Do Republicans Believe in Religious Liberty for Muslims?

Agree, this is a test:

Donald Trump and his GOP talk and talk about their love of “religious liberty.” In May, there was Trump declaring that religious freedom is a “priority” of his administration.  And in July, Trump’s Department of Justice even announced the formation of a religious liberty task force.

Well, if Trump and the GOP truly believe that religious liberty is not just for Christians, then here’s a no-brainer for them. The Republicans in the House should unanimously support a recently proposed rule to ensure religious liberty for a soon-to-be-sworn-in Muslim member of Congress and push back against the anti-Muslim voices in their party when they attack this change—which, if history is any guide, they will!

Come January 3, 2019, Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-MN) will be the first Muslim member of Congress ever to wear a hijab (head scarf). The problem is that a House rule enacted in 1837 bans any type of headwear, which would include Omar’s headscarf.

In response, Democratic House leader and expected next speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has formally proposed to ditch this 181-year-old ban on headwear in order to “ensure religious expression.” As Pelosi explained to NBC News, “After voters elected the most diverse Congress in history, clarifying the antiquated rule banning headwear will further show the remarkable progress we have made as a nation.”

This rule, while on the books, doesn’t seem to have been enforced. As AshLee Strong, the spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, explained in an email, “Under both Republican and Democratic Speakers, the House has never prohibited any kind of religious headwear.” That’s great to hear. But forgive me if I’m not quite reassured.

“In Minnesota, Republican activists this year pushed a resolution to prevent Muslims from even being a part of the GOP.”

So now, Pelosi and the Democrats want to take it one step further and go beyond ignoring a rule and instead affirmatively make it clear that they support religious freedom for all Americans. And Omar herself took to Twitter to celebrate the proposed change, writing, “No one puts a scarf on my head but me. It’s my choice—one protected by the first amendment.”

She added, “And this is not the last ban I’m going to work to lift.” Omar, a Somali refugee who would literally not be permitted to enter the United States today because of Trump’s current Muslim ban, clearly has her sights set on changing that Trump policy.

So why would GOP House members not support embracing religious liberty for Muslims? I suppose they still might in this case—we’ll see how they react when the next Congress starts. But the fact is that Republicans have a recent track record of being outraged over Muslims receiving equal treatment in this country. To many of them, we don’t deserve the same religious accommodations that Christians are afforded, and some don’t believe we belong in American politics—or even in America for that matter.

For example, several years ago the University of Michigan installed a number of foot-washing stations so that Muslims there could wash themselves before praying. (This washing ritual is called wudu and is intended to purify a person before prayer.)

The response by former GOP presidential candidate and Fox News staple Mike Huckabee summed up what we heard from others on the right as he vocally objected, saying, “the accommodation we’re making to one religion at the expense of others is very un-American.”

In Tennessee, GOP state legislators freaked out when they saw in their state capitol what they thought was a new sink installed to allow visiting Muslims to wash before prayers. These Bible Belt Republicans, though, were relived to find out the large sink was installed for washing mops, not Muslims.

And this year we saw two examples of Republican elected officials trying to prevent religious freedom for non-Christians. In South Dakota, a GOP state senator publicly objected to interfaith dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians who had come to the state capitol to meet with their elected official because in his view, “Interfaith dialogue is a part of a war… of taking away the Christian fabric of our nation.”

And in Oklahoma, each session of the state legislature opens with a prayer by the “chaplain of the day.” Well a conservative Christian GOP state representative recently took over administering that program and changed the rules to so that only a Christian cleric would be eligible to deliver that opening invocation.

So much for religious liberty for non-Christians. And sadly, often when we hear the phrase religious liberty uttered by a conservative Republican, it’s not just to deny it to other faiths, but worse, it’s used to demonize or discriminate against the LGBT community.

So here’s a chance for the GOP to champion religious liberty in the best of ways. Not only should every Republican in the House vote for this proposed change; they should speak out publicly in favor it and push back against the extreme voices in their party who no doubt will declare sharia law has taken over the Congress. Expect these extremists to say things like, “Next, Muslims won’t want bacon served in the congressional lunchroom!” (Putting aside religion, turkey bacon is much better for you!)

Sadly, I doubt the GOP will do the right thing. Look what we are seeing now in Texas as Republicans are trying to remove a Muslim American from a leadership position in their own party because some there allege, without a shred of proof,  that he wants to impose Islamic law.

In Minnesota, Omar’s home state, Republican activists this year pushed a resolution to prevent Muslims from even being a part of the GOP, with two Republican elected officials claiming that Muslims are trying to “infiltrate” their party. But none of this is surprising given that the leader of the GOP is Trump, the most anti-Muslim president our nation has ever seen.

But with that said, here’s an opportunity for the GOP to evolve. Will they finally embrace an America for all faiths and push back against voices of intolerance within their own ranks? We will know soon enough.

Source: Do Republicans Believe in Religious Liberty for Muslims?

Think the [US] Supreme Court Isn’t Inching Us Toward Trump’s Muslim Ban? Think Again – Dean Obeidallah

Tend to agree in terms of messaging:

The U.S. Supreme Court decision on Monday reinstating a portion of President Trump’s Muslim ban is an alarming step to legitimizing anti-Muslim bigotry and possibly even one day legalizing discrimination against American Muslims. If you have any doubt, just check out Twitter, as self-professed Trump supporters cheered what they saw as being a first stepon the way to Trump’s declared goal of a “total and complete shutdown on Muslims entering the United States.”

But why wouldn’t they rejoice, considering 65 percent of GOP primary voters support Trump’s call for a total Muslim ban? Yet we are told time and time again that Trump voters were motivated by “economic anxiety” not bigotry. It’s hard to even write that line without laughing

Yes, I understand that the Supreme Court’s decision is limited in scope and that even the liberal justices apparently agreed to it until the case is fully briefed and argued in the fall, but that doesn’t in any way reduce the concern that the message sent is that Muslims don’t belong in America. A message that Trump despicably made many times on the campaign trail and even after being sworn in as president.

For example, in addition to Trump’s call for a Muslim ban, he declared irresponsibly that “Islam hates us” and lied that “thousands” of Muslims cheered in New Jersey on 9/11. And as president, Trump has made it clear with his actions that American Muslims—as opposed to foreign Muslims who give him gold necklaces or help him make money—are not a part of his view of America.

As I pointed out last week, after the recent terror attack in London by a white anti-Muslim bigot who has since been charged with terrorism, Trump offered zero sympathy on Twitter for the Muslim victims. But after the London bridge terror attack just three weeks earlier that had been perpetrated by Muslims, Trump quickly took to Twitter to not just express condolences but to gin up fears of more terrorism.

And Trump recently amplified the message that he doesn’t view Muslims as fellow Americans as Ramadan came to a close on Sunday. You see, every president since 1996 has held a dinner during Ramadan in the White House to commemorate this holiday. George W. Bush even held one the Ramadan after 9/11 to send a message to Americans that Muslims are part of the fabric of our nation. But not Trump. The man—who, when he implemented his original Muslim ban, made an exception for Christian refugees while leaving Muslim refugees to die on the killing fields of places like Syria—would not be seen sitting with American Muslims in the White House.

The Supreme Court’s ruling distressingly confirms Trump’s message that Muslims are inherently dangerous and are not like the rest of us. And just so it’s clear, this is a Muslim ban. True, it’s not a total ban on every Muslims but it’s one grounded in anti-Muslim animus. And that’s not just my opinion, but also the view of the various federal judges who have examined it.

Source: Think the Supreme Court Isn’t Inching Us Toward Trump’s Muslim Ban? Think Again

The Real Muslim American Threat? It’s Against Us – The Daily Beast

Dean Obeidallah on white extremism against American Muslims:

We have alarmingly reached an ugly place in America with anti-Muslim sentiment. And while Donald Trump has not targeted Muslims with his rhetoric (at least not yet), his fear mongering will no doubt embolden others to spew hate versus various minority groups, including Muslims.

And worse, this type of divisive language can inspire violence as we saw last week in Boston when two men attacked a Latino homeless man. After the assault, one of the attackers told the police: “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.”

Interestingly one of the two Boston attackers had also been convicted of a hate crime for assaulting a Muslim man shortly after 9/11. Thus again proving that bigots tend to hate more than just one minority group.

I would predict we will see even more plots to kill Muslims in America or at least attempts to gin up the hate toward the Muslim community. This, of course, makes ISIS ecstatic because the terror group would use any attacks on American Muslims as proof that the West hates Islam and that Muslims should join them.

I wish I could be more optimistic, but I’m a realist. My only hope is that our media starts covering these terror plots to make it clear that the threat of “radical Americans” is very real.

Source: The Real Muslim American Threat? It’s Against Us – The Daily Beast

Radicalization and the Ottawa Shooting: Weekend Commentary

Weekend news and commentary I found relevant and interesting.

Consistent messaging from a number of political figures and media commentators on the need for more than security approaches in combatting radicalization. Premiers Wynne and Couillard stress the community and societal aspects in Curbing radicalization a community issue: Wynne |  Toronto Sun.

A great deal of speculation on what measures the Government may be considering (beyond the already announced increase in CSIS powers), ranging from Online hate speech could be curtailed under new anti-terror push (ironic, given the Government’s removal of online hate speech from the Canadian Human Rights Act, and to strip the federal human rights commission’s power to investigate such complaints) to greater use of preventive detention in Tories hint at even tougher anti-terror laws. John Ivison thinks the template will be the UK in  Conservatives’ new anti-terror laws likely to mirror ‘immensely controversial’ U.K. legislation.

Stephen Maher sounds a note of caution, considering the Government’s record on privacy, oversight, and transparency, in Harper government’s intelligence agenda a cause for worry.

Interestingly, Benjamin Perrin, formerly of PMO, argues that existing laws are adequate (including the proposed additions to CSIS’ powers)in Our laws are up to the homegrown terror threat, and Ian Brodie, former chief of staff to PM Harper, advocates for an all-party non-partisan approach to improving security on Parliament Hill in Ian Brodie: There is no reason to turn Parliament Hill into an armed fortress.

And as the debate starts, Scott Reid notes that We’ve seen MPs unite, now we need them to be divided to ensure a full discussion and debate about the appropriate responses to the attacks.

Jon Kay discusses how the immediacy of video heightens fear in Did attack on Parliament really change our lives forever? even if incidents and risk are relatively low.

Doug Saunders explores the grey line between ideology and pathology in The lone wolf: Is it ideology or pathology? with both Islamic-inspired and other extremism examples. Margaret Wente dismisses arguments over blowback over intervention in What do we do about the Islamic State fanboys? without the nuance of Saunders with respect to ideology and pathology. Andrew Coyne takes a similar talk, with more nuance, and makes the valid point that We got off relatively lightly this time. We may not be so lucky the next.

Some nice commentary contrasting restrained Canadian and hyperventilated US coverage of the attacks by Dean Obeidallah in To US media Canadian shooter being Muslim ends investigation.

Douglas Todd reports on the Burnaby Mosque which essentially expelled Zahaf-Bibeau given his intolerant views in Is Burnaby mosque a victim of its own openness?

And while there have been a few incidents against Muslims (Islamophobia: the ugly side of the municipal election?), there has also been support for those Muslims or Muslim institutions (Volunteers help clean vandalism from Cold Lake mosque). And within the Muslim community, some strong messages against radicalization during Ottawa Friday prayers The Roots of Radicalizaton and the Education to Prevent It among others.

In the Fight Against ISIS, Islam Is Part of the Solution – The Daily Beast

Dean Obeidallah on anti-ISIS strategies that engage Islamic leaders and precepts to counter the ISIS narrative and acts:

Will this work? It is addressing ISIS’s very sales pitch, as documented in its online magazine, that invokes Islamic principles to lure people to join. And I can tell you this—it’s a much better approach than the State Department’s recently released video designed to dissuade Muslims from joining ISIS. That video simply showed images of violence, but its fatal flaw is that it didn’t use Islamic values to counter ISIS.

I’m sure some are asking: Why didn’t we see Muslim scholars do this before? Bedier responded that the Muslim community has become better organized in recent years and can now respond in a more united way. Plus there’s an understanding by Muslim leaders that many people of other faiths see only negative images of Muslims in the media, thus, making it important to not allow the extremists to define the faith.

I also believe there’s another reason why we are seeing this and why some Muslim nations have joined the military campaign versus ISIS. While ISIS potentially poses a threat to the United States, to many Muslims living in the Middle East, ISIS is a clear, present, and immediate threat. ISIS’s philosophy is in reality not “submit to Islam or die”; after all the group is slaughtering Muslims daily. It’s “submit to ISIS or die.” Nothing is a greater motivator than self-preservation.

The fight against groups like ISIS will likely be with us for years. No doubt that a military component must be part of this approach. But to really cut off ISISs pipeline of recruits and financial support from Muslims, it requires that we not view Islam as the problem, but actually as a big part of the solution.

In the Fight Against ISIS, Islam Is Part of the Solution – The Daily Beast.

Sheema Khan takes a similar bent, drawing upon the history of a 7th century fanatical Islamic-inspired cult, the Khawarij:

Today, theologians are warning Muslims about the dangers of the Islamic State by pointing to the movement’s similar theological underpinnings. Don’t be fooled by the flowery language, the invocation of God and the Koran, the readiness for martyrdom or the call to sharia – this is a fanatical cult that has deviated from the path of Islam, and its actions belie its adherents’ professed faith.

As with the Khawarij, the Islamic State has attracted misguided youth with “foolish dreams.” The Khawarij declared those with theological differences as “disbelievers” warranting death; the Islamic State has killed thousands of Muslims – Sunni and Shia – during its takeover of villages in Iraq and Syria. The Khawarij demanded the enslavement of women and children during the battle of Siffin (the Caliph Ali refused); the Islamic State has carried out this abominable practice. Both groups are willing to die in a heartbeat for their “beliefs.” Like the Khawarij, Islamic State members believe they are the only “true Muslims” while the rest are disbelievers, worthy of death. It has threatened all opponents, including Muslim theologians warning against its fanatical ways. Their self-professed piety is built on a foundation of arrogance.

If history is any lesson, this fight will not be for the faint of heart. Nonetheless, for Muslims, it will be a necessary battle for the very soul of their faith.

 Another battle with Islam’s ‘true believers’ 

David Motadel provides a useful history of previous Islamic-inspired revivalist rebel movements and state-builders:

At the same time, Islam was at the center of these movements. Their leaders were religious authorities, most of them assuming the title “commander of the faithful”; their states were theocratically organized. Islam helped unite fractured tribal societies and served as a source of absolute, divine authority to enhance social discipline and political order, and to legitimize war. They all preached militant Islamic revivalism, calling for the purification of their faith, while denouncing traditional Islamic society, with its more heterodox forms of Islam, as superstitious, corrupt and backward.

Today’s jihadist states share many of these features. They emerged at a time of crisis, and ruthlessly confront internal and external enemies. They oppress women. Despite the groups’ ferocity, they have all succeeded in using Islam to build broad coalitions with local tribes and communities. They provide social services and run strict Shariah courts; they use advanced propaganda methods.

If anything, they differ from the 19th-century states in that they are more radical and sophisticated. The Islamic State is perhaps the most elaborate and militant jihad polity in modern history. It uses modern state structures, including a hierarchically organized bureaucracy, a judicial system, madrasas, a vast propaganda apparatus and a financial network that allows it to sell oil on the black market. It uses violence — mass executions, kidnapping and looting, following a rationale of suppression and wealth accumulation — to an extent unknown in previous Islamic polities. And unlike its antecedents, its leaders have global aspirations, fantasizing about overrunning St. Peter’s in Rome.

And yet those differences are a matter of degree, rather than kind. Islamic rebel states are overall strikingly similar. They should be seen as one phenomenon; and this phenomenon has a history.

Created under wartime conditions, and operating in a constant atmosphere of internal and external pressure, these states have been unstable and never fully functional. Forming a state makes Islamists vulnerable: While jihadist networks or guerrilla groups are difficult to fight, a state, which can be invaded, is far easier to confront. And once there is a theocratic state, it often becomes clear that its rulers are incapable of providing sufficient social and political solutions, gradually alienating its subjects.

David Motadel: Why Islamic rebel states always fail

Stop the Anti-Semitism When Talking Gaza

Commentary by Dean Obeidallah, a Palestinian American, on the need to avoid antisemitism when criticizing Israel on Gaza:

But to those who want to cheer “Death to the Jews,” use Nazi imagery, or in any other way want to demonize the Jewish people, let me be clear: I don’t want you on our side. Your hateful rhetoric is not only morally repugnant, it’s hurting my family and the millions of other Palestinians struggling for basic human rights. Don’t attend events supporting Palestinians or post vile comments in our name on Facebook, etc. We don’t want the Palestinian cause to be defined by your hate.

Let’s follow the lead of people like [US Congressman] Ellison—and those in Europe engaged in the “Raise Your Voice” campaign—and vocally counter anti-Semitism wherever we see it, be it at an event or a posting on social media. We can’t afford to wait to speak out until we see anti-Semitic incidents in the United States like those happening in Europe.

Hate is hate regardless of the target. Let’s not lose our own humanity while trying to fight for the humanity of others.

Stop the Anti-Semitism When Talking Gaza – The Daily Beast.