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When Socialism Confronts Capitalism April 16 2020
These were the words with which one of the most momentous days in the history of the US were greeted, 'We went to bed as America and woke up the next morning looking like social democratic Europe,'( Erik Gordon,.NYT, 3/26/2020). March 26,2020 was momentous: not because the $2.2 trillion bailout of the Covid-19 crisis was the largest sum ever dedicated for disaster relief; nor was it because the Congress, the President, and the American people all concurred about its necessity.; but because it was an act of surreptitious socialism of epic proportions. Given the fact that the bailout was at least the beginning of an attempt to heal the horrendous mutilation our society has sustained, it is regrettable that the term 'socialism' is maligned in the same breath as the unforgiving virus we are confronting.
Some 3 weeks into the 'historic stimulus bill' ordinary Americans are still overwhelmed by the cataclysmic changes in their lives and the uncertainty of their future. Despite the massive 'economic relief package' we are still poised on the brink of a social, public health, and economic precipice that is causing panic , intolerable hardship of mere survival, and a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. While the bailout served as an instant bandaid to ease the pain it cannot stop the economic and humanitarian hemorrhage that will rapidly exsanguinate this country. For that we must be willing to engage in a radical transformation in our thinking.
There could not be a more propitious moment to introduce this hitherto disdained approach than at a time when the entire country is in extremis , and recognizes the imperative for a drastic measure to steady the future. Whether we like it or not, 'socialism' has become an indispensable strand in the fabric of America's future in the post-Covid era . Whether we refer to it as 'Social Democracy' or 'Democratic Capitalism' or 'Democratic Socialism', in the best Nordic and German traditions, it is a transition that balances the best of the 'free market' with security for all, a change we can all live with.
If we fail to act at this juncture when so many Americans are suffering such intolerable anguish, not only will we betray our progeny, but at the next 'bailout' time we must be prepared to be greeted with a post, no 'longer looking like social democratic Europe' but more like banana republic'!
Abdul Cader Asmal April 16/2020
From the Pulpit: Each and every life is precious
By Martin Bentz / Islamic Society of Southeastern Massachusetts
Each and every life is precious. Because we, as a nation, believed that each life is a precious gift we, together, made every effort, at great personal and national sacrifice, to minimize the harm we could inflict on others. For more than two months many of us reduced our contacts with others to the point of closing down sports venues, schools, businesses, and, most poignantly, houses of worship. We did so because we did not want to be agents of suffering and death, because life is precious.
We feel life is precious because it is our one chance to blossom and to express ourselves. With each birth, we are delighted with hope and love. We imagine how each child’s God-given abilities and talents will be nurtured, developed and given expression.
We rush to save lives, even of people we do not know, if they are drowning or in danger of harming themselves in any way. We believe life is precious. Because we believe life is precious our first responders put their own lives at risk and we sacrifice our livelihoods.
So it is no small wonder we all feel horrified when another person’s life is snuffed out in front of us so cavalierly, so blatantly, despite pleas to show some humanity. The Quran (5:32) states “whoever takes a life unjustly will be as if they killed all humanity.” In the unjust murders of black Americans: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Steven Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others, all humanity feels like it has been killed.
Our humanity has been killed before our eyes. Our belief that life is precious has been assailed. We have strayed far from what God wants from us when God puts us on Earth. We forget we are all created in God’s image, but in myriad shapes and colors.
The Prophet Mohammed told his followers in his last sermon, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white — except by piety and good action.”
We can only measure who might be better than another person in who has been more devoted to God and has done more good actions. Our belief in God and our devotion to piety calls on us to rededicate ourselves to doing what is right in this world, to reinstate our humanity, to do what God expects of us.
To be silent is to be complicit. To say “we have preached and prayed. We have done our part,” is no longer enough. We have to find ways to make sure our communities take action in supporting proper funding for reforms, equal opportunity, personal care and education for everyone.
The Quran, Chapter 4, “the Women,” verse 135, states, ” O believers, stand firm for justice as witnesses for God even if it is against yourselves, your parents or close relatives. Be they rich or poor, God is best to insure their interests. So do not allow your desires cause you to deviate from justice. If you distort the testimony or refuse to give it, then know that God is certainly all aware of what you do.”
We, believers all, cannot withhold our testimony. We have to see that every community is treated fairly and with justice, even if it challenges our own communities.
The Quran repeatedly tells us to take care of the marginalized, to not exploit the vulnerable, to not steal, to give full measure. We are commanded to give charity to the weak, to the indigent, to orphans, and to wayfarers without a home.
The Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammad at a time when societies still had slaves. The words of the Quran and the Prophet both declared that the highest act of piety was to free a slave and to give that individual the full rights of personhood.
We have still to give the full rights of personhood to all our citizens. We must recognize that we have not given full measure as enjoined in the Quran. In cheating others of their rights and personhood we have only cheated ourselves in the eyes of God.
“You who believe be steadfast in your devotion to God and bear witness impartially; do not let hatred of others lead you away from justice, but adhere to justice, for that is closer to awareness of God” (Quran 5:8)
We have to insure that each and every person who is in the service of protecting the community sees that each and every life, especially those who heretofore have been marginalized, must be treated with respect. Each person black, brown or yellow is worthy of protection before the law, because life is precious.
We have a duty to express our deep commitment to see that safety and justice are extended to every community, and especially the communities of color. We are committed to doing what is right by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and persuasions.
May God give us strength and courage to do what is expected of us no matter how challenging. May God keep us safe and guide us in the days ahead.
Martin Bentz is the outreach coordinator for the Islamic Society of Southeastern Massachusetts. Visit issmass.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A SAFE RETURN TO NORMALCY OF BUSINESS AS USUAL April 17.2020
The Cov id-19 pandemic has been a harrowing experience for the global community. While one can debate how the evolution of this nightmare was handled in the US, what one is painfully aware of is that this country was woefully inadequately prepared to confront a public health challenge of this dimension. While what has transpired has been hard to deal with, what lies ahead and how we plan to deal with the future can not be left to whimsical opinions not based on scientific data. After the initial frightening claim that the President had the final say in when America should re-open for business, there was a short-lived period of reassurance, when he declared that each state should develop its own timeline based on the rate of evolution and leveling off in each state. This sounded like a very level headed arrangement until the President began to play party politics by siding with 3 states with Democratic Governors who were still on lockdown as per the President's instructions which he then renegade upon by almost inciting the citizens in those states to oppose his lockdown! Apart from this side show what bothers me most and I totally agree with the universal call for more testing and a graduated return to full time work, is how this testing is going to be conducted. Ideally testing the entire population would give us the complete picture but this is not at all feasible. So we have to select certain groups that would allow us to obtain the most valuable information, and ensure that the tests are standardized before testing is conducted.
An approach I suggest would be to test all those currently in the work force for the presence of Covid-19 infection. This would include all the current essential workers, the first responders whether doctors nurses other health care professionals, those working in supermarkets and pharmacies, those in public transport and all the unrecognized essential workers who did not ask to be put in harms way. They should all be tested for Covid-19. Those testing negative are permitted to continue to work Those testing positive need to be placed under quarantine in the very least. Those selected to replace them should be screened to ensure that they are negative before being released into the work place. This way we can ensure that the current 'work force is 'safe'.
The next order of business is for the Governor and his team to decide which segment of our community needs to enter the work place eg small businesses, catering places, civil servants etc. Before these preferred vocations are permitted to open up, all their potential employees should be tested for Covid-19. Only those testing negative should be allowed to work. With this approach at least those who resume work ( all in the work place) cannot be a source of infection to the customers the untested general public.
This is an unfolding process that may take several weeks to have all the businesses up and running. While it cannot guarantee that no random infection might still occur it will be a systematic approach to keep infection under control, together with scrutiny of new cases and tracing contacts. Each town in each StateAn approach I suggest would be to test all those currently in the work force for the presence of Covid-19 infection. This would include all the current essential workers, the first responders whether doctors nurses other health care professionals, those working in supermarkets and pharmacies, those in public transport and all the unrecognized essential workers who did not ask to be put in harms way. They should all be tested for Covid-19. Those testing negative are permitted to continue to work Those testing positive need to be placed under quarantine in the very least. Those selected to replace them should be screened to ensure that they are negative before being released into the work place. This way we can ensure that the current 'work force is 'safe'.
The next order of business is for the Governor and his team to decide which segment of our community needs to enter the work place eg small businesses, catering places, civil servants etc. Before these preferred vocations are permitted to open up, all their potential employees should be tested for Covid-19. Only those testing negative should be allowed to work. With this approach at least those who resume work ( all in the work place) cannot be a source of infection to the customers the untested general with its own Dept of Public Health can undertake such a widespread screening process could set up sites at which the currently employed and those seeking to replace any infected, could be tested. Such a procedure could be replicated across all towns in every state. From this it is clear that there is no magic number that works for all States in this country. It is a laborious process with a gradual and progressive roll out of the full work force. Anything less would be a return to the present crisis situation. It is expensive but far less in the long term than a haphazard approach.
As an aside I am against the bailout of institutions like airlines hotels and other for profit organizations If existing airlines have a place in the future, they should be permitted to operate on a restricted basis and rather than bailing out any airline, all the workers should be paid for their services ( through bailout money). With respect to the hotels, they should be subsidized to take care of those afflicted with Covid-19 but not too sick to need hospitalization, or serve as shelters for those who are homeless and very vulnerable. This may sound like 'socialism' but I think this is caring for humanity wanting for your brother what you want for yourself. As a nation we are a far cry from what George Hubert Walker Bush had envisioned 'a kinder and gentler America with a thousand points of lights as volunteers that symbolize America's diversity'.
Abdul Cader Asmal 4/17/20
CORONAPHOBIA THE EXISTENTIAL THREAT TO HUMANITY
Muslims throughout the world, unable to celebrate Ramadan because of Covid-19 restrictions , have for the first time in nearly two decades been able to breathe a collective sigh of relief. While it is not a time for celebration it is one of justifiable solace as Islamophobia, has been replaced.by Coronaphobia as a truly existential threat to all humanity.. While Islamophobia was driven by radicalized heretical Muslims and was more of a threat to Muslims than non- Muslims and was and promoted by the mantra of an endless so called 'global war on terror', Islam was never a threat to humanity. Like the ever present hazard of nuclear war, and expanding peril of global warning, Corona, as with the prophets of the Scriptures comes as a warner to mankind. As humans we are interconnected and interdependent and no matter how invincible we would like to consider ourselves, there are both predictable and unpredictable events that determine our destiny. Corona has exposed our vulnerability as humans that despite our technological advancement we are still infantile in our spiritual development especially when it comes to sharing the one and only earth entrusted to our care , with mutual respect, cooperation and compassion.
Abdul Cader Asmal May 7 20
THE UNMASKED CRUELTY BEHIND CORONAPHOBIA
"The consequences of Covid-19 are catastrophic on a global scale. At home they can not be measured by the massive rates of infection, the alarming death toll, the economic meltdown with losses of income,and healthcare,and food shortages.It can, however, be gauged by the cruelty of our approach that is more focused on bailing out corporations, conducting provocative military exercises abroad, and enforcing inhumane sanctions on countries already crippled by Covid-19, than it is on directing its resources to feed the hungry. The cruelty is visible on the faces of the hungry who need to wait in demoralizing lines as they agonizingly witness the dumping of obscene amounts of good food. If the authorities chose they could readily mobilize pre-screened negatively tested workers( farm hands, truckers, restaurateurs and farmers) operating under proper CDC guidelines to deliver the 'surplus' to supermarkets, food pantries.and restaurants for pick up of fresh produce or prepared meals.It is unconscionable that in the wealthiest nation on earth there should be those suffering from the pangs of hunger or the indignity of having been cast into the roles of hand out seekers. A change in mindset from .the profligate to the compassionate would not only prevent wanton wastage and feed the needy, but according to the law of unintended consequences it would also serve to cautiously open up the markets and lower the unemployment rate. It is a win win situation for all in this epic confrontation with Coronaphobia and the cruelty it unmasks..
Abdul Cader Asmal May 13 2020
-EPILOGUE: The Corona virus has been a wake-up call to humanity exemplifying every Golden rule
In An Interpretation of Religion, John Hick had this to say in 2004,"The basic ideas of socialism did not come from the critiques of capitalism that emerged with the works of Karl Marx and other thinkers critical of capitalism. The basic ideas of socialism in fact go back to the roots of the great world religions and to the conceptions of justice and community envisioned by many ancient thinkers. For socialism means, most basically, social justice, human moral decency, institutions and social practices based on love and compassion:, as exemplified by the 'Golden Rules' He has compassion toward all creatures and no greed. (Bhagavad Gita)
As a mother cares for her son, all her days, so toward all living things a man’s mind should be all-embracing.(Gautama Buddha, Sutta Nipataonly
AsIt is affirmed that universal mutual love throughout the country will lead to its happy order, and that mutual hatred leads to confusion. (Neo-Confucian: Mo Tzu: Universal Love ; in Sterba, 1998, p. 356)
You shall not enter Paradise until you believe; and you shall not believe till you love one another.(Islam:
Al-Hadis of Miskat-ul-Masibih, I:226)
Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees...to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people to their right. (Judaism:Isaiah
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. (Jesus the Christ:Matthew 22:39
Parenthetically, Islam in its humanitarianism declares,'There is a recognized right for the deprived over our wealth (70:24-25)
As a nation we are a far cry from what George Hubert Walker Bush had envisioned 'a kinder and gentler America with a "1,000 points of light" that symbolize America's diversity. The world we inhabit today is a return to the Dark Ages. As Martin Luther King Jr warned, Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Are we ready and willing to welcome the 1000 points of light for the future enlightenment of mankind? At this point in time with the complexities of Covid-19 being overtaken by recrudescent racism, we need to embrace both!
Abdul Cader Asmal MD April 17 2020 (updated 6/1/20)
THE PLAYBOOK FOR REGIME CHANGE
( BOLTON’S PLAYBOOK FOR WAR AGAINST IRAN)
For Muslim citizens of the US the current warpath against Iran rekindles an eerie sense of de javu. On the eve of the US invasion of Iraq we as Americans and Muslims wrote ( Faaruuq, Asmal, Boston Globe Feb. 5, 2003), “As loyal citizens of this country we believe that for the United States to go to war against Iraq would have catastrophic consequences. For the Muslim world such war-mongering looks like a crusade against Islam that would only reinforce the distorted agenda of extremists and reduce the hope of eradicating terrorism.’
The showdown with Saddam as predicted by the neocons was no cake walk. On the contrary our occupation led to the wanton degradation of an entire nation and its multicultural society, instigated a brutal Sunni-Shia internecine slaughter with fragmented sects caught in the crossfire, and led to the evolution of Al-Qaeda in Iraq which then morphed into ISIS, all at an enormous cost of lives and resources.
As with Iraq where the evidence was fabricated, so with Iran one is expected to embrace John Bolton’s sweeping outlandish unsubstantiated playbook against Iran as the basis for war. Bolton warned, 'that any attack whether by Iran or its ‘proxies’ not only against the US and its interests but also those of its allies would justify an aggressive U.S. military response, even if Iran itself was not directly responsible.' This provided a carte blanche for any 'false flag’ operation against Iran that its inimical enemies in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates who have a innate hatred of their Shia neighbor, or Israel , which views it as an ‘existential threat’ would be only too willing to commit. What was so alarming about the unfolding scenario was that this malfeasance was essentially orchestrated by one man, John Bolton, who no one elected, and the Senate did not confirm. He was evidently able to coerce the Pentagon to draw up full scale war plans for Iran. In this frenzied stampede toward Armageddon, he was ably abetted by the mendacity of Mike Pompeo.
Despite the gung ho attitude of his war-hawks, President Trump while in Japan exercised restraint stating that his interest in Iran was not to achieve ‘regime change’ but to ensure it never joined the nuclear club. This may not be in the playbook of the cheerleaders and their agent provocateurs.
Joseph Conrad had defined civilization as 'refined savagery'. As a practicing Muslim I can no more relate to the barbarity of ISIS, any more than I can as a loyal American to the 'refined savagery' of my own country's pre-emptively contrived subjugation of another.
While no one would disagree that ISIS seeks out innocent groups who they can terrorize with gruesome acts of graphic decapitation(how much more savage can one get!) represent civilization's brutal extreme, we cannot take comfort in the niceties of our own civilization, displaying a ' refined savagery' where we use overwhelming force of self-deceptive ‘surgical strikes', to pulverize thousands of innocent civilians, create millions of homeless and refugees, systematically erase from history the magnificent Persian culture, and reduce it to the same unrecognizable rubble that remains of Iraq, with hundreds of 'ground zeros' that no one is left to count or shed tears over. The economic cost, the loss of American lives and the disruption of global equanimity would be immeasurable. Inevitably the blame would again fall on those ’mooslims’, ‘Sunni/Shia they are all the same.’
The brief respite in the clamor to attack Iran that followed the firing of Bolton came to an abrupt end when oil fields in Saudi Arabia were destroyed by drones that the Houtis in Yemen claimed to have launched. Despite their denial , President Trump declared, ‘we know the culprit ( Iran), are locked and loaded depending on verification’. The obvious question is, why would Iran with its willingness to engage in dialogue with the US, commit such a willful act in direct violation of Bolton’s playbook? Saudi Arabia which bears a pathological hatred of Iran had this to say about the attack through one of its political analysts, “What is required is nothing more than the destruction of Iran’s oil installations, and if there is a capacity, nuclear facilities and military bases as well,” Turki al-Hamad, ( New York Times,9/16/19). Clearly Saudi Arabia, at American expense, would be the primary beneficiary in its quest to establish hegemony over Middle East. Such a quest would be laughable if it were not so tragic that after 4 years of creating the worst humanitarian disaster in Yemen, the Saudis have failed abysmally to contain the Houthi rebels!
Today may not be the eve of an impending war, but the imperative to avert one, is now. After of a brief respite the pressure on Iran is again intensifying: In recent days, a top U.S. general's prediction of more Iranian "attacks" and a visit by the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Israel, should alert people to the possibility of a false flag attack to blame on Iran, which can then be used as a pretext for direct military intervention. (Antiwar.com 11/25/2019). ‘Trump and Netanyahu seem to be working hand-in-hand to ratchet up tensions with Iran. Evidently, Netanyahu is betting that the sound of war drums will drown out the calls for his prosecution trial over corruption charges. But rather than facing justice, the Israeli leader seems prepared to ignite a war with Iran just to save his own hide’,(Finian Cunningham ICH 11/25/2019).
In 2003 we wrote, “Given the disinformation about Islam and the contempt with which Muslims are depicted, it might appear unpatriotic for us to challenge the drumbeat to war. On the other hand, our Islamic principles demand that in fearing God we should speak out against what we perceive as grave injustices about to be committed. It would thus be an act not only of disobedience to God but treason against our own country when we fail to express our concerns in the best interest of our nation and the world at large about an impending apocalypse.”
Abdul Cader Asmal MD PhD
THE MAINSTREAMING OF ISLAMOPHOBIA OPENS THE FLOODGATES TO RACISM AND PERSECUTION OF MUSLIMS
’What passes as civilization is really often refined savagery ’(Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, 1899). His focus was the unquestioning imperialistic racism of the time. Sadly history has a tendency to repeat itself, and our current depredation bears an eerie testimony to the rampant racism of this era.
’Racism is the belief in the superiority of one race over another, which often results in discrimination and prejudice towards people based on their race or ethnicity ’( Wikipedia). Whether defined strictly in terms of specific ’races’, or used more loosely as representing ‘the other’ who differs from the ‘mainstream’ by virtue of ‘race’, ethnicity, language, skin color, culture, religion, nationality or socio-economic circumstances, it is a bigotry that is uniformly condemned. Racism is not an inherent but an acquired trait engendered by suspicion, fear, hatred, jealousy of, and the quest for the domination of ‘the other’. Racism is not a hallmark of any specific race (White, Black, Asian), ethnicity, culture or religion (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam or Judaism) but is ubiquitous.
However, the term ‘racism’ has been studiously avoided when there is malevolence directed against religion. In ‘enlightened circles’ and in the interest of preserving the sacrosanct concept of ‘free speech’, religious demonization of ‘the other’ has become perfectly acceptable in civil society! Of note, when that particular religion is practiced overwhelmingly by people who are dark-skinned, impoverished, largely illiterate, technologically unsophisticated, with alien customs, and is ruled by dictators, it becomes disingenuous to ignore these other attributes that define such people. Especially when the religion practiced is denigrated as fanatical, intolerant, violent, irrational, retrogressive and an ‘existential threat’ to the rest of civilization.
According to Esposito (Islam and the West, 1991), ‘European ethnocentrism produced distorted images of Islam’. Thus Islamophobia, as is anti-Semitism, is a uniquely European creation steeped in the ‘Christendom of the Dark Ages’. Beginning with early polemics that Muslims and Christians traded, it culminated with misconceptions about Islam that were then followed by deliberate disinformation and is now propagated with an undisguised malevolence.
To be clear, Islamophobia was not created in a vacuum. Its driving force has been the barbaric acts of heretic Muslims such as Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and ISIS who have conducted mindless acts of terrorism against innocent civilians, highlighted by the atrocity of 911. Though very unnerving such actions are not an ‘existential threat’ to humanity. Such a hyperbolic characterization meets the feeding frenzy of the profiteers of the endless ‘war on terror’, the terrorists themselves and their ‘clientele’ the Islamophobes.
Islamophobia is more than just the hatred of Islam. It has become the surrogate for all the accoutrements such as the ethnic, cultural, socio-economic and other attributes that define Islam as a comprehensive way of life. It has become mainstream not because of the ‘conventional wisdom’ that ‘John Hagee, Robert Jeffress and Netanyahu all share with Trump, which is an unashamed hatred of Islam and its practitioners,’ (Eric Alterman, The Nation 5/ 23/2018.); nor is it the barbarity of Muslim heretics; but it is the obsequiousness of the obscenely rich Muslim tyrants who have the potential to correct the narrative but have chosen to remain silent!
The implicit denial of these attributes that truly defines Islam, but also provokes its visceral condemnation, grants racism a free pass. The mainstreaming of Islamophobia has helped to dismember civility, legitimize bigotry, and open up the floodgates to ubiquitous racism. This includes Blacks, Native Americans, the Latin X community, Jews, Muslims, the so-called beneficiaries of ‘White privilege’ and even eviscerated refugees with screaming ‘illegal’ infants mercilessly snatched from their tormented parents. From the Muslim perspective the most merciless aspect of the ‘refined savagery’ is not perpetrated by the ‘enlightened ‘West’ but by their surrogates in China conducting an ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the Uighur Muslims, and the Buddhists in Myanmar who have embarked on a genocidal campaign against its own Rohingya Muslim minority. Thus in the binary world we share there are two camps: those that practice ‘refined savagery’ and the rest who remain unqualified savages! Where the genocide of the Yemenis by their fellow Muslim Saudis falls is a challenge. It is perhaps a page taken out Steve Bannon’s favorite book on racial supremacism, ‘The Camp of the Saints’, (1973 Jean Raspail).
As the President of the United States prepares to deliver his State of the Union Address and hints to focus on unifying the country two years after the inauguration of his devastating divisiveness it is important to reflect on how his words and actions have intensified racial polarization between his ‘base’ and the rest of the nation.
Abdul Cader Asmal MD
DOES THE TRAVEL BAN ON FIVE MUSLIM COUNTRIES AFFECT AMERICAN CITIZENS?
'A Decision That Will Live in Infamy’; It will take generations for the Supreme Court to live down its approval of Trump’s travel ban,’ Noah Feldman( https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-06-26/supreme-court-s-travel-ban-decision-is-a-historic-mistake).
The Supreme Court handed President Trump the most significant legal victory of his presidency on 6/26/2018, upholding the administration’s ban on foreign visitors and immigrants from 5 mostly Muslim countries notably Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. The majority rejected arguments that Trump's targeting of Muslim-majority countries violated the Constitution’s ban on religious discrimination. It dismissed assertions that Trump’s history of negative comments about Muslims — including a call during the 2016 presidential campaign for a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’; his provocative remark, 'Why does Islam hate us?' his prioritization of Christian refugees over Muslim ones from the same killing fields; his retweeting of misleading anti-Muslim videos from a far-right British nationalist group; his gleeful repetition of a fake story about an American military general slaughtering Muslims with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood; and the independent assessments of him as a Muslim hater -Trump shares 'an unashamed hatred of Islam and its practitioners,’ (Eric Alterman, The Nation 5/ 23/2018);'fear and hatred of Islam boosts Trump politically ( Peter Beinart The Atlantic 11/29/2017).
In dissent, Justice Sonya Sotomayer noted, ‘The United States of America is a Nation built upon the promise of religious liberty…. The Court’s decision today fails to safeguard that fundamental principle, because the policy now masquerades behind a façade of national-security concerns. Based on the evidence in the record, a reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was motivated by anti-Muslim animus.’ Such a view was reinforced by the New York Times ‘All this looks a lot like a government official acting on religious animus, which is barred by the First Amendment.’
‘White racial fear has always been at the core of Mr. Trump’s worldview. What’s so dangerous about Tuesday’s ruling is that the Supreme Court has now implicitly blessed his use of this strategy as a political organizing tool and as a governing philosophy,’ (New York Times, 6/26/2018).
The implications to the Muslim community in the US are profound. Firstly it creates an inordinate hardship for US citizens in this country to interact with their relatives from the 5 blacklisted nations. Secondly, the Court Ruling legitimizes the hatred and bigotry that the President of the US bears against its own citizens (and we blithely talk about civil rights violations in 'foreign countries'), and this incites acts of discrimination, bullying and hate crimes against US citizens who are a religious minority, protected by the US Constitution. Most importantly it further demonizes a religion practiced by 1.6 billion adherents globally for the mindless acts of a heretic fraction.
As a Needham resident for 38 years I could not have chosen a more welcoming and inclusive community than Needham and was never once greeted with displeasure. This is because of no accident but the diligence of the community to erect resources that acted as a firewall of protection and comfort to all comers.
Abdul Cader Asmal MD Needham
Published in the Needham Times July 5 2018
A QUESTION FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP
Needham Times (MA)
March 1, 2018
A QUESTION FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP
Author: Abdul Cader Asmal
As an American citizen of Muslim background, I have become almost inured to the invectives hurled at my faith. Notwithstanding, I was totally appalled by President Trump's obscene remarks denigrating immigrants from Haiti, Salvador and African nations in general, while praising white Europeans from Norway. While the rhetoric employed in referring to these countries as 's..t-holes was despicable in its own right it was no more random than his seemingly innocuous question, 'Why does Islam hate us?'.
Such vile language did not begin with Mr. Trump as more than a decade earlier French Ambassador Daniel Bernard made a similar scandalous reference to Israel. Nor can Mr. Trump take credit for being at the vanguard of white racism. More than a half a century earlier Mr. Kaye with almost a surrealistic coincidence had demeaned the 'Africans' with his song, 'Civilization ( AKA O Bongo Bongo, Bongo') while singing the praises of Norway's neighbor in 'Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen'.
It is no happenstance that both the rhetoric and the sentiment disparaging impoverished black peoples while exalting the whites are aligned to reinforce his unadulterated racial bigotry that bolsters his support base. It is very disheartening that nearly 50 percent of the citizenry of this country have been so beguiled by Mr. Trump's empty boast of making "America great again" that they failed to recognize the vile language and the demeaning sentiment for what they ar e, and to reject them both as un-American. Parenthetically, Mr. Trump should learn that greatness is not bought by threats, extortion, and bribery as his Ambassador to the UN gratuitously lectures the world body, but is earned by excellence in performance as in Norway's outstanding achievements in the Olympics.
In condemning the reprehensible remarks that are unbefitting the president of this great country, the Muslim community depends on its religious teachings that emphasize the universality of mankind. In the Quran it is stated: "O humankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you," 49:13
To reinforce the inherent evil of racism, the Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be On Him, PBOH) in his last sermon at Mount Arafat warned his audience:
"All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; a white has no superiority over a black, nor does a black have any superiority over a white; [none have superiority over another] except by piety and good action."
President Trump and his followers may view these Islamic precepts with derision but will they defy their own scriptures? St. Francis of Assisi had pleaded,' Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; and where there is sadness, joy."Jesus (PBOH) had commanded," So in everything do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets,' Matthew 7:12. He expounded upon this aphorism in his Sermon on the Mount (edited) by decrying tyranny and avarice and blessing humility and compassion: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Gospel of St. Matthew 5:3-10
The question for President Trump is will he turn his back on the quintessential tenets of his faith, and thereby like the Pied Piper lead his unsuspecting flock and the rest of humanity to their doom? His answer or lack thereof, may be found, if not in religion, in Robert Burn's prognostication: "The best laid schemes of mice and men often go wrong and leave us nothing but grief and pain, instead of promised joy!"
Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal is Past president Islamic Center of Boston and Islamic Council of New England.
Copyright, 2018 Needham Times. All Rights Reserved.
Record Number: 3179195
Op-ed Muslim survival in the age of Trump
"The advent of Donald Trump ( celebrated almost as a second coming of Christ by some Christian
fundamentalists) has been a deeply disturbing episode in the lives of Muslims in this country. Sandwiched between the evil of Isis on the one side, and the malevolence of Trump toward Islam on the other, they feel suffocated by the indefensible actions of both. This is reflected in the time and resources squandered by the Muslim communities in such invidious activities as having to repudiate both these sources of anti-Islamism!
In the face of such a bleak prospect what can Muslims do to improve their condition?
Firstly pray and trust in God because nothing happens without his knowledge, "In God do Believers place their trust", 3:122.
Secondly repeat the true message of Islam so that the deviants on both sides learn the truth and as the Bile says 'the the truth shall set you free'.
Thirdly, respect the highest office in the country but do not cow down to a leader unworthy of respect. According to Peter Beinart,” For Donald Trump, Muslim barbarism is a political strategy. It inspires the fear and hatred that binds him to his base. Muslim barbarism is so politically useful, in fact, that, when necessary, Trump creates it,” https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/12/trump-announcement-jerusalem-israel-capital-muslim-violence/547652/
Fourthly, place your personal predicament within the context of more significant issues that threaten humanity as a whole: the ever-present risk of nuclear annihilation, the developing danger of global warming, unbridled capitalism with exploitation of natural resources and oppression of 'third world countries', asynchronous wealth distribution, global famine, wars, educational and healthcare discrepancies, and racism within this country with the native Americans being treated as outcasts in their own lands, the African Americans having been freed of the yoke of slavery are still viewed as second class citizens, and the Latino population treated with contempt. Thus the Islamophobia that Muslims are so crushed by falls into an insignificant sector when viewed in the scheme of larger civilizational inequities. Thus instead of bemoaning our misfortune we should form coalitions with like-minded individuals in order to protect our societies and our common humanity.
Fifthly, The American the Constitution is protective of all people, and as the recent rejection of Moore as Senator for Alabama just showed, Mr. Trump's bigotry and bullying does not always work. Muslims can take heart in the strength of the US Constitution to be a firewall against fascists and hatemongers.
Finally, for a Muslim, regardless as to how insurmountable a problem seems, it should always be viewed as a test from God, and as the following Quranic injunctions state:'Verily, in the remembrance of God do hearts find rest." (13:28) ; "Seek help in patience and prayer"(2:45): "God is with those who have patience" (2:153);and finally ," If God is your helper none can overcome you".
However as Abraham Lincoln reminded us, 'Rather than presuming that God is on our side, we must make certain that we are on God's side." And God's answer is readily available, " Remember me and I will remember you." (2:152).
We ( and that includes the two opposing forces against us) should never forget our common humanity as God stated with unambiguous clarity."O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you."(49:13)
Abdul Cader Asmal MD
Chairman of Communications
( The views expressed above are personal and do not signify an endorsement by the Council)"
The Accelerated Dismemberment of the “Muslim World” In the Trump Era
ABDUL CADER ASMAL
Widening internecine wars in the Middle East and the prospect of opulent so-called Muslim countries being reduced to the congener status of “failed states” — Iraq, Syria and Yemen, among others — have made entirely deafening the silence of the rest of the Muslim world, including U.S. Muslims, in condemning the provocative measures that ignited and now fuel such a scenario.
When Muslims are on the receiving end of depredations (the extermination of the Rohingya Muslims by Buddhist extremists in Myanmar, Central African Muslims by mostly Christian Antibalaka militia men, the near annihilation of Bosnian and Chechen Muslims by Serbian and Russian Orthodox armies, simmering tensions between Muslims and Jews in the Holy Land and between Muslims and Hindus in Kashmir), there is a predictable knee-jerk reaction of outrage by Muslim activists, mostly genuine (popular), and some sanctimonious (“official.”) The selective portrayal of Muslim victimization by some Muslims themselves in the name of Islam is exploited to deride their credibility and their own claims of Islamophobia.
Current events are a nightmare. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, as government security forces fought to reclaim it from ISIS. In the northern Syrian town of Raqqa, U.S.-led airstrikes against the ISIS stronghold have killed a staggering number of civilians and displaced 160,000 more. What might follow in the apparent death throes of ISIS and in the reincarnation of Iran as the focal point of “terrorism” has the potential for even more catastrophic consequences. It may be no coincidence that they come on the heels of President Donald Trump’s gala summit with 55 Muslim-majority countries. Trump quite correctly identified the threat of ISIS to civilizational equanimity and called for a unified front to counter this scourge against humanity. No one disagreed that a multinational, preferably Muslim-led, coalition against a universally accepted cesspool of terror would be the right thing to do. Its elimination would free all Muslims from a collective guilt and allow Islam to regain its role as a leading world religion.
Having received the plaudits of his evidently compliant Muslim hosts, Trump immediately shifted his attention to Iran as the greatest threat to regional peace. Such chutzpah played well with an obsequious audience that had not dared to challenge Trump’s worldview that “Islam hates us.” Certainly not by those who viewed Iran as an implacable foe whose hegemony had to be quashed. Within a few days of the “summit,” Qatar, which ironically has a large U.S. base, was linked as a sympathizer of Iran, supporter of Hamas and accommodator of the Muslim Brotherhood. This immediately galvanized its isolation from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and even the ever-opportunistic government of Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Egypt.
The economic isolation of Qatar has set the stage for the potential Saudi invasion of its Muslim neighbor, as has transpired in Yemen. (Parenthetically, while Yemen is being bombed and starved to death, to ingratiate themselves with President Trump, Saudi Arabia and the UAE gifted a largess of $100 million to a World Bank fund for women entrepreneurs led by Ivanka Trump.) It is not difficult to visualize how a single miscalculation could extend the conflagration throughout the region with Muslim nations committed to their own total annihilation. The major beneficiary of such cataclysm would be the U.S.: from the sale of weapons of mass destruction to its vassal Gulf States and then from “reconstruction” with the pickings of leftovers.
Historians will claim that Shia-Sunni antagonism has been as old as Islam itself. That may be true, but it has been low intensity, sporadic and never as foreboding as any impending conflict. The Muslim Brotherhood has been painted as a terrorist organization primarily by countries with totalitarian, anti-democratic regimes that have little concern for social, economic and educational justice and the rule of law. They have a greater vested interest in isolating the Brotherhood than in eradicating ISIS, against which the Brotherhood is the most powerful ideological antidote. Despite its shortcomings, if the Brotherhood is designated a terror group, Muslims in those countries will lose a legitimate key to peacefully reach the ballot box.
If Middle Eastern countries are steered on a deliberate collision course by external forces that are engineered by their own monumental infantilism, there will be multiple failed states with millions of displaced, dispossessed, illiterate, unemployed people. Some, who have lost everything and have nothing more to lose, could scatter from their wastelands, victims of collateral damage. The silence of the so-called Muslim world bodes ill not only for Muslims but also Islam. For this U.S. adventurism, Europe will face a calamitous future. In the accelerated decline of the Muslim world, there may be an element of schadenfreude for some in the binary Western civilization, a deliberately nebulous concoction. But the earth-shattering silence will return to haunt all humanity whose demise it presages.
“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Trump’s American Exceptionalism is a Return to the Dark Ages
ABDUL CADER ASMAL
It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society. — Jiddu Krishnamurti
In the eight months since Donald Trump was sworn in as president, there has been little evidence that his slogan “make America great again” has benefited anyone in the country, besides his own family and friends. Instead, his ongoing divisive rhetoric and rebuttals against “fake news” have further widened the chasm of antipathy across the nation.
Die-hard Trump constituents, quietly brooding over continued hardships, have ramped up their unqualified support, despite, or perhaps because of, the negative portrayal of his efforts. Ideological foes, resisting him at every turn, are convinced he will carry the country to hell in a hand basket.
Meanwhile, all Americans are being anesthetized by the epic and unending wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, terrified by the unpredictable gamesmanship of North Korea, and confounded by the existential threat of nuclear confrontation with Russia.
While these horrendous events are being staged largely in the “Muslim world” and thus deserving of scant coverage in the media, the gut-wrenching topics that directly affect the quality of American lives remain in a death-defying suspension, especially the issues on which the election was pinned. Health care reform — one of the most polarizing election slogans — heads down a perilous vortex, the infrastructure stagnates, the environment asphyxiates, and the promise of job creation remains a cruel hoax for the countless believers who had yearned for the dignity and respect that comes from making a living wage and self-sufficiency.
Xenophobia is the only diet into which Trump’s disaffected followers can sink their teeth. Those who had felt marginalized and voted for Trump, expecting to improve their lives, are primed and programmed to scapegoat immigrants and Muslim refugees, well before (if ever) the “great” jobs materialize. Meanwhile, those who had denounced Trump as a charlatan burn with rage over his inability to act as the leader of the “free world” and stand up against Russian interference in our elections (a charge predictably denied by Russian President Vladimir Putin).
The issues of racism, xenophobia and jingoism raise questions about the intent of “make America great again.” If these extremist views reflect a dark side of America, how do they compare with other vastly divergent views on American exceptionalism?
In his article in The Atlantic (Feb. 2, 2017), How Trump wants to Make America Exceptional Again, author Peter Beinart closely examines Trump’s vision of America, compared with other recent leaders.
Mitt Romney said, “It is our belief in the universality of these (God-given) unalienable rights that leads us to our exceptional role on the world stage, that of a great champion of human dignity and freedom.” Newt Gingrich said it is America’s unfettered capitalism. And former President Barack Obama said it was for its ever-expanding circle of inclusion.
Meanwhile, Trump and travel ban architect Stephen Miller are defining a new and constricted American exceptionalism. It is undeniably deviant in focus and jingoistic in tone as it aims to “keep this country from falling into the same trap as happened to parts of Europe” and contends that “if current trends continue, American Muslims will prove just as dangerous and unassimilable as their European counterparts,” Beinart writes.
Trump describes an exclusive American exceptionalism, represented by an overwhelmingly Jewish and Christian population. To drive home his biased vision, he recently rabble-roused and baited a Polish audience with his demagoguery. “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.… Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization against those who subvert and destroy it?”
Rhetoric that is posited as a travel ban on Muslims, a proposed “Muslim” registry and the possible internment of Muslim citizens buttresses Trump’s worldview of American exceptionalism. Such polemics were once the hallmark of the Crusades and are a throwback to the Dark Ages. All humanity, not just Americans, need to recognize that the hatred, fear, bigotry and ignorance being propagated by the current leadership are the same malignant values resuscitated from the dustbin of history, and recently on global display in Charlottesville, North Carolina.
Such values are a sad and atavistic reminder of a time when demonization of Jews nearly extinguished their civilization in Europe. It is thus an act of supreme irony that it is Muslims — who through their magnanimity, inspired by the Scriptures that they used as their moral compass then as they do today — provided sanctuary to the persecuted Jews, yet are being vilified and propagandized as an existential threat to the rest of humanity. With Muslims’ universal condemnation of extremists in their midst, Americans across the great divide must analyze Trump’s interpretation of American exceptionalism. How is his vision consonant with his quest to make America great again? Does it reflect American values, and keep the American Dream alive? Or is this the last hurrah for a great country whose leader’s myopic vision betrays its Constitution? It begins with a soft target of ostensibly attempting to resolve an unsettled medieval score against a religion, in which Islam-bashing is exercised with gleeful impunity, but the end game for which this serves as a convenient decoy is a more primordial target, namely the permanent entrenchment of institutionalized racism!
In Trump’s grandiloquent sermon to the United Nations General Assembly on September 19, replete with fire and brimstone, he excoriated North Korea, Iran and Venezuela for wide-ranging “evil activities” but did little to persuade the world body that racism in the United States is not a monumental problem; and that as barbaric as ISIS is, there is an on-stage “live” genocide of dark-skinned Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar on which he remained conspicuously silent. Evidently this is not in his script on American exceptionalism.
Abdul Cader Asmal, MD, is a former president of the Islamic Center of Boston and former president of the Islamic Council of New England.
Mary Lahaj holds a Master’s degree in Religious Studies, is an educator and first Muslim woman chaplain on staff at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
How Trump Instigates Sectarian Warfare
By Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal and Craig Considine
In recent years, President Donald Trump has questioned the legitimacy of Islam as a world religion. His body of work in this regard is impressive. He posed the deliberately ambiguous question, “Why does Islam hate us?”, proposed the creation of a registry for Muslims in the U.S., issued a travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries for those returning home, and framed the malignancy of “radical Islamic terrorism” as a hallmark of 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide. One would expect at least some pushback from the 55 Muslim leaders invited to the so-called Arab-Islamic American Summit in Saudi Arabia. Instead we witnessed a charade — the coronation of a triumphant Trump proclaiming, “veni, vidi, vici.”
It was a public humiliation for Muslims that none of the obsequious delegates from Muslim vassal states dared remind Trump about how his pejorative remarks about Islam, not just ISIS, have generated such global hysterical angst about Islam and Muslims. ISIS has been vehemently condemned universally by Muslims. Mainstream Muslims have made a repeated plea not to be broad-brushed with the diabolical terrorists. Muslims have also desperately engaged to extirpate this heresy from their religion. Yet through it all, Muslims have failed to remind the “current world order” that while an aggressive military approach demanded an immediacy of action, a multifaceted strategy based on social, educational, political, economic and above all a religious reform with the universal message of Islam is the key to expunging the heresy of ISIS and others of its ilk from Islam. For practicing Muslims, these goals are their imperatives to reclaim Islam. If implementation of these goals requires the assistance of like-minded law-abiding citizens of the world, so be it. It has to be the world against ISIS. Nothing short of that would work.
What followed during Trump’s participation at the summit was nothing short of monumental hubris from the apparent savior of the Muslim world (from itself). In one breath, he both identified ISIS as an existential threat to civilizational equanimity that had to be eradicated as an imperative by Muslims, as well as Iran as the greatest threat to regional stability as an agent of terrorism. “Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate it.” This was uttered the same day that ISIS conducted yet another of its diabolical assaults in Manchester, England. Such a statement exposes how out of touch with reality “the leader of the free world” is. Either that or he is playing to the tune of the fiefdoms of the Gulf, or perhaps he is really instigating a full-blown war between Shia and Sunni Muslims, consistent with his expressed belief that “Islam hates us.” It is unlikely that it is unbeknownst to President Trump that ISIS is an avowed enemy of Shias, and that Iran has an unmitigated interest, as does the rest of the civilized world, in ISIS’ total annihilation. Thus, as Muslims fully support Trump’s resolve to eradicate the presence and ideology of the cesspool of terror, ISIS, by every means possible, they also reject his polemicist view that “Islam hates us.”
With Muslim countries exterminating one another and the U.S. profiteering from permanent wars (in other countries’ backyards, with blow back always lurking in the wings), it is not surprising to read the headline, ”Trump: Israelis and Arabs share ‘common cause’ against Iran.” This may help to placate Israelis and bring some measure of “peace” between Arabs and Israelis for a time, but at what cost to the stability and welfare of the entire Middle East? There is also the rising tide of random acts of terrorism elsewhere by those who would have lost everything and have nothing more to lose.
Despite Trump’s confrontational rhetoric, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s response was the hope that once the Trump administration had “settled down,” it would try to understand Iran better.
If Trump does view Iran as a powerful ally in the showdown with heretical cults such as ISIS and can form an allegiance with Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran, he will be more likely to broker a peace deal with Israel and Palestine and pulverize ISIS. This would not be possible if he cavorts with contemptible nations that command nothing but visceral loathing by their adversaries who include ISIS, their arms suppliers in the West, their Shia counterparts and the overwhelming majority of peaceful Muslims living under their oppression. The alternative to this bold alliance and comprehensive strategy is an endless war initiated, sanctioned and bankrolled by the U.S. This will not make America great again, but it will make the entire world a lot less safe.
Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal, MD, PhD, is the former president of the Islamic Center of Boston and the Islamic Council of New England, and director of the Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries.
Craig Considine is a faculty member of the Department of Sociology at Rice University in Houston, and is author of the forthcoming books, Islam, Race and Pluralism in the Pakistani Diaspora (Routledge, July 2017), Between Muhammad and Jesus: A Catholic’s Love of Islam.
*Image: President Donald Trump and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia sign a Joint Strategic Vision Statement for the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Flickr/NinianReid.
Muslims must be part of the solution
By Abdul Cader Asmal Guest Columnist
Pejorative comments on Islam by most of the prospective Republican candidates for the presidential office have left little doubt in the minds of most Americans that the Muslims in this country are a fifth column or cheerleaders for ISIS.
The fact that Muslim leaders around the globe have denounced terrorism as antithetical to the principles of Islam, and have identified ISIS and barbaric cults of its ilk as heretical seems to have done little to counter the anti-Islam rhetoric. This is because the ‘Islamophobia industry’ with an investment of over $208 million over 5 years to demonize Islam has been successful in mainstreaming anti-Islamism. ISIS, and with it, all Muslims loyal to this country have been conflated to pose an “existential threatl”
If the goal of ISIS was to instill terror in its theater of operation with acts of unimaginable barbarity on a daily basis or shock the world with random acts of carnage - the latest being the cold-blooded slaughter of a priest in a church - it has succeeded. Whether directly implicated, or through surrogates, alleged sympathizers, or sheer opportunism, the impact is the same. ISIS has accomplished its goal of institutionalizing terror into the hearts of people, and antagonizing communities against one another. The blowback against the U.S. has generated an exponential political exploitation of Islamophobia, with repugnant comments such as, “Islam hates us” (Trump), a Muslim should only be president if he or she “renounces the tenets of Islam”(Carson), “Police need to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods” (Cruz), and “deport every Muslim who believes in Sharia” (Gingrich).
This is painfully ironic for Muslims who are on record against the invasion of Iraq. In a letter to the Boston Globe published Feb. 5, 2003, Imam Abdullah Taalib Faruuq and I wrote that “As loyal citizens of this country we believe that for the United States to go to war would have catastrophic consequences.
“For the Muslim world such war-mongering looks like a crusade against Islam that would only reinforce the distorted agenda of extremists and reduce the hope of eradicating terrorism,” we wrote. “Given the disinformation about Islam and the contempt with which Muslims are depicted, it might appear unpatriotic for us to challenge the drumbeat to war. On the other hand, our Islamic principles demand that in fearing God we should speak out against what we perceive as grave injustices about to be committed. It would thus be an act not only of disobedience to God but treason against our own country when we fail to express our concerns in what we believe to be in the best interest of our country and the world at large.”
It gives us no comfort that our prophecy has proven to be true. The showdown with Saddam was no cake walk, as predicted by the neocons. On the contrary our occupation led to the wanton degradation of an entire nation and its multicultural society, instigated a brutal Sunni-Shia internecine slaughter with fragmented sects caught in the crossfire, and led to the evolution of al-Qaida in Iraq which then morphed into ISIS.
ISIS is the more demonic version of the heretical cult based on the fascistic heresy that Bin Laden injected into Islam. ISIS is a conglomerate of heretics gone berserk, so-called Saddam loyalists, the disbanded Republican Guards, ordinary Sunni Iraqis who lost homes, families, sustenance and dignity, tribal chieftains, criminals, and hordes of foreigners attracted by a newly formed “caliphate” - a precursor to the apocalypse.
Though Islam forbids vicarious retribution, the heretical decree promoting religious justification for acts of terrorism (marketed as “jihad”), proved to be too beguiling, especially for most who have little understanding of Islam. The same fallacy galvanizes ISIS-sympathizers elsewhere with a burning rage to defend “our oppressed brothers,” or a “rapture” to be a part of the “caliphate,” or at the “apocalyptic showdown” (a living caricature of Tim LaHaye’s “Left Behind” series of apocalyptic fiction).
Till ISIS is vanquished through a multifaceted approach, including military operations, economic, social, educational, political and religious reform, a strategic element must not be overlooked. As a game-changer, Muslims must be accepted as a part of the solution rather than the problem, especially when in the name of God and country Muslims have already pledged to do what is in the best interest of our country and the world at large.
Abdul Cader Asmal of Needham is past president of the Islamic Council of New England.
BY YUSUF ISAACS
First, I want to thank my English teacher, Mrs. Johnson, for always pushing me to do what I wanted. Thank you to Ms. Bagwell and Ms. Sotomayor for always being there for me. And thank you to my parents for doing so much for me.
My names Yusuf Isaacs and I'm a Muslim kid from Durban, South Africa. It's a third world country. A place where my mom, my dad, aunts, uncles, and cousins have been held up at gunpoint. A place where kids, our age, even younger, are on the streets begging for food, for money, for anything. A place where babies are starving. Where some streets are flooded with the worst things you could think of. Drugs, violence, and all the more. My religion, Islam, teaches us to give to the poor and to never think you’re better than someone for any reason. This is also a part of why we Muslims fast in Ramadan, to feel what what our brothers and sisters go through, while we’re busy living a life full of luxuries.
I had a great life in Durban. I lived in a nice part of the city, but I was still exposed to the scenes I described earlier, even in the smallest forms. Despite all that, I still miss it. I was born there, I lived there for 10 years of my life. I love it, but I wouldn’t choose to live there right now. Luckily I moved here, to Wellesley. My mom won a green card, so my family and I were able to move to the States in December 2012.
I started school at Hardy in the 4th Grade. I was shy at first, this being my first time moving anywhere. I faked an American accent to try to fit in, thinking kids would think my South African accent was weird, even though it was a part of my identity. My true self. I made friends quicker than I thought, people who are still my friends today. Most of the time there for me when I have problems and when I need help.
As I reflect on my years here, I’ve learned a lot. I learned from experiences that I didn't want to have. I learned people come and go, relationships break but also form, sometimes for no reason. I learned to put your all into anything you want to achieve, to put your all into your goals. That you have to practice your art. That everything comes with sacrifice. If you have a craving for something, go for it. We’re young. We have time to do what we want. We have time to make mistakes. We have time to take risks.
In March, the authors of All American Boys, Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely, came to our school to discuss their friendship and their experience writing about race and police brutality. I asked Jason Reynold the following question, “What is your opinion on religious hate?” I remember he said, “It’s terrible. People are out here being hated for their faith. Muslim brothers and sisters are hated for nothing.” For no reason I immediately started tearing up. My religion’s important to me. I don’t understand why some people dislike it, maybe it’s because some people who are “apart” of it choose to commit acts of hate in the name of it, therefore people who don’t follow us judge us. But hearing him say that brought music to my ears. It was amazing to hear someone else say that they understand. To hear someone else say it wasn't okay to hate. To hear someone say that they’re there for you. After the assembly, I talked to Jason about my experiences as a Muslim. I was sobbing. After experiencing all the problems that go on in our school, in our town, in our country, it was good to finally hear someone say it’s not okay for those things to happen, or to be made fun of. He was one of the few people I've met who understood me, to whom I felt like I could talk to. Don't get me wrong, there’s people here who you can talk to about anything you want, who are there for you and who will help you, but he had this way about him, this vibe he gave off, that said he cared for your well being.
For National Poetry Month he wrote a poem about my life experiences and what's happened to me throughout my years. That poem affected everyone around me, my family, here and in South Africa, random people online, and even people at this school. I contributed to this school, through the poem and through Jason, by showing the truth about the ignorance that exists around our school and our world. This school has its ups and downs, it has it’s good sides it's bad sides, it's racism, it's discrimination, but at the same time it also has open arms, willing to help you with anything.
It’s a place where any kid can go to a teacher and get help and advice on anything they need. I'm grateful for this school, I'm grateful for my life. This world isn't always great, especially with everything that's been going on recently: racism, terrorism, hatred, and shootings. But we need to be there for each other, to support each other. We need to know we are all some people at this school have. We don't know how people will react to certain things, how the small jokes we say can make someone go home and sob. We need to take care of our community.
For every kid who gets bullied, it’s not okay. For every kid who bullies. It’s not okay. And for every kid who watches and doesn’t do anything, it’s not okay.
I was that kid. I know what it’s like to hear those small jokes made about you, they add up, they affect you, they push you down. Don’t think that the words you speak don’t impact other people. Don’t say, “It was just a joke”, or, “I didn’t mean it”. You did mean it, you said it. I hope all of us soon realize this. Like I said earlier, we need to be there for each other. For some people we’re all they have, and if that’s the case we need to treat them like gems and support them.
I want to end this speech telling everyone to enjoy their lives, and while doing that, help make others’ lives more enjoyable. Like I said, we’re young, we have time to do what we want. Also, don’t think you can’t ever do anything. Don’t think there isn’t a solution to anything. This sounds really cheesy, but who would think I’d be up here. I was born halfway across the world, anything’s possible. You just gotta get up and work for what you want.
IS THE OVERT “ISLAMIST EXISTENTIAL THREAT” A COVER FOR COVERT ANTISEMITISM?
For over a millennium Muslims and Jews lived in harmony that oversaw the burgeoning of their respective civilizations. Since the time of their historic accord, the scriptures of Islam and Judaism have not changed, but life for Muslims and Jews has. From the pinnacle of their civilization Muslims have plummeted into a nadir and see themselves as the victims of systematic demonization for the actions of deviant cults. Once the pariah of society, Jews have now become a powerful and influential global community. Out of the political struggle between Israelis and the Palestinians, the harmony of yesteryear has been replaced by the exchange of propagandist Muslim anti-Semitism and Jewish anti-Islamism.
However, following the election of Mr. Trump to the Presidency, the love-hate relationship between Muslims and Jews, both threatened by his overt anti-Islamic remarks, or his covert support of anti-Semitic White Supremacists, has now reached center stage. The day after President-elect Donald Trump appointed a man accused of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia as his chief strategist, two of the nation’s largest Jewish and Muslim advocacy groups formed an unprecedented partnership to fight bigotry. The American Jewish Committee and the Islamic Society of North America Monday launched the new national group: The Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council. At about the same time Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, pledged to register as a Muslim on the national database that President-elect Donald Trump vowed to create during his campaign. “I pledge to you that because I am committed to the fight against anti-Semitism that if one day Muslim Americans are forced to register their identities, that is the day that this proud Jew will register as Muslim. Making powerful enemies, is the price one must pay, at times, for speaking truth to power.”
Notwithstanding certain predictable outcries by naysayers on both sides, there has been a flurry of activities in which Jews and Muslims have shown a unique willingness to work together: Jews are coming to the defense of mosques in America; a joint statement that decried the nomination of Stephen Bannon as the White House Chief strategist was issued by Salam Al-Marayati, President, Muslim Public Affairs Council and Stosh Cotler, CEO, Bend the Arc Jewish Action. The Jewish Voice for Peace held a Chanukah Solidarity March Against Islamophobia #KindleJustice , in Boston. With the banning order against the entry of Muslims to the US there was an unprecedented outcry by a spontaneous coalition of peoples of conscience of all races, colors, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientation and social status against such an unconstitutional and bigoted decree.
What has consistently made the news has been the President’s proposed ‘registry of Muslims’ who are portrayed ad nauseam as an ‘existential threat’ to the security of the US if not the world. This view is reinforced by the malevolent remarks of his surrogates who predictably inspire his supremacist followers to acts of intimidation and violence against innocent Muslim citizens. What often does not make the headlines are the systematic acts of anti-Semitism throughout the country, and pointedly the President’s deliberate refusal to name the Jews as the prime targets on Holocaust Remembrance Day. It was only the repeated demands by Jewish leaders that persuaded the President to eventually denounce anti-Semitism, with a hyperbole that only he could have come up with, “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.”
This contrasts with the statement issued on February 20 by The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, which offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who threatened to bomb at least 10 Jewish community centers around the nation on the President's Day holiday. CAIR said the threats targeted community centers in Birmingham, Cleveland, Chicago, St. Paul, Tampa, Albuquerque, Houston, Milwaukee, Nashville, and Buffalo. These were the latest in a series of bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers nationwide in the last two months. "It is the duty of American Muslims to offer support to the Jewish community and any minority group targeted in the recent spike in hate crimes nationwide," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. "He noted the "tremendous level of support" offered to American Muslims by the Jewish community whenever Muslims have been targeted by hate in recent months. Awad said CAIR has reported an unprecedented spike in hate rhetoric and bias-motivated incidents targeting American Muslims, Jews and other minorities since the election of President Trump. With less hyperbole and more humility he could have echoed what President Washington had to say in 1790 to a ‘fledgling immigrant Jewish community’, ‘To bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance’. Words that are true today as they were then. True for Jews, Muslims, Blacks, Hispanics and all our brothers and sisters in humanity.
Abdul Cader Asmal 2/21/17