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.


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.


Even Christian Groups Disagree With Republicans’ Plan To Prioritize Religious Minorities In Refugee Crisis

Syrian refugeesWASHINGTON — Christian groups that work with refugees are strongly opposed to a proposal that would in effect put Iraqi and Syrian Christians ahead of Muslims for resettlement in the U.S., even if they are also victims of persecution.

Ten House Republicans have signed on to a bill introduced this month by House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) that, among other things, instructs the government to prioritize religious minorities from Syria and Iraq for refugee status. The Obama administration plans to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees in the 2016 fiscal year, which begins on Thursday.

As western countries determine how many people to take in from the Middle East amid an ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, the religious provision in McCaul’s proposal points to a key point of tension: the fact that most Syrians are Muslim.

This has been specifically highlighted by some leaders, such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who said admitting more refugees could take away Europe’s Christian identity.

U.S. politicians who oppose accepting more Syrian refugees have been less explicitly focused on religion, but contend that it would harm national security because some of those acceptedcould be potential terrorists. In announcing the legislation, the congressman did not mention any religion specifically, but instead focused on the “threat posed by inadequate security screening procedures for refugees seeking entry into the United States,” including members of the Islamic State. 


The Republican Attack on Muslims

23wed1-blog427The Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is drawing criticism over the bigoted comments he has been making recently about Muslims. It is well deserved, and is not a matter of “P.C. culture,” as Mr. Carson has claimed. Nor does Mr. Carson represent some minor fringe element in the Republican Party.

This latest sordid mess to arise from the G.O.P. nomination contest touches on bedrock American values, constitutional principles and American history. It reflects a pernicious habit among the leaders of the Republican Party to play with fire by pandering to an angry, disaffected and heavily white base by demonizing selected minorities. Muslims are just the current target.

Mr. Carson declared Sunday on ”Meet the Press” that Muslims are unfit to run for president because a president’s faith should be “consistent with the Constitution.” Later, he told the newspaper The Hill that Islamic Shariah law isn’t consistent with the Constitution because “Muslims feel that their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official, and that’s inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution.”

Leave aside for a moment the unintentionally funny spectacle of a member of the current Republican Party declaring that religion should be kept out of public life, and that Mr. Carson, as an African-American, is a member of a much belittled minority. The freedom of religion embedded in the First Amendment rules out the very idea of a religious test for public office, as John F. Kennedy so eloquently argued and then proved by becoming the first Catholic president.

As for Shariah law, Catholicism has canon law and Judaism has the Halakha and nobody is painting them as threats to the republic — at least not this year.