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Dear Sisters - Stand Strong and Stand up for Ilhan Omar and Those Who Resist

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Posted on Jul 23, 2019
Dilshad Ali

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Dear Sisters, let’s pause for a minute and chat.

Well, it’s come to this. Just when many of us thought things couldn’t sink lower in regards to our current presidential administration and the general divisiveness of this country, that another “red line” couldn’t be drawn - it did sink, it was drawn.

And there’s a part of me that’s just tired. So tired of President Trump’s attacks on minority groups, on Muslims, Jews, women, Latinos, disability groups, and the list goes on and on and on. So tired of the belittling, privileged, white nationalist-affirming language. So tired that the sharp edge of my outrage at the dismantling of environmental protection laws, targeting of women’s health issues, the ongoing Muslim ban and so on has dulled. Not much is shocking or outrageous out of this administration anymore. Maybe it’s like that for you, too.

The Squad

"The Squad" - Rep. Ayanna Pressley speaking with Reps. Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib standing behind her. Image source: Twitter

But my sisters - we cannot afford to let our sharpness be dulled. Yes, we must protect ourselves from outrage fatigue, from news fatigue - from the onslaught of manipulative, lying, hate-filled rhetoric spewing out around us. But the stakes are too high for the majority of us to live in our own worlds and fully retreat from what is happening around us.

We all have to make our own choices, I know, with what is going on in our lives and how we feel about the current state of affairs. We can only do what is right for us (and Allah S) and what we are capable of. But I'm hoping we can think bigger, consider humanity and stand up for our sisters (and brothers in resistance) in whatever ways we can.

Last week rapid three things happened that deserves a pause, reflection and commitment from ourselves to do something - whether that is to say a du’a (prayer), safeguard ourselves or pledge support in other ways.

July 14 - The president sends out a series of tweets directed at “The Squad” - Reps. Rashida Tlaib (MI), Ilhan Omar (MN), Ayanna Pressley (MA) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), all progressive-leaning members of Congress. Three of them are born in the U.S., with Omar being born in Somalia. She became a U.S. citizen at the age of 17. In response to their ongoing criticism, Trump suggests they “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested” countries from which they came, playing off an old, racist “go back to Africa” trope.

In these tweets, Trump also refers to Democratic infighting between the four progressive Congresswomen and Rep. (and minority leader) Nancy Pelosi, by tweeting that Pelosi will make the travel arrangements. The four representatives, justifiably, are outraged and angry and held a press conference, in which Pressley says, “We are more than four people. We ran on a mandate to advocate for and to represent those ignored, left out and left behind. Our squad is big. Our squad includes any person committed to creating a more equitable and just world.”

July 15 - Trump doubles down on his heinous tweets, saying "As far as I’m concerned, if you hate our country, if you’re not happy here, you can leave. … That’s what I said in a tweet, which I guess some people think is controversial. A lot of people love it, by the way. … "

July 17 - At a rally in North Carolina, this fever pitch of hateful rhetoric from the president reaches a sort of climax, when he preaches to his base by singling out Rep. Ilhan Omar and insinuating that she supports Al Qaeda (patently false). The crowd starts chanting “Send her back!” for 13 seconds, and Trump does nothing. When the chants die down, he keeps on talking about Omar. Later he says he felt badly about the chants and disagreed with it. But then he circles back on that comment as well. I mean - when can you ever believe Trump?

Ladies – especially my visibly hijab-wearing Muslims and Black Muslim women – this is a huge problem and an insult in more ways than I can count. I’m not saying anything you don’t already know. You can agree or disagree with the kind of politician Ilhan is or her policy stances, but she deserves our support, full stop. She deserves our du’as for protection, full stop.

Ilhan Omar

Make no mistake - because of the president’s ongoing racist comments, tweets and speeches, because he continues to fire up his base, threats are being made against Ilhan’s life, and there’s a greater chance that there will be more violence occurring or at least hate-directed at Muslims and other minorities. That’s been the trajectory since Trump campaigned and became president in 2016.

If our goal is to live our lives as unapologetic, authentic American Muslims, then it’s crucial for us, now more than ever, to stand strong and stand up for ourselves and Ilhan. We don’t need to prove how American we are or even justify that insult, “Go back to your own country,” with stories of our right to belong.

I read a beautiful post on Facebook by Ustadha Maryam Amir, an instructor at Hikmah Institute, that I want to share with you, which turns the table on this idea that we – people of color – should be welcomed and made to feel a part of the American fabric. Friendship and allyship is beautiful, needed, appreciated and necessary. However, we don’t need to justify pride in our heritage at the expense of our “Americanness” just as much as we don’t need to be welcomed - because our rights are the same as any other American. Consider Maryam’s words:

I was working in a cafe when an older white man sat at the table next to me and after the initial small talk he said, “I want you to know you are welcome here!” To which I smiled and replied, “You’re welcome here too!”

And he was confused because he didn’t seem to understand that as kind as he was trying to be, his words implied an ownership over being a host to his country, to a person whom he assumed was a guest to his country.

I appreciated his attempt at kindness in his own way. It can be daunting to know what to say and I recognize and deeply appreciate his initiation.

At the same time, what he didn’t realize - and what I didn’t tell him overtly because I appreciated his kind intent in the way he knew how - is that this micro aggression is one that perpetuates a systemic racism which implies that any person who isn’t white or maybe sometimes who is but may have an identifying marker that includes them in a minority community doesn’t have as much ownership in the concept of belonging.

I asked him where he’s from and how long he’s been here. He seemed to be taken aback and replied, “Oh, I’m from Colorado!” I pressed further and asked, “But what about your family?” And he eventually told me his grandparents immigrated to this country.

To which I replied, “Oh! Just like my grandparents!”

If you were born here or you immigrated later and this is your home- this is your home. And while this post isn’t addressing the horrifying ramifications of racism, sexism and islamophobia amplified by an oppressive, unjust individual who has the privileges and power dynamics of being a rich white man holding the highest level of power to Congresswomen of color, this has been triggering for many of us because of our lived experiences.

Unless you’re Native American, you are not a native American. And if some are going to make it seem like their European roots are worth more than those who were either kidnapped and enslaved and ripped away from their families and physically forced to build this nation, or others who were forced to seek asylum often because of our own country’s oppressive policies to their nations, or all of the myriad of reasons why a person or their ancestors have come to our country, let’s consider what often our religious similarities teach us:

We come from Adam and Eve. We have the same grreeeatttt grandparents. We are siblings in humanity. And when someone yells out, “Go back to where you came from!” I’m ready to reply, “Adam and Eve came here from Paradise. That’s where I’m from. That’s where you’re from. Let’s focus on working together to make sure the justice, peace, security and prosperity in our country resemble what our mutual homeland looks like.

The Squad - Ilhan Omar

Ilhan Omar speaking at a press conference with Pressley, Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib behind her. Image source: Twitter, Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

My dear sisters - be safe. Do what you need to do to help yourself feel safe and keep your daughters and sons, your families safe. But be strong. Trust in Allah. Trust in yourself. Trust in your strength. Be proud. Get angry. Keep Ilhan, Rashida, Alexandria and Ayanna and all others resisting in your prayers for protection and strength. And then do your part, as the hadith goes, as much as you can, and forbid evil:

With your actions.
With your words.
With your heart.

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