As Dilara Sayeed, a 51-year old Muslim in Chicago, entered an office building for a meeting, she had an experience which she had thought almost unthinkable a few years ago.
Besides her office attire, Sayeed was also wearing a colorful hijab, a symbol of her faith. Sayeed is a social activist, an educator and a Harvard alumna. She also ran for election in the Illinois House of Representatives to represent District 5 in 2018. As such, her work and achievements, rather than her religion, had been at the forefront of most interactions.
As Sayeed got into the elevator, however she was confronted by an elderly white woman, a complete stranger, who said she would go to hell for wearing the hijab.
Sayeed said she hadn’t experienced this kind of negativity since she was growing up. “People used to yell things like ‘Go back to your country’,” she said. “I even got bullied constantly at school because of my religion.”
The situation had improved over the years as the Muslim community in Chicago grew, and people became more understanding towards Muslims. However, everything changed again when Donald Trump became president three years ago.
Since the founding of America, religion has been at the center of many of the most contentious conflicts our nation has encountered. We should have known it would be only a matter of time before the church was inserted into the coronavirus pandemic.
Throughout history, religion has brought us together when our survival as a nation was under siege. But just as often, it has ripped us apart when politicians sought to use it to justify selfish deeds.
The unholy alliance between religion and politics is an effective tool in creating discord, dissension and division. That’s why politicians find it so appealing.
The debate over whether churches should be included as essential businesses that are allowed to reopen during the pandemic began before Donald Trump officially entered the fray on Friday. But like everything he touches, the focus is now all about him.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Days after Gulf Arab states expressed their support for President Donald Trump’s efforts at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, representatives from these same countries and other Muslim nations gathered in Saudi Arabia and rejected the White House’s plan as “biased.”
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the kingdom backs efforts that push for negotiations, but said such initiatives must reach a fair resolution that ensures the rights of the Palestinian people “through the creation of an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
He spoke at a gathering in the Saudi city of Jiddah for the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which denounced Trump’s plan.
The formal rebuke by the OIC comes just days after Arab League nations unanimously rejected the White House’s proposals at a meeting in Cairo, where Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to cut security ties with Israel and referred to White House adviser Jared Kushner, the chief architect of the plan, as simply Trump’s son-in-law.
The White House plan heavily favors Israel and ignores many of the Palestinians’ core demands by keeping some 750,000 Jewish settlers in place, recognizing Israel’s sovereignty of the strategic Jordan Valley, and asserting Jerusalem as the “undivided capital” of Israel.
The Trump administration has finally lifted the curtains on the final act of its Middle East diplomacy by revealing the long-awaited, ahem, “peace plan” in a surrealistic White House celebration.
I will admit from the outset that I cannot write about it with a straight face, considering the absurdity of the last three years of Trump policies towards Israel and Palestine.
To call it a “peace plan” is to do injustice to the infamous “peace process” and its many failed “peace plans”. It is so much worse, that a better term for it would be an “assault on peace”.
Everything about the plan is farcical.
Its pompous name, the “Deal of the Century”; its unfit author, Jared Kushner, a fanatic Zionist supporter of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land; its premise, “when humiliation does not work, more humiliation will”; its bizarre framing as a lovefest between the American and Israeli right; and its absurd substance, which punishes the victims and rewards the aggressors.
In the three decades of the American-led “peace process”, successive administrations at least pretended to engage, consult or listen to the Palestinian side, even when doing Israel’s bidding.
Candidate Donald Trump vowed to ban Muslims from coming into the United States. President Trump imposed a travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries within a week of taking the oath of office.
He has also implemented several policies that caused suffering and outrage across Arab and Muslim communities in the United States. Over the past three years, the US president has drastically reduced the number of refugees admitted into the country, recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and signed an executive order that may threaten the right to Palestinian activism on American college campuses.
Still, Arab- and Muslim-American activists do not seem overly enthused about the impeachment proceedings in Congress against the 45th president of the United States.
With Trump’s Republican Party standing firmly behind him, the chances of removing the president from office are close to zero.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives succeeded in impeaching Trump on Wednesday, making him the third president to ever be impeached. But impeachment, which the US Constitution grants solely to the House, is only half the process. Cutting a president’s term short requires a conviction – by two-thirds of the votes – after a trial in the Senate.
As things stand, more than half of the senators in the Republican-controlled chamber vehemently reject the charges against Trump.
In fact, it’s not even clear if Senate Republicans will allow witnesses to testify against the president.
House Democrats started the impeachment inquiry against Trump in September, following reports that he pressured Ukraine to investigate the son of his prospective 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. The administration had held up the aid to Ukraine, Democrats say, to get the Eastern European country’s leaders to deliver a political favour to Trump.
Was it actually a Muslim ban, as it was called at the time it was introduced? Or was that just an anti-Trump label? What percentage of people from those banned countries did pass the “enhanced vetting” and get an actual visa to enter the United States?
I looked through the government’s data to find answers.
The US Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs regularly provides data on the number of visas issued for all countries.
Based on the data the agency provides for the fiscal year, the number of immigrant visas issued for the country of Iran decreased by 78% between 2017 and 2018.
One called President Trump’s decision “an egregious act of betrayal.” Another said the policy could be “the biggest mistake of his presidency.” A third said Mr. Trump “is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven.”
Conservative Christians have ardently stood by Mr. Trump at most every turn, from allegations of sexual misconduct to his policy of separating migrant families at the border and the Russia investigation.
But this week, some of Mr. Trump’s top evangelical supporters broke rank to raise alarms over his move to withdraw troops from Syria, which prompted Turkish forces to launch a ground and air assault against a Kurdish-led militia that has been a crucial ally in the American fight against ISIS.
As Turkish warplanes began to bomb Syrian towns on Wednesday, the prominent evangelist Franklin Graham called for Mr. Trump to reconsider his decision, and worried that the Kurds — and the Christian minorities in the region they have defended — could be annihilated.
“We have many friends in the Kurdish areas,” said Mr. Graham, whose humanitarian organization, Samaritan’s Purse, has done relief work in the region. “We know people on the ground.”
The concern resonated for many conservative evangelicals who have supported Mr. Trump, and called into question his much-touted commitment to religious freedom, a top value for his base. The opposition has arrived at an inopportune time for the president. The administration is weathering a heated battle with Congress, and according to a Fox News poll, more than half of voters now support the president’s impeachment.
To some public figures in our country, it’s forever open season on Muslims in America. Jeannine Pirro, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and even our President continue to disingenuously portray Islam as a threat to all Americans. But should you really fear the brown guy sitting next to you on the airplane (and Muslims come in all skin colors); your Muslim coworker, the kid at school with the “funny” name, your next-door neighbor?
Muslims currently make up a little over 1 percent of the total U.S. population. The fact that their representation has finally started making headway in our government has triggered hysteria that shows no signs of abating, particularly amongst the many Republicans who seem to be making some shabby sort of career out of bullying Muslims and immigrants.
But President Trump and his loyal supporters aren’t just bullying a minority, though this would have been bad enough. They are pitting their fellow Americans against one another, sowing division that undermines everything we’re supposed to stand for as a country.
There is no shortage of examples, but one in which Trump managed to offend both Jews and Muslims in the same breath readily springs to mind. At a press conference last month, he went on this memorable tangent: “…where has the Democratic Party gone, where have they gone, where their defending these two people [ Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib] over the State of Israel. And I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
The statement sent shockwaves throughout America. Both Jewish and Muslim Americans felt targeted by the Presidents comments. Jewish Americans that voted in favor of Democrats were being labeled as “disloyal” to the United States. Muslim Americans sat horrified at the onslaught of yet another Islamophobic attack by their President.
Pitting Americans against one another goes against the core principles instilled in me as a United States Marine. And questioning the loyalty of both Jewish and Muslim Americans to America by invoking the “you’re either with us, or against us” mindset is a dangerous game that puts the very core of what America is supposed to be about at risk.
During his campaign and presidency, Donald Trump has frequently targeted the Muslim community, both within and outside the United States. In 2015, Trump famously indicated he might support a “database” of Muslims living in the United States. In 2017, he succeeded in imposing restrictions on travelers to the United States from certain Muslim-majority countries.
More recently, Trump has targeted two Muslim members of Congress, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). They were among four Democratic members who he said in July should “go back” to their home countries, although all but Omar were born in the United States. Then just last week, he attacked them again and seemingly persuaded Israel not to allow them entry as part of a congressional delegation.
Implicit in Trump’s comments, and in much of the criticism of Tlaib and Omar, is that they are not fully “American.” This is a problematic implication for two reasons. First, surveys show that, in fact, Muslim Americans are highly patriotic and mirror non-Muslims socioeconomically. Second, new research shows that even implicitly framing Muslim and American identities as separate may reduce Muslim Americans’ willingness to engage in politics.
I’ve seen personally what hate looks like. Back in the 1990s, as a young criminal defense attorney, I represented young men in two different cases who were eventually acquitted after being charged for defending themselves against white supremacists.
Ever since then, I’ve closely followed how the far right’s language and images have leached into society; how it tries to justify its existence while concealing its violence; and how it’s become a globally connected movement.
Recently, we’ve seen white supremacist violence escalate dramatically around the world, from the Pittsburgh and San Diego synagogue shootings to the murder at the anti-racist Charlottesville rally in the US; from the Christchurch mosque massacre in New Zealand to last month’s surgical assassination of liberal German politician Walter Lübcke.
Not only did these killers share an ideology, but they drew inspiration from and celebrated each other. Despite this, under Donald Trump’s leadership, the FBI and Department of Justice have deprioritised investigating far-right violence.
These seemingly disconnected events are part and parcel of an emerging, global far-right movement whose core ideology is anathema to democracy. It uses nationalism as its cover, but make no mistake: its basic value is white supremacy.