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|Muslim American: A new identity?|
|03/15/05 at 10:05:57|
Muslim American: A new identity?
By Ruhi Hamid
Producer of It's My Country Too
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the US, yet one in four Americans regard Muslims living among them with suspicion. What does it mean to be both Muslim and American?
Salman Ahmed uses music to reach out to young Muslim Americans
Touring the US with his band Junoon, rock star and Muslim American, Salman Ahmed, wanted to find out how the aftermath of 9/11 continues to shape the lives of Muslim Americans in 2005.
"Following the attack," he says, "there were human rights abuses against Muslims, using immigration violations as a weapon. Thousands have been detained and others deported."
One month after the attacks on New York and Washington, Congress rushed the Patriot Act into law to help track down terrorists.
"The Act gave the FBI the right to spy on American citizens, to look into our lives, our email, and even our library records," he says.
Even though the hijackers who attacked the Twin Towers in September 2001 represented a militant fringe, some Americans have blamed the entire Muslim world.
And the claims made by terrorists, that they acted in the name of Islam, have outraged many Muslims.
Salman met Shereef Akeel, a contracts lawyer whose life had been "turned upside down since 9/11."
The more mainstream America hears the moderate voices, the less suspicious they'll be
Shereef says he has been defending students and people who have lost their jobs and been intimidated just because their name is Mohammed, or because they are Pakistani or simply Muslim.
"This is my country, but it is a difficult time. It's a sad time. It's difficult to be a Muslim here - for all of us," he says.
So, how should the Muslim American community challenge suspicious minds in the US?
Former lawyer, Azhar Usman, believes the answer lies in comedy.
Currently touring the US with the show Allah Made Me Funny, Azhar is convinced that many Americans want to hear from moderate voices.
"The more mainstream America hears the moderate voices, the less suspicious they'll be," he says.
"We as American Muslims must stand up, be proud of who we are, and be people who say unequivocally and enthusiastically, that we're American Muslim."
However, he is also critical of his own community. He says: "Our problem as a community is that we're very isolationist. We don't want to get out there and make bridges with people, connect with people."
There is a stirring in Muslim communities. A new breed of activists driven by anger and injustice against Muslims, both at home and abroad, is on the move.
The US election in 2004 captured the attention of Muslim Americans like never before and brought them back into politics
The war on terror at home, the invasion of Iraq and the Abu Ghraib scandal are just some of the issues that drive them.
In the aftermath of the terror attacks, Muslims retreated from local and state politics to an astonishing degree: more than 90% of Muslim politicians were no longer in office by 2002.
However, the US election in 2004 captured the attention of this community like never before and brought them back into politics.
Mosques and Islamic organisations were urging Muslims to exercise their right to vote.
Traditionally, Muslims have voted Republican because of their emphasis on moral values and a strong belief in God, but in 2004 many considered switching to the Democrats, hoping they would be less of a threat to Muslims both in America and abroad.
Dr and Seeme Hasan have some powerful friends in Washington
Salman decided to visit his aunt, Seeme Hasan. Seeme and her husband Dr Hasan remain staunch supporters of President Bush.
Not only do they get personal birthday wishes from the president, but they are also regular guests at his ranch in Texas.
So strong are their convictions for Bush that they set up Muslims for Bush, a website that encouraged Muslims to vote Bush into office for a second term.
While most Muslims were unhappy with Bush's war in Iraq, Seeme believes that Bush is good for Muslims and unquestioningly supports his actions.
"Personally I wanted to invade Iraq," she tells Salman, "because I think if there is a country that will not allow us into its borders and it has the money and the reasoning to attack the US, then we have to go in."
Salman believes that courage, determination and hard work is where the future lies for Muslim Americans, no matter where their political allegiances lie.
"Unlike some other parts of the world where Muslims seem to see themselves just as victims," he says, "Muslim Americans are fighting for their rights and blending Islam with a modern American identity.
"They don't want to be tolerated in their adopted country, they want to be accepted for what they are, Americans who just happen to be Muslims."
|03/15/05 at 10:06:37|
|Re: Muslim American: A new identity?|
|03/15/05 at 10:15:41|
Thanx for the article...
I was kinda surprised that this article was in the mainstream press.. then I read this
[quote] While most Muslims were unhappy with Bush's war in Iraq, Seeme believes that Bush is good for Muslims and unquestioningly supports his actions. [/quote]
gee I wonder how much Bush pays him... it's interesting how all these "Muslims for Bush" end up being in his cabinet and benefit from his tax cuts for the rich type policies... and btw the good DOCTOR WAS AN ADVISOR IN BUSH's CABINET and has gotten alot of breaks for his HMO plan... check out UmmZaid's eye opening article on who this guy really is...
I like how they say MOST Muslims are unhappy with Bush... polarised?? come on....can we say ALL UNLESS you are among the 4 SELLOUTs out of 1.5 billion and are going to benefit from his policy monetarily or politically at the expense of all your people.
|03/15/05 at 10:17:27|
|Re: Muslim American: A new identity?|
|03/15/05 at 10:57:14|
Ok was talking to someone about this and I think people should seriously know who or what is behind this organization. Seriously when people come out of nowhere claiming to speak for Muslims we should not be blind to their background or (hidden) agenda...
The link is here... http://www.sunnisisters.com/sunnisister/?p=174
I'm posting portions of it in case ummzaid ends up having to remove it later on:
Who are “Muslims For Bush?”
No, the answer is not “whacked out of their gourd.”
It’s actually a little more interesting than that.
Our poor, poor, serverless-thus-hosted-by-blogspot friend Izzy Mo had a banner ad for “Muslims for Bush” on her blog today. Out of a misguided and sick sense of humor, I decided to click on it. Wallahi, when I first saw it I thought it was a joke. Unfortunately, these people are serious. Its seriousness may be more a source of laughter (albeit bitter laughter) than a joke site would have been.
Muslims for Bush is the brainchild of two lone people: Muhammad Ali Hasan and his mother, Seeme Gull Khan Hasan. The Hasans are from Pueblo, CO, a relatively small city in the extreme south of the state. There aren’t a lot of Muslims or Pakistanis in the entire state of Colorado, let alone little ol’Pueblo. So naturally you can understand why I immediately linked these two to that other Pakistani-Muslim from Pueblo, Asma Gull Hasan. You know, since the two women had the same name and all. In fact, I found an interview from Hasan where she said that the only Muslims she knew in Pueblo were her family. I later discovered that Seeme Gull Khan Hasan is the mother of Asma Gull Hasan. Yeah, I’m a little slow on the uptake.
Isn’t this all very interesting? What’s very interesting to me is why Asma hasn’t come out publicly in support of Bush. Does she differ from her family regarding politics, or does she support him? If so, what is it that she fears she would lose by supporting him? What doesn’t she want her audiences to know about her family and her politics? Why hasn’t she been more open about her Republicanism? Who are the Hasans? Let’s see what theories we come up with by digging around, shall we?
Dr. Malik and Seeme Gull Hasan come from wealthy and privileged families in Pakistan, and for this campaign year, are Bush Pioneers. Pioneers are those people who pledge to raise at least $100,000 for Bush’s re-election, with the expectation that they will reap benefits from this (of the 246 Pioneers in 2000, 104 of them ended up with Federal appointments.) The Hasans were not Pioneers in 2000, but you can begin to imagine the sort of cirlces the Hasans run in, no?
The Pakistan Link published this glowing and worshipful profile of the Hasans. I think you’re supposed to ignore the fact that Seeme sits on the board of advisors for this newspaper.
However brilliant he was as a doctor, Malik Hasan’s true genius obviously rests in his business abilities. The Colorado State University school of business in Pueblo is even named after him (and Seeme, of course). Dr. Malik Hasan is the founder of the Colorado HMO QualMed, and ex-CEO of Foundations Health Systems, Inc., the fourth largest HMO in the country. He is currently the Chairman of the Board for HealthTrio, a company which Seeme says is about to go public. He is also known in the industry for being a trailblazer in the field of managed care and for profit health care, and a fierce advocate of the for profit system.
In the late 1990’s, he was one of the highest paid for-profit health executives in the country with salaries and stock options numbering in the tens of millions of dollars. In fact, Forbes magazine mentioned him on a list of overpaid executives in the 1990’s. In 1994, he was paid $8.8 million. In 1996, while he was still at Health Systems, he had one of the largest unexcercised stock option packages in the country (in the for-profit health field). In that same year, Foundations Health Systems posted a shareholder return of -23%, and Dr. Hasan received a mere 3% pay raise and no bonus. Yet that year, he received one of the largest stock options in the industry, more than 200,000 shares at bargain prices. In 1997, still under his leadership, Foundations posted a -10% shareholder return, and Dr. Hasan was rewarded with a 4.9% increase and 850,000 shares of stock. Over those two years, Dr. Hasan received more than $17 million in salary and valued stocks. He did, however, complain at the time that he wasn’t sure he was getting paid enough. Currently, Mr. Hasan is involved in launching a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Goldman Sachs. He’s blaming them for losses he suffered after investing in such trustworthy companies as Tyco, Qwest, Worldcom, and Enron.
As a Muslim and physician, as well as close personal friend of Bush, you’d expect that perhaps Dr. Hasan would act in the best interests of patients, but critics note that this is perhaps not always the case. In fact, in April of 1996 Dr. Hasan wrote an editorial stating that there is no room in the health care industry for non-profits. In February of that same year, Dr. Hasan, when questioned about the problems of underinsured and uninsured Americans, replied that he’s not in the business of social redistribution, while at the same time stating that health care for these underserved people should be the responsibility of non-profits — the same groups he would say had no business being in the health care industry two months later.
Although the Hasans were not Pioneer fundraisers in the 2000 campaign, the Hasans have already benefitted from their close, personal relationship with Mr. Bush, including a visit to the Crawford Ranch and an invitation for Seeme to sit in on “high-level” meetings regarding Arab Americans. In fact, Dr. Hasan told the Denver Post that he estimates he has given more than $500,000 to the Republican Party. In return, he was appointed by Bush to the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2003. He also claims that the President invited him to be an Assistant Secretary of Health or Assistant Secretary of Defense in charge of military health, but that he declined because he didn’t want to reside in Washington.
One of the odd statements I thought he made in the Denver Post article is that he says he was a Democrat in the Clinton years, but switched sides over Bosnia. Without examining Hasan’s claims, I want to point out that Seeme herself says that she has been a proud Republican for many years. Not that a husband and wife can’t have different political affiliations, I just think it’s interesting, that’s all. The Hasans, including our girl Asma, go out of their way in interviews to connect the Democrats with genocide and hatred of Muslims.
Besides being a leader in the for-profit health field and human rights expert, Dr. Hasan is the chairman of a group called the Council for American Muslim Understanding (CAMU), a group which almost no one has ever heard of. Did you know that this group’s founding was “encouraged” by the State Department for the sole purpose of spreading pro-American information in the Muslim world? It’s Charlotte Beers’ brainchild, and Dr. Hasan paid for the start up costs out of his own pocket. It is the only government affiliated and funded group that promotes American culture and politics to a specific religious group, whether in the US or outside of it.
Now, with all of the material out there on the ‘net about Dr. Hasan’s “trailblazing” in the managed health field, his contributions and support of Busha, and Asma’s lectures and editorials, with all the talk of how financially blessed this family is, I expected to find something about the Hasans being active in the US Muslim community — giving money, giving time, hosting fundraisers. You know what I found?
One short mention of Dr. Hasan being the keynote speaker at a development fundraiser for ISNA in 1997. I’ll let you digest and interpret his comment that the 1200 people who attended this fundraiser were the “most blessed in the world.” Just remember that the people who are invited to those functions tend to be culled from the wealthiest families our Muslim community has to offer.
Other than this one item and the CAMU website, I found nothing. The Hasans (and those who write about them) go on and on about their contributions to music and the arts in Colorado, yet there is precious little (i.e., no) information about how they’ve used their wealth, medical and business expertise, and influence to better the lives of poor Muslims. (No, talking about Musharraf like he’s the second coming doesn’t count.) No public affiliations with any Islamic charity, no interviews on starving children in Afghanistan, or the need for clean water in the Sudan. No appearances or fundraisers for any mosque, Islamic organization, Islamic school, or anything else that didn’t have the name “Bush” attached to it. It appears that the only time this family deigns to talk to Muslims is when they launch an absurd political website or thrust their daughter upon us.
So who are these people, virtually unknown to the average Muslim, who are deciding to speak to the world on our behalf, and who have decided to attempt to instruct us, the working shmoes, on who to vote for? What do these people support and believe in for this country?
Among the things that Seeme and Muhammad Ali support on their site is Daniel Pipes. You see, the other 5,999,999 Muslims (and many non Muslims) who think that he’s a hate-mongerer are wrong. In fact, Danny boy allegedly wrote a special e-mail to Seeme all about it, and they’ve cleared that little misunderstanding right up! Whew!
The funny thing is, though, that the whole “Daniel Pipes Issue” on their site comes off as disingenuous (at best). Our intrepid Republicans claim that they were completely unaware that Daniel Pipes has had many “nice” things to say about “moderate Islam.” It seems they were even aware that ol’ Danny had a website. I don’t visit Daniel Pipes’ website or read his articles and even I knew about the so-called good things he’s said. Do you mean to tell me that a woman who sat on the board of a Fortune 500 company and who runs in all sorts of elite business and arts circles in the state of Colorado didn’t know that Daniel Pipes had a website? And that she didn’t bother to read it before she wrote an editorial about him? Um, okay. The funniest thing is that she thinks the rest of us are as unaware of Danny’s site as she allegedly was, and that we just haven’t read his “nice” articles. If we had, we’d all like him!
You know how I (and others) often say that our supposedly mainstream Muslim organizations push foreign policy issues, as though they are the only things that Muslim voters should care about? Well, Seeme and Muhammad Ali take this to a new level. On their planet, Muslim Americans don’t care about things like healthcare, taxes, and education. Of course, if I had a mansion in Beaver Creek and was the head of one of the largest health companies in the country, I wouldn’t worry about where the money for my prescriptions was coming from either. Actually, if my husband was intimately involved in the creation of a system that has left 30 million Americans without adequate healthcare and hundreds of millions more underinsured and disgruntled,, I’d definitely ignore that issue. Instead, the folks at Muslims for Bush concentrate solely on Musharraf, Pakistan, and visits to mosques. Oh yeah, and Palestine too.
Regarding Palestine, the Hasans laughably claim that Bush was the first American President to “recognize Palestine.” Really? Since when did saying Palestine and mentioning that perhaps, someday in the future, the Palestinians might be permitted to have some sort of semi-functioning state amount to official state recognition? Is it possible that the Hasans hope to mislead Muslim voters with this highly misleading claim? Of course, the Hasans claim that Bush is doing more than enough to bring peace and justice to the Palestinians. And of course, no one outside of that peculiar political circle really believes that. Actually, I don’t think most people in the Bush / neo-con circle believes the stuff they say about justice in the Middle East. Allahu ‘Alim if the Hasans really fell for that one or not.
And if that one’s laughable, then I think Seeme’s claim that the bombing of Afghanistan is a good thing because the bombs’ impact on the ground created water wells in a drought stricken nation is downright hysterical. She also resorts to the tired insinuation that if you vote for Kerry, you’re a terrorist (”Osama endorses Kerry….”). Remember when I mentioned that these folks go out of their way to link the Dems to genocide and hate?
The Hasans also believe in government interference with places of worship and religious schools through their support of state funding of “faith based initiatives.” If you support Bush, the claim goes, then your masjid will get lots of money from Big Daddy Government. Thanks, but no thanks. This kind of rubbing up between religion and state is why our Founding Fathers wrote that little thing known as the First Amendment, and most of us Americans like it just fine.
Another rather tiresome claim the Hasans (including Asma) make is that Bush is the Only President Who Ever Lurved Muslims because he has officially visited a masjid and Kerry has not (officially). I don’t know what mental planet these people are on, but speaking for myself, the fact that a politician didn’t visit a masjid is a plus for me. At this point in the game, I don’t need to feel catered to as a minority voter. I’d rather hear some good news about health care and education, and yes, something nice about the environment and foreign policy.
Unlike Seeme and Asma, I wouldn’t tell someone to vote for a candidate just because he went to a masjid. Actually, I don’t think the Hasans are pro-Bush because he went to a masjid. I think they’re pro-Bush because he’s good for their bank accounts. They just want you to be pro-Bush because he went to a masjid. Because the working lower and middle class American Muslims have already figured out that Bush hasn’t been good for our bank accounts. The Hasans, who are undoubtedly beyond working-class or even middle-class know this. So they choose to condescend to you, the Muslim voter, with blather about who visited a masjid and who ran Saddam out of town, as though these sorts of things are going to help you out when you’re on the unemployment line. Only people with limited common sense would think that the middle and working class Muslims of this nation are that stupid and gullible.
Of course, if “visited a masjid” is your major factor in deciding who will run the country, then vote on it, by all means. In fact, Asma mentions how impressed she was with Bush when he remembered to take his shoes off. I think most Bush-watchers would agree that that was a pretty monumental achievement on his part.
A read through of the Muslims for Bush site is alternately laughable and tiresome. I really wish that Asma would lend her … talents as a writer to the site, because despite her mother’s abilities as a fundraiser and businesswoman, she’s not a very good writer. I think my favorite line so far was the one about how shocked she was at how so many Muslim American leaders were invited to the White House iftar three years ago. You know, the one where the majority of guests were foreign diplmats and politicans. The one where only nineteen of the guests were Americans, mostly business people (including, of course, Asma’s parents and two other people who may or may not be related to her). The one where only two of them were religious leaders. You remember… that iftar that so offended our illustrious mainstream organizations (who were snubbed) that they held an Alterna-Iftar?
I’m not a fan of Asma’s and never have been. I read her first book three times, and took more than thirty pages of notes on her errors and inflammatory claims. Like the people at these so-called mainstream groups, Asma claims to speak for all six million of us, or at least the three million or so of us who were born here to American parents or to first-generation parents. She’s a self styled “American Muslim cowgirl feminist,” a snowboardin’, Colorado raised (but not native, snort) regular gal who just wants the reform the Muslims and improve our image among the non Muslims. Golly gee whiz, Beaver.
The difference is that at least the ISCNMAS groups of the world have memberships to back up their sweeping generalizations. Asma has books published by two small houses (supposedly self published or financed by Daddy, although to be fair to her, I can’t find anything solid to back that claim up). Did you know that all of us American Muslims want Bush to stay in office in 2004? Yeah, neither did I, but Asma was quite content to speak on our behalf to Australian radio about it.
As a Muslim American, I feel both insulted and annoyed by Asma’s claims about Islam and Muslims. I think she walks on extremely thin ice with some of them (did you know it is okay to marry a Hindu? Yeah, neither did the great fuquha… but “Auntie Seeme” and “Auntie Sameera” have issued the all-good fatwa). Asma reserves a lot of her ire for women who wear hijab, yet has the gall to compare herself to Sayidatuna Fatima bint Muhammad. She comes off as both hating and fearing Muslim women who choose the veil. Subhan’Allah. She claims that it’s only a small and extreme minority of Muslims in the US who objected to her book. I guess it might come off that way if one isolated oneself from the community, but I have yet to find a single Muslim that wasn’t completely insulted or offended by it.
As far as I can remember, Asma did not mention politics or who her parents were at all in her first book. I know I would have noted it down if Asma had discussed her right-wing, big business politics at any length. Nor do I particularly remember any mention of them on Beliefnet. Beliefnet is not a site that is scared of politics at all, nor would I classify them as anti-Bush. In fact, they even did a feature interview with him in 2000. I admit, I might have had a clue about her earlier if I was a viewer of Faux News, where she is (by all accounts) a frequent guest (”Auntie Seeme” instructed her readers at the Pakistan Link to write to Faux thanking them for hiring a Pakistani neocon commentator and pledging their continuing support for the “Fair and Balanced” network).
So in all of this, why hasn’t Asma made her politics more widely known? Is it because a lot of her support and adoration comes from quarters that are politically and socially liberal? Is it because she might not get booked for appearances or sell so many copies if it was known that her parents are close to Bush and that she herself has given money to Republican causes?
Why hasn’t Asma written about her support for the Iraq War? Unlike some supporters of the war, Asma doesn’t even care about weapons of mass destruction — or Bush’s um… so far unproven claims about their existence. In her opinion, the worthy thing was for the U.S. to invade a sovreign nation by force to remove a leader that “is responsible for more Muslim deaths than anyone in history.” (Well, so much for Stalin. Or any other Soviet. Or the Mongols. Or… well, history and research has never been Asma’s strong point). If Asma is truly as influential as she claims to be, why hasn’t she tried to educate the Muslim community about the alleged pros of the Iraqi war in her writing?
I’ll bet you also didn’t know that you were a closet Republican. According to Asma, most Muslims in the US are Republicans. I’m not sure if Ms. Hasan is able to distinguish between “most Muslims in the US that I am related to” and “most of these six million people,” but it is widely acknowledged that American Muslims tend to vote Democratic, not Republican. In fact, a Zogby / Project Maps survey showed that the largest party affiliation amongst American Muslims was Democratic. Another significant portion of Muslims are not affiliated with any party. I personally don’t know any Muslim registered voter who is party-affilliated. Further, several rather informal polls and surveys released recently show that Muslim and Arab Americans will likely vote in overwhelming numbers for Kerry. I am ever so certain that these recent numbers have nothing to do with the sudden launch of Muslims for Bush.
Now, I’m not saying it’s a crime or a sin to be rich or a Republican. Nor am I claiming that this family doesn’t give their obligatory zakat each year. Perhaps they even give Pioneer-amounts of money to poor Muslims in secret, Allahu ‘Alim. What bothers me is that we have a family who have apparently spent very little time, money, or energy organizing and being active in the Muslim community suddenly throwing around their money in an attempt (a lame one, at that) to tell Muslims who they should vote for. I don’t like it when ISCNAIRMAS does it, but at least those people are out there in the community every single day.
What bothers me is that Asma Gull Hasan is less than forthcoming about who she is and what she and her family are all about. Why pretend you have a “just like you” American life if you’re from a wealthy and privileged family? I guarantee that my life as a middle-class child in Colorado and hers were probably not the same at all. If you and your mother really believe that hijab is this horrible thing, and that Muslim women should pray shoulder-to-shoulder with men in the masjid, why bury that sentiment in a family supported rag instead of blaring it in your books or getting together with Tantrik Asra?
If you really believe that Bush and the Republicans are best for our country, why aren’t you telling your fellow Muslims about it? Why go all the way to Australia and the UK to talk about how wonderful Bush has been to the Muslims here, but remain silent when you are right here at home? And why not use all of that money to invest in a decent library and education about Islam, history, and current affairs? Then you wouldn’t say stupid things like “The Shahada is the first chapter of the Qur’an,” and “Saddam’s killed more Muslims than anyone in history.”
I don’t like Irshad Manji. Most people I know don’t. But at least she is relatively forthcoming about who she is, what her politics are, what she stands for, and what she believes in (or more accurately, doesn’t believe in). Asma can’t or won’t do that, and that merits no respect.
So who is Asma really serving? Why does she keep her political affiliations and beliefs largely under wraps? Is it because she fears that if people knew how extensively her family has benefitted from big business policies and close friendship with the Bush Administration that they would be less likely to listen to her? That she’d lose whatever credibility she has if they knew how she and her family feel about things like the war, the Road Map, and the bombing of Afghanistan? She’d still be featured on Faux News, but I’d bet the invitations to write editorials or speak on campuses would drop sharply. A conspiracy minded individual would say it is part of a conscious effort to undermine Islam in the name of “reformers” like Wolfowitz. However, I am not a conspiracy minded individual.
Similarly, why hide the fact that you are the daughter of an extremely wealthy man who himself comes from a wealthy and privileged upbringing? It’s not a sin or something to be ashamed of, but the way that Asma has tried to portray herself as “everygirl” makes it into something shameful. Is it because she knows that many people would look at her claims about Islam and women and politics with a keener eye if they thought she was just another spoiled rich girl? If they dismissed her as yet another member of an insulated elite and privileged family coming down from the hill to tell the proles what to do and how to think?
I started out on this two day learning experience by clicking on something I thought was a joke. I hope that you all have learned as much as I have about who these people are, specifically Asma Gull Hasan. I’d like to reiterate that I don’t think being rich, Republican, or even extremely ignorant about Islam makes someone a bad person, but I do hate the sneaky, behind the scenes way that these people seem to operate when it comes to politics and the American Muslim community. All Praise is Due to Allah subhannahu wa ta’ala, and Truth Stands Out Clearly from Error!
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