Oz’s Senate bid could be a Muslim first but is ‘complicated’

(AP) – Dr. Mehmet Oz, who calls himself a “secular Muslim,” would be the first of his faith to ever serve in the U.S. Senate chamber if elected this fall.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — If Dr. Mehmet Oz is elected to the U.S. Senate this fall, he’ll be the first Muslim ever to serve in the chamber. It’s something he hardly brings up while campaigning, his Democratic opponent isn’t raising it and it’s barely a topic of conversation in Pennsylvania’s Muslim community.

Even if Muslims know that Oz — the celebrity heart surgeon best known as the host of daytime TV’s “The Dr. Oz Show” — is a fellow Muslim, many may not identify with him culturally or politically.

And in any case, Muslims aren’t monolithic and won’t necessarily vote for a candidate just because they share a religion, Muslims across the state say — he’ll have to win them over on the issues just as with all voters.

Oz, whose parents emigrated from Turkey, calls himself a “secular Muslim” and has said that the spiritual side of Islam resonates with him more than the religious law side of it.

He is also part of a Republican Party that is a political minority among Muslims and is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who earned the enmity of some Muslims for enacting a 2017 ban on travelers coming to the United States from five predominantly Muslim countries.

For a Republican Party more accustomed to electing white Christians, Oz’s religion is a strange bedfellow. Some Muslims say they have felt an animosity from the party in the past and Muslim candidates themselves have faced attacks from GOP rivals.

In a brief interview, Oz said it is good for the United States’ leadership to show that it can elect Muslims, and it is good for Muslims to see one of their own elected to the U.S. Senate.

That kind of success would reinforce the message that “if you work hard in America, no matter what your heritage we treasure you,” Oz said.

Oz won the GOP’s seven-way May primary in a contest so narrow it triggered a statewide recount and he now faces Democrat John Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, in the Nov. 8 election. The contest in the presidential battleground state could help determine partisan control of the Senate next year.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE

Muslim Killings in Albuquerque Stir Sectarian Ghosts

An Afghan family struggled for a foothold in a new home in the U.S. Now one of them is charged with killing fellow Muslims.

By Simon RomeroMiriam JordanAva Sasani and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

  • Aug. 15, 2022

ALBUQUERQUE — Five years ago, Muhammad Syed was eyeing a new life with his family in a new land. They had fled war-torn Afghanistan and resettled as refugees into a small duplex near the airport in Albuquerque. Mr. Syed found work as a truck driver. But then the troubles began.

Coming from a culture where women largely stayed at home, he grew enraged with his wife as she was learning how to drive, grabbing her hair and kicking her out of the car, according to one of several reports of domestic violence the police were called to investigate. A security camera showed him slashing the tires of another woman’s car outside Albuquerque’s largest mosque, and he was banned from coming back to their place of worship.

When his daughter enrolled in college, he tried to force her to bring her brother to class as a chaperone. And when she became romantically involved with an Afghan man from a different branch of Islam — a Shiite, while Mr. Syed and his family were Sunni — he attacked the young man and threatened to kill him, the man later told the police.

“Syed was explosive, violent, always seeking revenge,” said Sharif Ahmadi Hadi, an Afghan immigrant who, together with his brother, opened a halal market serving Albuquerque’s growing Muslim community and knew the Syed family. “We left Afghanistan to get away from people like him. But they followed us here.”

Altaf Hussain Samadi at the grave of Aftab Hussein, his brother, on Friday.
Altaf Hussain Samadi at the grave of Aftab Hussein, his brother, on Friday.Credit…Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal, via Associated Press

Now Mr. Syed has been identified as the leading suspect in the harrowing string of murders of four men, including Mr. Hadi’s younger brother, three of them Shiite Muslims, and the authorities said on Monday that Mr. Syed’s son, Shaheen Syed, purchased weapons with his father and may have helped him surveil one of the victims before his death.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

Most American Muslims believe gun laws need to be stricter, says survey

Most American Muslims believe gun control laws should be stricter, a new report by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (Ispu) has found.

According to the poll, 65 percent of Muslim respondents believe existing gun control laws need to be stricter, slightly higher than the 64 percent of Jews and Catholics that were polled.

Muslims are more likely than Protestants (54 percent), white Evangelicals (30 percent), and the general public (57 percent) to hold this view.

According to the survey, white Muslims were more likely than white Americans in the general public to believe gun laws should be stricter. But Black Muslims were more likely than Black Americans to believe laws covering the sale of firearms should be less strict.

The report, which will be released in full in August, comes just two weeks after 21 people, mostly children, were killed in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

According to data from the Washington Post, more than 311,000 children in America have experienced gun violence in school since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School. In that same period, 185 were killed and 369 were injured.

“All Americans are unfortunately impacted by gun violence, directly or indirectly. As our local, state and national leadership work to find effective solutions, public opinion is critical to understand,” Meira Neggaz, Ispu’s executive director, told Middle East Eye.

“Our work researching American Muslim opinions, in comparison to other groups in the country’s faith landscape, uncovers that most groups and the majority of Americans are aligned in their concern about the current state of gun laws.”

to gun safety laws that we have seen in decades.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM MIDDLE EAST EYE

OPINION: MUSLIM AMERICANS AND MENTAL HEALTH

We know that health disparities are a looming threat to minority groups’ quality of life and well-being. Yet, most popular attention on minority health disparities, both in the medical literature and in the public, focuses on racial and ethnic disparities. While these inequities are real and rightfully deserve attention, other demographic gaps, such as those among Muslim Americans, are also important. 

Part of what makes the Muslim population so beautiful is the immense diversity; no single racial or ethnic group constitutes more than 30% of the total Muslim American population. What’s more, millions of Muslims are also racial or ethnic minorities and (or) immigrants. This creates a risk of intersectional stigma — which can adversely affect individual mental health.

As authors, we care about this topic because our background as Muslim Americans means we cannot remain silent about the challenges that confront our community. Washington State is home to a steadily growing Muslim population, with a current population of over 100,000 Muslims, with the majority of them residing in King County. 

Growing up in the greater Seattle area, we have witnessed incidents of harassment and discrimination against Muslims. Muslims of all ages and backgrounds are subject to this discrimination. In school, Muslim kids often experience bullying and harassment; in public, there have been countless incidents including women’s hijab being pulled off and in which Muslims were called derogatory names and were subject to hate crimes. 

Having this happen to you or even seeing it happen to your fellow Muslims takes an immense toll on one’s sense of safety, belonging, confidence wearing Islamic dress (such as the hijab), and overall expressing one’s freedom of religion. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM SOUTH SEATTLE EMERALD

Yes, Muslims are portrayed negatively in American media

(The Conversation) — The warm welcome Americans and Europeans have given Ukrainians in 2022 contrasts sharply with the uneven — and frequently hostile — policies toward Syrian refugees in the mid-2010s.

Political scientist David Laitin has highlighted the role that religious identities play in this dynamic. As he pointed out in a recent interview, Syrian refugees were “mostly Muslim and faced higher degrees of discrimination than will the Ukrainians, who are largely of Christian heritage.”

The media provide information that shapes such attitudes toward Muslims. A 2007 Pew Research Center survey of Americans found that people’s negative opinions on Muslims were mostly influenced by what they heard and read in the media. Communications scholar Muniba Saleem and colleagues have demonstrated the link between media information and “stereotypic beliefs, negative emotions and support for harmful policies” toward Muslim Americans.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE

An immigrant Muslim finds his model of empowerment in Black American Islam

One in a new series of interviews with contemporary faith-based leaders reinventing American faith.

(RNS) — Rami Nashashibi, who founded the Inner-City Muslim Action Network on Chicago’s South Side 25 years ago, is a community builder, a teacher and a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” award. Georgetown University has called him one of the world’s 500 most-influential Muslims.

What he is not is an imam. He is part of a rising generation of lay leaders blending ancient tradition with modern activism to mobilize their faith communities. Leaders such as Nashashibi are not replacing traditional institutions or houses of worship, but they bring an immediacy to their faith-based work that is re-energizing American religion. 

Born in Jordan to Palestinian parents, Nashashibi founded IMAN in 1997 with his friend Abdul-Malik Ryan, a lawyer and Muslim convert, in Chicago Lawn, a traditionally Black neighborhood that was rapidly becoming a hub for Arab Americans. The two had the goal of providing a place where first-, second- and third-generation Muslim Americans, converts and non-Muslims would all feel included.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE

US Muslim advocates weigh in on abortion rights battle

By Dalia Hatuqa

Forty-nine years ago, the US Supreme Court issued a ruling that changed the lives of American women, formally legalising the right to abortion across the United States.

Now, as Roe v Wade faces its most serious threat in decades, Muslim Americans, like many others across the US, have been contemplating what overturning that decision could mean for women’s reproductive rights and access to safe abortions.

Aliza Kazmi, co-executive director of HEART, a national organisation that focuses on sex education in the Muslim community, said reproductive access and choice – including safe abortion care – is already limited or non-existent for many in the US, namely people of colour and low-income people.

“We know that many Muslim women are already being pushed away given how health inequities impeding abortion access exist and persist including due to Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, homophobia, transphobia, heteropatriarchy, Christian supremacy, etc. within the provision of health services,” Kazmi told Al Jazeera in an email.

“Should Roe v. Wade be overturned, this narrowing would devastate a majority of people in this country,” she said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA

My journey in Islam and learning more about religion

Growing up, I distinctly remember that I rarely saw a face in my neighborhood that looked like mine. When Christmas came around every year, I would see beautiful trees adorned with unique ornaments from our neighbors’ windows. Large presents lined their floors, and iridescent lights glowed from within their living rooms. 

Our house was always the only one on the block without an ounce of decoration during the holiday season. As the neighborhood celebrated, my parents and I sat mindlessly throughout the day. Sometimes when I was young, we played a CD of nasheeds, songs performed according to Islamic tradition, to pass the time. I sat on the floor; despite not understanding anything, I sang along. 

Homogeneity characterized my childhood. Among a sea of white and Christian students, there were only a handful of other students that looked like me in my classes. I made my first Muslim friend when I was six. She was one of four other Muslims in that school, and the only one remotely close to my age. Back then, neither one of us really knew what it meant to be Muslim, but just knowing that we shared something was enough for me. Two years later, I moved to a different school, and I didn’t make another Muslim friend until I was 14.

My parents wanted me to assimilate more than anything else. As immigrants, their priority was making sure that I didn’t experience the ostracism they did when they first arrived in the U.S. When it came down to enrolling me in a Sunday school, they decided that playing sports or learning an instrument, activities that other kids around me pursued, were probably more valuable ways to use my time. 

Aside from a very occasional trip to the masjid, place of worship for Muslims, or being forced to pray with my grandmother or a family member, I had no concept of what it meant to be a Muslim. According to my family’s beliefs, I ate zabiha meat, slaughtered in accordance with Islamic guidelines, but didn’t completely know how to pray and read the Quran. I didn’t know much about Islamic history or various traditions either, and I successfully got away with being a Muslim who didn’t actually know anything about Islam.

My extended family was always religious. While they pushed my parents to enroll me in Sunday school from an early age like their own children, my parents assured them that if I wanted, I could enroll myself in Islamic school much later in life and faithfully adhere to the Five Pillars of Islam. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE EMORY WHEEL

Jamil Jan Kochai on Americans’ Fear of Islam

The author discusses “The Haunting of Hajji Hotak,” his story from the latest issue of the magazine.

n “The Haunting of Hajji Hotak,” your story in this week’s issue, someone—presumably an F.B.I. agent—is surveilling the home of an Afghan family in West Sacramento, California. How did this scenario come to you?

A blackandwhite photograph of the author Jamil Jan Kochai in front of a bookshelf.
Photograph by Jalil Kochai

Like many of my stories, “The Haunting” was inspired by a joke. I had read an Onion article titled “FBI Counterterrorism Agent Wistfully Recalls Watching 20-Year-Old Muslim-American Grow Up,” which I found hilarious but also oddly plausible. I could imagine an F.B.I. agent growing to feel a disturbing sense of affection for some Muslim family he was surveilling. This figure sort of fascinated me. I wasn’t totally unfamiliar with federal agents myself. When I was in fourth grade, a few weeks after 9/11, I opened the door one day to find two F.B.I. agents standing on our front porch. I remember they spoke with my father for a short time and, fortunately, seemed to disappear afterward. And yet their presence still sort of lingered in our home. In our daily lives. We became very careful about what we discussed on the phone or online or at school. We lived with an odd sense of paranoia, which we often joked about in group chats, but this feeling of being surveilled did weigh on me. The agents had left, but they continued to exist in our lives like spectres. We felt haunted. We still feel haunted. But now, at least, I can write about the ghosts.

Why not tell the family’s story directly? Why see it through the eyes of a spying outsider?

The story started with the agent. I figured out his voice and perspective before I actually knew whom he would be surveilling. It was only after I began watching this family through the eyes of the agent that their characters and relationships and conflicts became apparent to me. I discovered this version of this family through the outsider himself. He was absolutely essential.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORKER

Muslim community grows, matures in New Hampshire following ‘terrifying’ aftermath of 9-11

As news reports fixated on images of crumbling towers and Osama bin Laden 20 years ago, Muslims living in New Hampshire and across the country became the focus — and in some cases, the target of scorn — of their neighbors.

Muslims suffered taunts — “go back to your country” — from motorists as they left the mosque in Manchester, which at the time was hidden away in an office building just across the street from the future police station.

In schools, children endured insults and in some cases assaults from fellow students.

When they left their homes, adults had to weigh whether traditional garments that would identify them, such as a hijab, were worth the risk to their safety.

“It was terrifying,” said Salaam Odeh, a Manchester resident and Muslim activist.

Odeh was the first victim in a hate crime case against Muslims following 9/11, after an apartment neighbor elbowed her while uttering racist slurs. The incident took place about a month after 9/11.

“We were already being mistreated, and then when this happened, people found a reason to bully us and mistreat us even more,” Odeh said.

“A label was put on you. You got the sense of having to explain yourself,” said Sheraz Rashid, who was in the seventh grade in Salem on 9/11.

A software engineer, Rashid is now the secretary of the Islamic Society of New Hampshire, which is building a mosque in Manchester.

Through the struggles, Muslims said they found comfort, too. Odeh said her host family — Vivian McDonald of Manchester and her daughter — doubled down and were very protective.

Rashid said teachers kept an eye on him.

“There was a lot of bad, but also a lot of good,” Rashid said. “People out and said, ‘No one is blaming you.’ A lot of people wanted to learn and understand.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE UNION LEADER (NEW HAMPSHIRE)