Qur’an we read, ‘Say, ‘O people of the book’ (a term which particularly refers to Jews and Christians) ‘come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him (in His powers and divine attributes); that we erect not from among ourselves lords and patrons other than Allah.’ If then they turn back say you ‘Bear witness that we are Muslims.’ (Bowing) to the will of God.” (al-i-Imran;3:64)

The methodology of that dialogue is also explained in the Qur’an; “Invite (all) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful exhortation, and argue with them in ways that are best.’ (al-Nahl; 16,125) A prerequisite for any constructive dialogue is that both communities should not learn about each other through sources that are unsympathetic, critical, or even hostile: they should rather try to formulate an honest idea as to how the other faith is seen in its own authentic scriptures and as practiced by those who are truly committed to it. This need is even more significant in the case of the Muslim-Christian dialogue. The average Christian has heard of or has read about Islam mostly through writers who have had colonial or missionary motives, which might have given a certain slant to their interpretation of Islam to the western mind. While I admit that my own practice of Islam is far from perfect, I at least speak from the vantage point of someone who wants to think of himself as a committed, practicing Muslim. Now I’d like to share with you five basic areas, consideration of which is imperative in any Christian-Muslim understanding: the meaning of the term “Islam”; the meaning of the term “Allah”; the nature of the human; the relationship between the human and Allah; the question of accountability, and finally, some conclusions pertaining to bridgebudding between Muslims and Christians.


The Professor Wore a Hijab in Solidarity — Then Lost Her Job

16mag-16hawkins-t_ca1-superjumboThree days after Larycia Hawkins agreed to step down from her job at Wheaton College, an evangelical school in Wheaton, Ill., she joined her former colleagues and students for what was billed as a private service of reconciliation. It was a frigid Tuesday evening last February, and attendance was optional, but Wheaton’s largest chapel was nearly full by the time the event began. A large cross had been placed on the stage, surrounded by tea lights that snaked across the blond floorboards in glowing trails.

“We break, we hurt, we wound, we lament,” the school’s chaplain began. He led a prayer from the Book of Psalms, and the crowd sang a somber hymn to the tune of “Amazing Grace”:

God raised me from a miry pit,
from mud and sinking sand,
and set my feet upon a rock
where I can firmly stand.

Philip Ryken, the college’s president of six years, spoke next. His father had been an English professor at Wheaton for 44 years, and he grew up in town, receiving his undergraduate degree from the college. “I believe in our fundamental unity in Jesus Christ, even in a time of profound difficulty that is dividing us and threatening to destroy us,” he told the crowd. “These recent weeks have been, I think, the saddest days of my life.” It was the night before the first day of Lent, the 40-day season of repentance in the Christian calendar.

Wheaton had spent the previous two months embroiled in what was arguably the most public and contentious trial of its 156-year history. In December, Hawkins wrote a theologically complex Facebook postannouncing her intention to wear a hijab during Advent, in solidarity with Muslims; the college placed her on leave within days and soon moved to fire her. Jesse Jackson had compared Hawkins with Rosa Parks, while Franklin Graham, an evangelist and Billy Graham’s son, declared, “Shame on her!” Students protested, fasted and tweeted. Donors, parents and alumni were in an uproar. On this winter evening, the first black female professor to achieve tenure at the country’s most prominent evangelical college was now unemployed and preparing to address the community to which she had devoted the past nine years of her life. As a Wheaton anthropology professor, Brian Howell, wrote in January, the episode had become “something of a Rorschach test for those wondering about the state of Wheaton College, evangelicalism and even U.S. Christianity.”