For American Muslims, family border separations are personal

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(RNS) — When Imam Arjan Abu Sa’ad turned on the news to see reports of toddlers being pulled from their families and detained in cages after crossing the U.S. border, he was shocked. 

“I never thought I would see that in America,” he said.

So when members of his Tampa, Fla., congregation came to him, also feeling helpless in the face of separated families’ anguish, the imam realized they had an opportunity to live out their faith.

“The message of Islam is mercy to humanity,” said Abu Sa’ad. “Our faith commands us … to be part of the solution and not the problem.”

On June 22, two days after President Trump signed an executive order ending his family separation policy, the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay Area (ISTABA) held a news conference at which the group offered to host every migrant child separated from his or her parents. The offer includes covering all transportation costs.

“Our ultimate goal is to protect the children,” said Ahmed Bedier, who heads the mosque’s public outreach. The idea was originally his; as the founder of the organization United Voices for America, he’s long worked on increasing Muslim civic engagement. Surrounding him as he spoke were a group of Muslim mothers who had volunteered to take detained children into their homes and a few local interfaith leaders. “These children continue to be housed and locked up into these detention centers, which we find to be unacceptable.”

Bedier told Religion News Service that the mosque is still awaiting a response from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, after his contacts in the Department of Homeland Security rerouted the offer there.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE 

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Is Islam the only way to talk about Christian fundamentalism?

bd38a7028fd14e53885bb60358e8c64a_18We really need to talk about Mehdi Hasan’s latest video for the Intercept.

In the clip titled, Caliph Donald Trump and the Rise of the Christian Taliban, broadcaster and journalist Hasan spends nearly four minutes warning his viewers about the “Christian Taliban”, or the “Bible-thumping fundamentalists who are bent on theocratising the US government.”

Using Islamic terminology, Hasan raises the alarm about the policies of the Christian right. For instance, he argues that they want “sharia law”, of the “Biblical variety”, and then goes on to speak of the multiple “mullahs” in the Trump administration, ending with “Caliph Trump” himself. In the video, Hasan also compares the use of “To God be the Glory” by the Christian right to intervene in the secular legal system to the quintessential angry Muslim screaming “Allahu Akbar”.

Hasan is not the first person to invoke Islam when speaking of extremism within other religions. He is just part of a growing group of liberals and leftists who think it’s trendy to use Islam and Muslims as a prop against religious extremism around the world, and especially in the United States.

The use of comparisons is a quick and easy way to make a point and to appeal to moderates and liberals, who are often convinced that it is religious fundamentalism alone that is the source of all evils.

And certainly, religious fundamentalists of all stripes seek to use scripture to justify their actions. But whereas the intention of Hasan’s video, for instance, might have been to give a speedy (and clearly viral) lesson about the pervasive nature of religious extremism, his use of “the Muslim extremist” tropes and attempt to rely on Islamic terms is actually quite destructive.

Hasan’s video relegates Islamic terminologies, which Muslim leaders and scholars have been working hard to reclaim, to the inaccurate definitions advanced by Islamophobes. In turn, “mullah” – which simply refers to someone who is learned in Islamic law and theology – becomes synonymous with “religious bigot”.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA 

America’s real Muslim problem is Islamophobia

There’s a common perception that Muslims pose a threat to the security of the U.S., but the real threat is to them

anti-mosque-racism-protest_usa_300515-2June 2018 was an especially bad month for the status of Muslims in America. First, we learned that a new study showed that many Americans view Muslims in the United States as insufficiently “American,” and almost 20 percent would deny Muslim citizens the right to vote. Then, the Supreme Court upheld President Donald Trump’s decision to institute a ban on immigrants, refugees and visa holders from five majority-Muslim countries in a 5-4 decision.

The synergy of these two pieces of information is critical because it reveals a common attitude that Muslims pose a threat to U.S. security whether they are U.S. citizens or not. And while these attitudes do break down heavily across party lines, it is noteworthy that the study of U.S. perceptions of Muslim Americans conducted by Dalia Mogahed and John Sides for the Voter Study Group indicated that even 12 percent of Democrats would consider denying Muslim citizens the right to vote. Their study also showed that 32 percent of Democrats favor targeting Muslims at U.S. airport screenings to ensure the safety of flights. That figure compares with 75 percent of Republicans.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority SCOTUS opinion upholding the travel ban. He emphasized that, despite ample evidence of President Donald Trump’s animus towards the Muslim community, the ban was a security issue and not an example of discrimination, “Because there is persuasive evidence that the entry suspension has a legitimate grounding in national security concerns, quite apart from any religious hostility, we must accept that independent justification.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM SALON 

An anti-Muslim narrative has shaped policy for decades. The travel ban will make it worse.

no ban 1The Supreme Court of the United States yesterday upheld President Donald Trump’s decision to institute a ban on immigrants, refugees, and visa holders from five majority-Muslim countries yesterday in a 5-4 decision.

The ruling did not come as a surprise to me.

I’m a lawyer, educator, and Muslim woman who focuses on racial justice. My work is all about interrupting the process of dehumanization that leads to crimes against humanity on marginalized groups. I’m devastated about the Supreme Court’s decision, but we saw this coming.

I often hear good-hearted people say that certain incidents are “un-American” or don’t represent “their America.” But suggesting this ban is unique erases our nation’s ugly history of anti-Muslim sentiment, one that sits within a larger picture of systematic racism against many other groups.

The “travel ban” — a term that sanitizes what is in fact a Muslim ban — is the latest in a series of policies that have targeted Muslims inaccurately seen as agents, or agents-in-waiting, of a dangerous foreign “ideology” that needs to be eradicated. These anti-Muslim narratives are sponsored by a million-dollar industry, pushing rhetoric like the takeover of “sharia law” in America through “think tanks” like the Center for Security Policy that provide fodder for conservative commentators like Newt Gingrich.

Islamophobia is not simply interpersonal hatred or fear. It is a system of bigotry that identifies and targets those who are Muslim or perceived to be Muslim, no matter what their race or country of national origin.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VOX 

 

Does the Supreme Court have a double standard on religion?

180626170958-travel-ban-trump-then-and-now-orig-nws-00002328-exlarge-169(CNN)Less than a month ago, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Christian baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding, saying a state commission’s ruling against him was rooted in anti-religious hostility.

On Tuesday, in upholding President Donald Trump’s travel ban, five Supreme Court justices ruled that his critical statements about Islam and Muslims, both as a candidate and as chief executive, don’t matter.

Outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday, protesters and members of Congress accused the justices of adopting a double standard: one set of rules for white Christians and another for Muslims and other religious minorities.
“It’s an obvious contradiction,” said Rep. André Carson of Indiana, a Democrat who’s one of two Muslims in Congress. “It’s absolutely apparent that there is a double standard.”
In a sharply worded dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the high court’s decision on Trump’s travel ban sends precisely that message.
“Unlike in Masterpiece, where the majority considered the state commissioners’ statements about religion to be persuasive evidence of unconstitutional government action,” Sotomayor wrote, referring to the Christian baker’s shop, Masterpiece Cakeshop, “the majority here completely sets aside the President’s charged statements about Muslims as irrelevant.”
“That holding erodes the foundational principles of religious tolerance that the court elsewhere has so emphatically protected, and it tells members of minority religions in our country that they are outsiders, ‘not full members of the political community,’ ” Sotomayor added.
In the Masterpiece case, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority decision, said members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission “showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility” toward the religious beliefs of Jack Phillips, the baker.

THOMAS JEFFERSON AND ISLAM AS AN AMERICAN RELIGION

JeffersonQuranAfter last year’s deliberate break with tradition, President Donald Trump has resumed the iftar dinner – the sundown meal during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. An estimated 3.3 million American Muslims celebrate Ramadan.

 

The month of Ramadan marks the time when Prophet Muhammad is believed to have first received revelations from God and has been celebrated at the White House since 1996. It was Hillary Clinton who started the tradition as first lady. However, last year, the Trump White House did not host the traditional reception. Neither did the State Department under Secretary Rex Tillerson, even though the holiday has been commemorated there since 1999.

Despite the relatively recent nature of these formal celebrations, the fact is that Islam’s presence in North America dates to the founding of the nation, and even earlier, as my book, “Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders,” demonstrates.

Islam, an American religion

Muslims arrived in North America as early as the 17th century, eventually composing 15 to 30 percent of the enslaved West African population of British America. Muslims from the Middle East did not begin to immigrate to the United States as free citizens until the late 19th century. Key American Founding Fathers demonstrated a marked interest in the faith and its practitioners, most notably Thomas Jefferson.

As a 22-year-old law student in Williamsburg, Virginia, Jefferson bought a Qur’an – 11 years before drafting the Declaration of Independence.

The purchase is symbolic of a longer historical connection between American and Islamic worlds, and a more inclusive view of the nation’s early, robust view of religious pluralism.

Although Jefferson did not leave any notes on his immediate reaction to the Qur’an, he did criticize Islam as “stifling free enquiry” in his early political debates in Virginia, a charge he also leveled against Catholicism. He thought both religions fused religion and the state at a time he wished to separate them in his commonwealth.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WISCONSIN MUSLIM JOURNAL 

 

The Twisted View of Muslim Americans in the Trump Era

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In a new survey from the Democracy Fund Voter Survey Group, political scientist John Sides and researcher Dalia Mogahed examine the attitudes of Americans toward their fellow citizens who are Muslim. Many of the results are not surprising, but nevertheless disturbing: Nearly 1 in 5 Americans, for example, think Muslim Americans should be denied the right to vote. And Muslim Americans are considered to be less proud of their Americanness, and more accepting of violence, than other Americans.

I recently spoke by phone with Mogahed, who directs research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, or ISPU, to discuss the study. During the course of our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, we discussed how Trump is changing the views of both Republicans and Democrats toward Muslim Americans, why terrorist attacks may matter less to public opinion than political rhetoric, and the connection between xenophobia and authoritarianism.

Isaac Chotiner: What’s your biggest takeaway from the study?

Dalia Mogahed: That there’s this enormous gulf between the reality of American Muslims and many Americans’ perception of them. As someone who studies American Muslims, I can empirically point to evidence of, say, Muslims being the least likely American faith group to condone violence, according to several studies, and yet the most likely to be associated with being predisposed to it.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SLATE