On April 12, 1997 I received a call from my brother, Private First Class Tayyib M. Rashid, a newly minted U.S. Marine. He had called to tell us he had just graduated from boot camp. Ours is an immigrant family, and his service was a source of pride and validation for all of us. We were Americans in a new sense now. This year I filed to run for Virginia Senate — an extension of the American dream my immigrant family and I have cherished.
But the fact is that Muslims have been in the United States before the states were created — let alone united. Historians believe that 15 to 30 percent of Africans enslaved and trafficked here were Muslim. Yet, some 400 years later we’re still considered outsiders.
Conservative outrage over Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent comments at a civil rights banquet hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) exemplify this exclusion. Speaking about the need for strong civil rights protections, especially for Muslim Americans, Omar said: “CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something, and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”
The political right went immediately into attack mode. Brian Kilmeade, co-anchor of “Fox and Friends,” wondered if she was even an American first? Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, described her remarks as “Unbelievable.” The NY Post featured a front page with Omar’s picture depicted below a photo of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now even President Donald Trump has joined in, tweeting a video that cuts between her quote and images of the Twin Towers. At a time when Omar has suffered bomb threats and assassination plots, such hyperbole on the part of the media and elected officials only adds fuel to the bonfire. [Continue reading…]