US Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar react as they discuss
travel restrictions to Palestine during a news conference in St Paul,
Minnesota, August 19, 2019 [Caroline Yang/Reuters]
sunlight is the best disinfectant, but we also know that too much of it can
land you in hospital. It can even give you cancer. It is a lot better for your
health, they say, to take it in moderate doses and maybe spend a bit of time
indoors during the summer, too.
pretty much sums up the way I feel about a recent article haphazardly criticising
American Muslim organisations of being comprised and the community of lacking
courage in the face of US imperialism and the Trump administration's
unapologetically white supremacist global agenda.
I agree -
some American Muslim figures have made back door deals with governments and
media that have not only been shocking but are tantamount to betrayal. And I
concede that a lot of well-intended political calculations have gone terribly
of this is particularly new or even remarkable. Some American Muslim leaders,
for example, were in with George HW Bush way before Donald Trump ever thought
about being president. In fact, Bush would not have ever been president if it
weren't for the Muslim vote supporting him in Florida back in 2000 elections.
Remember how close that race was?
We can and
we should hold our leadership - or those who present themselves as leaders -
accountable, publicly, privately, and with passion.
doing so, we really cannot afford during this political moment to give the
false impression to a global audience that American Muslim institutions are
rolling over in selfish fear or basking in opportunism. No. In fact, American
Muslims are at the centre of the resistance both at home and abroad. In the
face of violent attacks, death threats, child internment camps, and a society
crumbling before our eyes, it is the stories of American Muslims fighting for
justice that deserve to be uplifted and praised.
with, there is no denying that the first two elected American Muslim women in
Congress, along with other elected women of colour, are leading the resistance
to the Trump administration and the right-wing movement that is trying to
control the United States. In fact, Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan
Omar are not simply individuals, but icons of a movement and culture that has
deep roots across the American Muslim community.
hundreds of American Muslims have run for office in the face of bigotry and
personal risk, placing themselves in school boards, state legislatures, and
national offices as part of the wider movement to control the damage of the
unknown, and far less celebrated, are the professional career staffers in the
halls of federal and state agencies working to do what they can to help all
people at risk of falling victim to the xenophobic policies the administration
is trying to implement. They are the ones responsible for working to help US
citizens trapped in foreign jails, to end government surveillance systems, and
to prevent dangerous policies from ever manifesting.
are many who are happy to go with the flow and run in the dangerous playgrounds
of the powerful, but there are many more unsung (s)heroes who will never be
before Tlaib and Omar captured international attention, grassroots activists
like Linda Sarsour and Zahra Billoo have been working tirelessly at local
levels with progressive-leftist activists across religious and racial lines to
secure the dignity and rights of the most marginalised.
consider scholar-activist Najeeba Syeed, who has been working in interfaith
conflict resolution and prison reform in Los Angeles for decades, or Ameena
Matthews, who fearlessly led gang intervention work in Chicago and is now
running for Congress, or Representative Movita Johnson-Harrel, fighting for gun
reform and inner city development in Philadelphia.
below the headlines are groups like MPower Change and the Muslim Power Building
Project, who fight it out, hour after hour, building a new generation of
advocates working for a better future.
also working outside of the halls of power. Consider the impossible work of
raising awareness about and challenging the treatment of prisoners in
Guantanamo carried out by Dr Maha Hilal and Darakshan Raja of the Justice for
Muslims Collective, or that of the Muslim Justice League fighting
government-sponsored "countering violent extremism" (CVE) initiatives
in Boston, and similar work carried out by activists in Los Angeles who
actually forced its mayor to turn down a Trump CVE grant.
about the Muslims at the front lines of the interfaith movement, calling
attention to the horrid treatment of migrants at the southern border.
people or organisations that lack courage? That lack principle?
for the small handful of compromised imams and scholars, there are dozens at
the minbar and in the classroom guiding flocks of Muslims towards justice.
Consider, Imam Omar Sulaiman, Imam Zaid Shakir, and Tarek Messidi who have most
recently helped raise over $100,000 to help separated migrant families reunite.
What about Imam Talib Abdul Rashid and Sister Aisha al-Adawiya in New York City
who carry the flag of Brother El-Hajj Malik Shabazz, Malcolm X, every day of
courageous are the sisters who fight injustice in our communities, such as Alia
Salem, who works to expose the abuses taking place in our own mosques; or the
likes of Dalia Mogahed, one of the most well-respected Muslim-American
activists in the world, who faces mob-like attacks from our own community for
merely supporting her fellow sisters. Are we still lacking courage?
What of the
legal battles? Muslims continue to challenge the Muslim ban even after the
Supreme Court supposedly shut the case and fight the government
"watchlist" and the grotesque norm of "flying while
Muslim". There are also those who defend the right to protest and boycott,
to not let the flag of Palestine fall by defending the BDS movement across the
country, allowing groups like American Muslims for Palestine to continue to
make this a mainstream issue. Are these our compromised institutions?
about the humanitarians, the visionaries, the creatives? Islamic Relief has
been supplying Flint, Michigan with clean water for years, while the Islamic
Circle of North America Relief has set up shelters for abused women.
the Islamic Medical Association of North America have been sending medical
missions to the barefoot and burdened in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.
The millennial startup pioneers at Launchgood have raised nearly $100m on
thousands of charitable projects around the world.
advocates such as Marya Bangee at SILA and Harness have been working inside
Hollywood studios to make sure that our representation is correct, while people
like Dr Maytha Alhassen have been providing informed but trenchant critiques of
messy and you can find stains anywhere if you look hard enough. But the
community I know is one of courage and principle, and will never be tarnished
by the actions of a few of its figureheads.
Abbas Barzegar is the National Director of
Research and Advocacy at the Council on American Relations (CAIR).
Headline: Actually, American Muslims are at the centre of the resistance