Do Republicans Believe in Religious Liberty for Muslims?

181129-Obeidallah-Ilhan-Omar-tease_edcminIlhan Omar, the first hijab-wearing member of Congress, will be seated next January. Will Republicans back a rule change ensuring her right to wear it on the floor?

Donald Trump and his GOP talk and talk about their love of “religious liberty.” In May, there was Trump declaring that religious freedom is a “priority” of his administration.  And in July, Trump’s Department of Justice even announced the formation of a religious liberty task force.

Well, if Trump and the GOP truly believe that religious liberty is not just for Christians, then here’s a no-brainer for them. The Republicans in the House should unanimously support a recently proposed rule to ensure religious liberty for a soon-to-be-sworn-in Muslim member of Congress and push back against the anti-Muslim voices in their party when they attack this change—which, if history is any guide, they will!

Come January 3, 2019, Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-MN) will be the first Muslim member of Congress ever to wear a hijab (head scarf). The problem is that a House rule enacted in 1837 bans any type of headwear, which would include Omar’s headscarf.

In response, Democratic House leader and expected next speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has formally proposed to ditch this 181-year-old ban on headwear in order to “ensure religious expression.” As Pelosi explained to NBC News, “After voters elected the most diverse Congress in history, clarifying the antiquated rule banning headwear will further show the remarkable progress we have made as a nation.”

This rule, while on the books, doesn’t seem to have been enforced. As AshLee Strong, the spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, explained in an email, “Under both Republican and Democratic Speakers, the House has never prohibited any kind of religious headwear.” That’s great to hear. But forgive me if I’m not quite reassured.


Do All Republicans Hate Muslims? I Don’t Think So, Here’s Why…

2016-07-12-1468308759-6512953-FlowerPensinvase-thumbIn January friends of mine invited me to attend a silent protest at a Republican political rally. I’m not very politically active; my interests lie more in interfaith activities and building bridges between people who are different.

My friend enticed me to go because her main purpose was to take part in a silent protest against hate speech. That appealed to me because it seems that politics has become more about vilifying the other. Not just one’s opponent, but anyone who is different or holds a different opinion. That kind of rhetoric from anyone holding the microphone drives wedges between people, creating an environment of suspicion and hate towards anyone who is different.

As an American I feel that standing up against hate speech is in keeping with American ideals and something worth doing, so I decided to go. As a Muslim American who wears hijab I realized the rally would be an opportunity for me to make connections with people who had probably never met a Muslim before.

I was pleased to find attendees of the rally were welcoming. One lady actually said, “It’s really nice to see you here”. I didn’t feel anti Muslim sentiments from the people I encountered before the rally started. But by the time we stood in silent protest (there were about 8 of us) the crowd had been whipped into a frenzy by statements like, “Syrian refugees are ISIS supporters”, “they hate us”, “they are out to get us”.

When security noticed the 8 of us standing, silently protesting, they asked us to l leave. There were people in the crowd who shouted ridiculous things at us as we left, but for me, the most memorable thing was a woman who took my hand and said, “I’m so sorry this is happening”.

That woman and the rest of the welcoming attendees are the reason I don’t believe all Republicans hate Muslims. However, I know there is a great deal of false information out there about the religion of Islam and its followers which has caused some people to fear Muslims.

In order to ease some of those fears, God willing, I’m going to Cleveland during the Republican National Convention, July 18 – 21. I will try to connect with attendees of the convention in the hopes of having friendly interactions that will leave them with a positive image of Muslims and Islam.



american muslimsNearly three-quarters of the nation’s Muslim voters intend to participate in primary elections this year and a large majority plan to support the Democratic Party, according to a new survey.

The survey, released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Monday, found that 74 percent of Muslim voters polled said they will be voting in upcoming primary elections, and 67 percent said they will vote for Democratic Party candidates. More than half of respondents said they’d vote for Hillary Clinton and 22 percent back Bernie Sanders. The survey was published hours before the Iowa caucuses.

When compared with the 17.3 percent of eligible American citizens who participated in statewide primaries for both parties in 2012—a record low—CAIR’s reported voter intention numbers seem remarkably high.

Despite Donald Trump’s plan to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S.—an idea that a quarter of Americans agree with, according to a December poll by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal—seven percent of Muslim voters polled by CAIR said they’d vote for the real estate mogul to be the Republican nominee for president. Ted Cruz was the second-most-favored Republican candidate in the survey, at two percent, and overall less than 15 percent of Muslim voters said they’d vote for Republican Party candidates.

The number of Muslims who plan to vote in this year’s primary elections is higher than in the 2014 midterm elections, and “may be driven at least in part by concern over the rise in Islamophobia nationwide,” Robert McCaw, CAIR’S government affairs manager, said in a statement on Monday. Less than 70 percent of Muslim voters polled in 2014 said they planned to vote in that year’s midterm elections, said CAIR.

“Toxic political attacks from the Trump and [Dr. Ben] Carson campaigns are definitely driving interest” from Muslim voters to participate in the primaries, McCaw tells Newsweek by phone. He adds that not all people who say they plan to vote in the primaries will actually do so.


The GOP’s Planned Parenthood Hypocrisy 2016 Republican presidential candidates claim to oppose terrorism. They say they’re motivated not by pro-Christian or anti-Muslim bias, but by a consistent ethic of calling out and confronting religious violence. But their reactions to two recent incidents belie that claim. The first incident was the July 16 attack on military recruiters in Chattanooga, Tennessee, allegedly by a Muslim. The second is the Nov. 27 attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, allegedly by a Christian. In each case, little was known at the time of the shooting. Yet the candidates treated the two cases quite differently. In fact, after the Colorado Springs attack, several candidates completely reversed the positions they had espoused after Chattanooga. Radical Christianity, unlike radical Islam, was given a pass.

The day after the Chattanooga attack we knew a few things about the alleged gunman, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez. According to the New York Times, he was a naturalized U.S. citizen. He had been “born in Kuwait to Muslim Jordanian parents of Palestinian descent.” He had written online that Muslims should “submit to Allah.” He had never been on any list of terrorism suspects. And he was due to appear in court on a three-month-old drunk-driving charge. The Times reported that Abdulazeez had “made several trips to Jordan,” but the paper also cautioned that investigators hadn’t yet determined whether he was connected to or motivated by a terrorist organization.


Why I Miss George W. Bush

30hasanWeb-master675by Mehdi Hasan

WASHINGTON — AS a Briton who, like millions of my compatriots, opposed the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, I did not expect to ever find much to admire about President George W. Bush. But as a Muslim who has come to work in America, I have recently had to revise my opinion.

Less than a week after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed 2,996 people, President Bush held a news conference at the Islamic Center of Washington. “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam,” he said, flanked by imams and community leaders. “Islam is peace.”

It was a message repeated often in the months and years afterward. “Our war is against evil,” the president said, “not against Islam.”

Fourteen years later, such remarks seem distant, if not improbable, amid the miasma of anti-Muslim hate and fearmongering fostered by the Republican candidates for president.

In recent days, Donald J. Trump has claimed that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in Jersey City celebrated the fall of the Twin Towers — a statement refuted by the city’s mayor and rated by the fact-checking watchdog PolitiFact as “Pants on Fire.” Mr. Trump has also said he “would certainly implement” a federal database to register America’s estimated three million-plus Muslims and would not rule out asking Muslim-Americans to carry a special form of ID noting their faith.



Isis wants Christians and Muslims to fight a war. Will Republicans take the bait?

The distended Republican presidential field’s response to the terror attacks in Paris is a conglomeration of policy proposals that look something like this: a ground invasion of Syria and Iraq that will explicitly be less careful about killing civilians, combined with a policy of relief for refugees only if they’re Christians.

One can almost see the Islamic State’s top ideologues and propagandists celebrating. And why not? Muslims the world over, which Isis views (wrongly) as a sea of potential recruits, could be forgiven for viewing the Republican rhetoric as a declaration of holy war against their co-religionists.

I wish my thumbnail descriptions of Republicans’ talking points were a joke, but they’re not. And the policies described by the candidates line up almost exactly with the image of America that Isis seeks to portray in its propaganda. The target for Isis’s messaging was made abundantly clear in a statement last month from the group: “Islamic youth everywhere, ignite jihad against the Russians and the Americans in their crusaders’ war against Muslims,” said Isis spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani.

When I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians, but not the Muslims … when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful.


Ben Carson slanders Islam: Here’s exactly why his claims about Muslims are dead wrong

deadstate-Ben-CarsonThe neurosurgeon-turned-Republican candidate is spreading absurd lies about the world’s second-largest religion

In his recent anti-Muslim crusade, Ben Carson promoted a disturbing form of religious segregation, claiming that a Muslim should only be president if he or she “renounces the tenets of Islam.”

Sadly, just as racial segregationists long garnered votes by promoting fear of black Americans, religious segregationists such as Carson today garner votes by promoting fear of Muslim Americans. In fact, Carson’s anti-Muslim intolerance has advanced his polling numbers and dramatically increased his campaign fundraising.

In the process, Dr. Carson has helped promote and sustain frighteningly high levels of anti-Muslim sentiment. A recent PPP survey in North Carolina reported that 72 percent believe a Muslim should not be allowed to be president of the United States. Likewise, 40 percent seek to ban Islam altogether.

Under Dr. Carson’s crusade of religious segregation, some Americans appear to have forgotten the First Amendment’s fundamental religious freedom guarantee, and likewise Article VI of the Constitution, which forbids religious tests for any government office. Like his racial segregationist predecessors, Dr. Carson demonstrates that the Constitution is suddenly meaningless when influential politicians use fear and hate to advance their agenda.

Undeterred from his myopic comments on CNN and the resulting blowback last week, Carson advanced his religious segregationist views in a recent email to his constituents, claiming that “Under Shariah law, women must be subservient and people following other religions must be killed.”