Happy Holidays from your Muslim Neighbors!

AIA 2020

American Muslims wish their neighbors happy holidays

America’s first-ever Muslim Community holiday video features diverse Muslim families wishing their neighbors a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy Holidays. The film ends with all Muslims wishing all Americans Peace on Earth, and Goodwill to All, and by quoting Charles Dickens’ famous line from A Christmas Carol: “God Bless Us All, Everyone.” The video was produced by the Alliance for an Indivisible America 2020 (AIA 2020), which was created to foster more understanding of Islam and Muslims, and highlight the positive contributions Muslims are making to our nation. 

PLEASE HELP US BROADCAST THIS ON NATIONAL TV 
We need your help to get this video seen as widely as possible. Your Donation will help pay for social media and even traditional media (national TV) advertising and get our message to millions of Americans, and show that Muslims in America respect and honor the holiday traditions of our fellow Americans. Every dollar donated opens up possibilities for placing the video on national social media platforms and even on TV stations nationwide.  
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Interfaith Community celebrates diversity among America’s heroes

AIA 2020

Arlington National Cemetery — For almost 100 years Americans from all backgrounds have come together on Veterans Day to give thanks to and celebrate the dedicated men and women who have served our country in uniform.   This Friday, in a special event to celebrate our veterans, the Alliance for an Indivisible America 2020 and the Muslim American Veterans Association sponsored an event an interfaith gathering at the National Cemetery in Arlington designed to underscore the devotion and diversity of those who served – and in some cases died for America.

The event was attended by veterans, family members and supporters from the Muslim American Veterans Association, the Center for Pluralism, MACCPAC, the Greater Washington Muslim Jewish Forum, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS), the Muslim Association of Virginia/Dar Al Noor mosque, Masjid Muhammad in Washington, the Muslim Community Center of Maryland, various Christian churches and Jewish synagogues, and individual visitors to the Cemetery who happened upon the event.

As many speakers noted, the diversity of our nation was reflected in the many races, ethnicities and faiths of those who attended the commemorative event.  Arlington Cemetery, with its mix of graves of every religious denomination and every ethnic group in America, was the perfect setting for the diverse group who came to honor their brothers and sisters buried there.

Imam Mohamed Magid, ADAMS Executive Religious Director, led a traditional Muslim prayer at the grave site of Staff Sgt. Ayman Taha, a member of the ADAMS community who died in Iraq in 2005 while serving in the US Special Forces.  Imam Magid, who had presided over the funeral of S/Sgt Taha in 2006, noted that his sacrifice was fully in keeping with the dedication of the Muslim community to their American homeland and that his sacrifice was a testament to the patriotism of all immigrants who love America, of whatever faith.   Several of the MAVA commanders also recalled their own service in the US Army, Navy and Air Force during the Vietnam War, and how much it meant for them to be able to honor the sacrifice of all their comrades, living and dead.

According to AIA 2020 Executive Director Robert Marro, a past member of the National Guard and a retired senior US Foreign Service officer, “Many American citizens were born outside the USA, but their level of patriotism and love of country is no less than native born Americans.  Like these New Americans of today, my Grandfather, from an immigrant family from Italy, fought for America in France in 1918 along with many fellow American soldiers who barely spoke English but wanted to repay the country that had given them so many opportunities.  I am proud to have served my country as a Muslim American, and especially proud to be associated with an event that typifies how much America has benefited from the service and dedication of both its new and old citizens.”

 

American Muslims honor Fellow Veterans at Arlington National Cemetery

AIA 2020

American Muslims and family members recently honored their fellow Veterans by visiting grave sites At Arlington National Cemetery, to pray for God’s mercy on all who have sacrificed their lives for our country.  AIA 2020 will hold another interfaith event, on Friday, Nov 10 at 9:00 AM at the Cemetery (meeting at Section 60, site 7986), where veterans (and families) of ALL faiths can honor ALL Veterans who have served America.

 

 

 

 

AIA2020 Conduct Media Training Session at IIIT

Somayyah Ghariani

On Aug 15, AIA 2020 Director Marro and AIA Staff and Senior Advisor Rob Leggat conducted a training session at the 2017 Youth Leadership Class at the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in Herndon VA.  Some 20 young students from various Muslim communities locally and nationally had come for the week long training, and this seminar was designed to provide them a basic introduction to the skills and experiences they could use to become powerful spokespersons for their communities, schools etc after the training.

 

Our overall theme for the training was “If you fail to communicate, everything else is wasted.”  The training goal was to show these up and coming youth leaders the true art form of how to communicate their messages in a way that will ensure the impact and results they desire.

Know your key messages was also a critical aspect of the discussion, and the need to not only have a clear and forceful message ready to be delivered, but to do so in a way that can most effectively achieve the intended and desired goal.

 

We also stressed a need to be mindful of the specific medium, and adjust your interview skills and style and even response to the medium; TV interviews for example differ greatly from radio or print or even online, and what you say in each should be calibrated to that exact medium.

 

Since most people are intimidated by the fear of being led into unknown or uncertain territory during the interview, we also focused on Bridging statements, which are simply a way to transition from one topic (based on a reporter’s question) to a subject you want to talk about (your message and how you want it to be heard).

 

We ended the session with role plays for several of the students to simulate what it would be like to be interviewed for a TV news report.  As we pointed out, many local and even national news organizations will often send crews t local mosques any time there is an incident involving Muslims anywhere in the world, and these reporters often seek to interview young Muslims who would appeal to their TV audiences.  We therefore hope to help prepare these Youth Leaders for such eventuality when they are back at their own community centers and mosques.

AIA Executive Director Meets with Malaysian Prime Minister

Somayyah Ghariani

On  Sep 11, AIA 2020 Director Marro and his wife were invited to represent AIA and the ADAMS Center at a private dinner celebrating the visit of Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak and his wife Datin Sri Rosmah Mansor, and to honor the anniversary of 60 years of Diplomatic ties and relations between Malaysia and United States.

 

The event brought together several hundred members of the Malaysian Diaspora in the USA, including Malaysian students from many Universities across America, and Malaysians who are now living in America.  Ambassador Tan Sri Zulhasnan has been an avid advocate of AIA 2020, and made certain that AIA Director Robert Marro and Mrs, Junaidah Marro would be seated with the PM and his wife so they could brief him on the program, and on ADAMS Center and the other Founding Members.

 

The PM also unveiled the winning logo from a contest for Malaysian students in the USA, to design a new logo to celebrate the 60 years of strong ties between Malaysia and the USA.

During his remarks to the audience, the Prime Minister noted his upcoming meeting with President Donald Trump, and his desire to build on those 60 years of strong ties to further reinforce the relations between the two countries.  Malaysia he noted was one of the top trading partners for America, and the third largest trading partner for Malaysia itself.

 

Immediately following the program, reporters from RTM (Radio/Television Malaysia) interviewed AIA Director Marro (see link below), who noted the many common aspects and shared values between the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious societies of both Malaysia and America, and how Malaysia has been frequently held up as a model of the moderate Islam that characterizes the AIA Founding Members and the goals of an Indivisible America that AIA seeks to promote.

Muslim Community Celebrates Eid AlAdha with Fellow Neighbors

Somayyah Ghariani

Friday Sep 1, 2017 marked the end of the Hajj (pilgrimage) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and commemorates the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), who was commanded by God to offer his son as a sacrifice as a test of his faith. But in both the Bible and Quran versions of the story, an angel came to Abraham to prevent him taking his son’s life, and instead ordering him to sacrifice an animal. All three Abrahamic Traditions continue to celebrate that spirit of sacrifice to this day.

This particularly festive day for Muslims also marks the end of the annual Hajj (pilgrimage) season, and is an occasion for engagement with family, friends, neighbors etc to share the joys and benefits of our respective faiths, and to honor the tradition of our prophets, and to honor the sacrifices we all make to help others in need. It is a time for engaging with family, friends and neighbors, and to share in the bounty of our lives.

For 2017 the ADAMS Center alone had 7 prayer locations, with nearly 30 prayer sessions that morning.  Over 30 political and civic officials, and candidates for the 2017 election and their surrogates, attended prayers to meet the community and offer salutations for this blessed event.

Among the candidates and officials visiting the various ADAMS locations were Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, Lt Governor Ralph Northam, Lt Governor candidate Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, Senators Jennifer Wexton And Barbara Favola Delegates Jim LeMunyon, Kathleen Murphy and Jennifer Boysko, County Supervisors John Foust and Kristen Umstadt, Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burke, and many surrogates for the various campaigns in Nov 2017.

 

Some 26 – 28,000 ADAMS community members attended the various services in the 7 locations, and the planning and outreach efforts were seamless and super.  Many AIA/ADAMS Interfaith Partners came to join the occasion, and to speak with their Muslim counterparts and share in the joy of this holiday. AIA 2020 played a prominent role in arranging the visits of these government officials, and was at several of the locations to welcome these officials and help introduce them to the community members attended. We were very pleased with the very warm welcome accorded to each of these visitors, and by the very warm and generous welcome support each of our visitors had expressed for the community, and for their willingness your stand with us all to overcome any challenges and difficulties the community may face in the coming years.

MYTH: Islam & Terrorism

Somayyah Ghariani

More thoughts on Islam and Terrorism

By: AIA Intern Sarem M.

(High School Student from Loudoun County Public Schools)

Sympathy without Empathy:  These three words are essentially the sum of how the issue of terrorism affects me as a Muslim-American High School student in Northern VA. I personally feel really terrible about all of those suffering from the likes of Boko Haram and ISIS, and would fully support any effort to protect innocents. If someone were to ask me, I would shout til my voice ran dry.

But the moment I remember my History or Physics or Calc Final tomorrow, I would shut up and get to work. Any thought of terrorism would completely vanish. Essentially, I feel like so many clichéd movie characters, too wrapped up in my own world, deciding what shoes to wear, etc., to save somebody else’s life. On reflection, I think I feel kind of disgusted with myself, but thankful now that I joined AIA 2020 and maybe can make some positive impact…

 

Honestly, I think I have the most typical high school experience possible…kind of dull actually. I realize that in certain areas Muslim Americans as a minority will have to deal with some form of discrimination due to terrorism, but for me it’s non-existent. I go to an incredibly diverse school, where pretty much every minority group that has been persecuted at one point or another has significant representation. As a result, nobody really bullies or attempts to make fun of anybody.

On the flip side, nobody really asks me questions about terrorism. Just as I wouldn’t ask my Hispanic friend about a gang war breaking out in South America, every group in my school and in my circle of friends here realizes there are some people from their “community” who bring them shame…but they also remember the more important question, “What does that have to do with me?”

But I also understand this attitude is not generally shared, especially in the media.  My friends know these terrorist acts truly have nothing to do with me, but my diverse school and social circles are not typical across America.  They should however be the model that we all hope to reach, where my religion, or your ethnicity, or someone’s sexual identity, should not – and does not – matter.  If we can get there, we can all live together in an Indivisible America.

MYTH: Islam & Terrorism

Somayyah Ghariani

One student’s thoughts on Islam and Terrorism

By: AIA Intern Ali J.

(High School Student from Fairfax County Public Schools)

In the past few years, Americans have seen many terrorist groups emerge in the Middle East and other areas, including Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, and Taliban, as a result of the unrelenting political turmoil in region. These groups may claim to be religiously motivated and to follow Islam, but in truth their actions are utterly un-Islamic and violate all the very core values of the Quran, Islam’s holy book.

Recent accounts of terror attacks committed by Muslims have continued to fill the news, but these reports neglect to note that the victims of most of these terror attacks are Muslims themselves.  The National Counterterrorism Center reports that 82 to 97% of the victims of terrorism-related fatalities between 2006 and 2011 were Muslims. After the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) proclaimed itself as a global Islamic caliphate in 2014, it grew quickly in the Middle East, promising to overturn the local instability, corruption and persecution that populations were experiencing at the hands of sectarian rulers and militias.  ISIS then committed many atrocious terror attacks, killing thousands, including 18,800 civilians in Iraq alone, proving that it too was even more corrupt than the local leaders it had supplanted.

One of the most common tactics that terrorist groups like ISIS employ is suicide bombings targeting large groups of civilians in markets or other public gatherings. Suicide however is considered a heinous crime in Islam according to the Quran (4:29), and as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) repeatedly said “Indeed, whoever (intentionally) kills himself, then certainly he will be punished in the Fire of Hell, wherein he shall dwell.” (Bukhari #5578).

In the past few months, ISIS claimed responsibility for suicide bombers who attacked a Kabul mosque where Muslims had gathered for prayer in the holy month of Ramadan, and two months earlier, two Coptic Christian churches were attacked by ISIS suicide bombers in Egypt on Palm Sunday. Ironically however, one of the rare cases in which violence is permitted in Islam is not to damage but rather to protect religious freedom. As the Quran (22:40) states “…If God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, [all] monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques – in [all of] which God’s name is abundantly extolled – would surely have been destroyed.”   Islamic scholar and convert Muhammad Asad has explained that this verse means that “… the defense of religious freedom is the foremost cause for which arms may – and indeed must – be taken up.”   If ISIS and other “Islamic” terrorist organizations were to actually follow the Quran as they so falsely claim, they would protect places of worship instead of destroying them.

We have seen many populations under the control of ISIS being forced to pledge allegiance to the so called “Caliphate” and men are forced to attend prayers at mosques. Throughout the history of Islam, Christians and Jews and other People of the Book have typically been free to practice their religion even in area controlled by Muslim rulers.  ISIS however has subverted that long history, and the required tolerance of other religions, by giving their subjected populations only two options: convert or die, and those who resist the rule of the Islamic State are killed. This is a complete negation of the spirit and indeed the very tenets if Islam.  The Quran (2:256) clearly says “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion,” therefore, when ISIS forces people to convert to Islam and pray at the mosque, ISIS is actually ignoring and even repudiating the teachings of the Quran.

Islam also does not allow the killing of children or of innocent people. The Prophet Muhammad said, “Do not steal the spoils, do not be treacherous with the enemy, do not mutilate the dead, do not kill children, and fear Allah.”  He also said, “Do not kill children or women or old men.”  The Quran (5:32) says that  “…if anyone slays a human being – unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth – it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all of mankind.”  Terrorism by contrast targets innocent civilians, with no concern whether its victims fall within these strictly prohibited categories.  The May 2017 ISIS attack on an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, UK, killing 22 people, mostly children, are the epitome of actions that definitively go against Islam.

The prohibition against suicide bombings, against any compulsion in religion, against the killing of innocents, and the obligatory calls for the protection of holy sites, therefore make it incomprehensible to compare Islam to terrorist groups like ISIS.  Just as Catholic and other Christian Churches continuously condemn violent extremism by groups like the KKK, Muslim mosques will never sanction terrorism by deranged groups like ISIS and other such extremists.

How the State Interacts with Muslims – A Book Review

Somayyah Ghariani

“Good” and “Bad” Muslim Citizens: Feminists, Terrorists, and U.S. Orientalisms,’ Book by Sunaina Maira

Review By Javaria Abbasi, AIA 2020 Intern

In her essay in Feminist Studies, Sunaina Maira, Professor of Asian American Studies at University of California Davis, argues the United States’ “national security” rhetoric hides an imperialist agenda that is manifest most blatantly in the way American Muslims are treated by the state. Through case study of Muslims in the media over the years, Maira exposes the dichotomy between “good Muslims” who are public figures that act as “trusty” informants for the state by attesting to Islam’s theoretical cruelty towards women, and “bad Muslims” who are viewed as threats to national security because of their “traditional image.”

Since the start of the War on Terror, state-supported media has juxtaposed images of the gratuitous violence of Al-Qaeda, and the more recent self-proclaimed “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS), with images of ordinary American Muslims. Maira concludes the state’s plan is in fact a Right-wing campaign to distract the populace from its own failures in preventing 9/11.

With the highly unpopular war in Iraq demolishing popular support for Bush era policies, the state had to shift gears. Saddam’s fall accelerated the haste in which the terror cells he had suppressed filed the vacuum.  The State could no longer claim to be “rescuing an oppressed population from the clutches of a savage dictator” when the Iraqi people began to revolt against the perceived U.S. liberator – and Occupation.

So began the crusade against “bad Muslims.” To garner public support, Maira suggests the state needed its own champions and consequently created a category of “good Muslims” to be prime subjects for interviews.  She is as mistrustful of the state as she is critical of Right-wing politics.

While Maira paints a vivid picture of the history of U.S. Foreign Policy to the Middle East and South Asia and treatment of American Muslims since 9/11, her 2009 article could not foresee the positive strides in foreign and domestic relations with Muslims by the Obama Administration.

Moreover, while Maira highlights the problems in the way the state handles Muslims, she does not offer a tangible solution.  She does not address how to “defend the right to express radical dissent against imperial terror” (pg 653) by “bad Muslims” in the Middle East when they resist foreign imperialism. While any publication in an academic journal is constrained by word limits, Maira’s depiction of an America for American Muslims is therefore too bleak and unforgiving.

As an American Muslim student at the University of Virginia, I believe Maira underestimates the potential for improvement without radically overhauling the entire system. What is needed more than rebellion or radicalism is education reform, to guarantee that certain media outlets and officials cannot smear upstanding American citizens like myself.  If Muslim children can learn the true tenets of democracy, they can and will participate more actively in their own defense.

Her bleak future analysis notwithstanding, Sunaina Maira’s essay is a must-read for all combatants of Islamophobia, to better understand the nature of the problem we all face.

 

Maira, Sunaina. “”Good” and “Bad” Muslim Citizens: Feminists, Terrorists, and U.S. Orientalisms.” Feminist Studies 35.3 (2009): 631-53. Print.

Counter Protesters  Far Outnumber Ku Klux Klan Protesters In Charlottesville Rally

Somayyah Ghariani

By Javaria Abbasi,  AIA Program Analyst

ADAMS and AIA 2020 were very pleased to join in support of the Virginia NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in a counter-protest in response to a demonstration planned and announced by the Loyal White Knights Chapter of the Ku Klux Klan on Saturday July 8, 2017 in Charlottesville VA.

The Albemarle-Charlottesville branch of the NAACP decided not to oppose the KKK on-site but instead to hold its counter-rally at Jack Jouett Middle School. Among the attendees of this event were Rizwan Jaka and Mohib Ullah, two prominent leaders of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society’s (ADAMS) Islamic Center in Sterling, Virginia.

Rizwan Jaka, Chairman and member of the Board of Trustees (and past President) of ADAMS, and a Director of the Alliance for an Indivisible America 2020 (AIA 2020), commented that “for the cause of justice” he felt that it was imperative that ADAMS and AIA 2020 be present at the counter-rally. “ADAMS has for many years worked closely with the NAACP in both Loudoun and Fairfax Counties,’ Rizwan explained, “and it is important that we show our full support for their efforts to oppose the kind of hate speech and actions that affect not only African-Americans but every member of the Muslim community in Virginia as well.”

The KKK members had come to Justice Park to protest the proposed removal of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a public park. The park, formerly known as Lee Park, was renamed Emancipation Park after a unanimous vote by the Charlottesville City Council in June.  Daily Beast journalist Gideon Resnick had noted that KKK members had indicated they would come to the rally armed and prepared to defend themselves against aggression from counter-protestors.  But only 30 members of the Loyal White Knights showed up to attend the event, shouting “white power” and waving Confederate Flags.

By contrast, these 30 KKK protestors were far outnumbered by 1000 to 2000 counter-protestors who had come to support the NAACP, and to affirm the rights of all minorities in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  No violence broke out at the demonstrations, because, as Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer stated, “our approach, from our police chief on down, has been to urge people not to take this totally discredited fringe organization’s putrid bait at all. They want division and confrontation and a twisted kind of celebrity, (but we) will refuse to take their bait and (just) continue to tell our story.”

The local division of the NAACP and the many attendees from ADAMS and other minority Organizations and supporters responded enthusiastically to the Mayor’s call to coordinate peaceful resistance to the KKK’s message of hate and fear.  Although the KKK event attracted significant media coverage, that was focused primarily on the vast disparity in the size of the KKK group versus the thousands of counter-demonstrators who wanted to show solidarity with the NAACP, and to protest any form of hate speech and divisive rhetoric.

AIA 2020 is proud of the ADAMS reps at the event, and to have been in solidarity with our NAACP colleagues in this effort to maintain peace and harmony across the Commonwealth.