ANNOUNCEMENT: New Board for District 39 Club!

Members of the D39 Delegation attended the meeting where I and other officers were elected unanimously to the board of the D39 Democratic Club. Senator Nancy King sits in the center.

Members of the D39 Delegation attended the meeting where I and other officers were elected unanimously to the board of the D39 Democratic Club. Senator Nancy King sits in the center.

Today I was elected alongside Neville Levi, Avis Driver and Linda Smith to be the new board of the District 39 Democratic Club. We plan to elect a new secretary at a to-be-scheduled general membership meeting of the club. The D39 Democratic Club is an a very storied institution that hasn't been very active in the past few years, and now that our district is 60% minority in a time where Donald J. Trump has made the targeting of immigrants and minorities acceptable, the political reality is that we need to do all we can to empower our diverse and pluralistic communities to be a part of our democracy. Here's to pushing forward with the politics of inclusion!

 

Valuing our Pluralism

The Pluralism Project is dedicated to training 400 candidates hailing from diverse personal narratives to run for public office across our country. Below, I write about how my grandfather, S.M. Khurram Wasti inspired the project, and why America needs to fight to protect the beautiful mosaic of diversity and pluralism that Donald J. Trump has dedicated himself to obliterating. I recall how in the India of old, pluralism was the rule, not the exception, until populists appealing to the lowest common denominator detonated thousands of years of diversity and tolerance through the traumatic events now known as Partition. America can't partition our families to please the Alt-Right. Read more below.

UPDATED: Here are two recent news reports about The Pluralism Project from WAMU 88.5 (NPR) & The Washington Post:

http://wamu.org/story/17/05/12/new-maryland-pac-aims-put-muslims-office/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/new-group-in-maryland-is-recruiting-muslim-candidates-to-run-for-office/2017/05/15/c3c7a81a-3985-11e7-a058-ddbb23c75d82_story.html

My great-grandfather, M.S.Ghani Wasti was a citizen of the fabled city of Delhi before Partition. His closest friends included Hindus, Sikhs, Sunnis, Shiites and Christians. One of British India's greatest Shakespearean scholars, the pluralistic world he knew was torn asunder by the events of Partition. Will Donald Trump do the same to our beloved country?

My great-grandfather, M.S.Ghani Wasti was a citizen of the fabled city of Delhi before Partition. His closest friends included Hindus, Sikhs, Sunnis, Shiites and Christians. One of British India's greatest Shakespearean scholars, the pluralistic world he knew was torn asunder by the events of Partition. Will Donald Trump do the same to our beloved country?

The India of Old                                            When my grandparents were my age, India's diversity and culture of inclusion were breathtaking. The country had dozens of synagogues, fire temples, towers of silence, churches and the like belonging to its various ethnic and faith minorities. One could dine with Baghdadi Jews in Madras, celebrate Norooz with Parsis in Lahore and experience the emotional depth of Easter in Peshawar.

In other words, the India of old had a lot in common with the America of today. My sincere hope is that we come to embrace this marketplace of ideas, hopes and dreams more fully than the revolutionaries of South Asia did 70 years ago this month, when violence and rioting tore apart the India my ancestors had built over 1,000 years along with their Hindu, Sikh, Armenian, Persian, Afghan, Parsi, Shia, Uzbek, Portuguese, and Jain neighbors (to name a only a few).

Today, there is no synagogue in Chennai (Madras), and the Parsis wept as they fled an intolerant Lahore beginning in 1947. The Buddhists, Hindus and Christians of Peshawar are no more. The beautiful Indian Haggadahs are museum relics, and the chants of monks infused with the smoke of incense ring out only in the minds of those of us who know that monastaries once dotted the land. The diversity of soulfulness and conscience has gone, and in its place, nativism and jingoism rule over South Asia.

Trump & The Racism of the Alt-Right
America is at a similar crossroads in our own history. The diversity of our country is astonishing. Partially because of that diversity, white supremacists banded together last year to deliver a minority-win by technicality to Republicans and Donald Trump in the elections. Trump's radical racial supremacy agenda threatens to upend America's pluralism and cultural mosaic. My family survived the exact same hubris that Trump brings to the White House during their experiences with the Partition of India in 1947. But they only barely survived Partition, and the India of tolerance, cultural exchange, rebirth and renewal was shattered in the process. Trump's divisiveness and bigotry was on full display recently as he harassed Sadiq Khan on Twitter following the London attacks. His revulsion towards non-whites in America and elsewhere has led to international incidents that have caused many to question America's place in the global system. In effect: Trump is partitioning America from the world. 

My maternal grandmother, shown here with her sisters-in-law, was one of Kashmir's most beautiful women. Partition led to her family fleeing to Lahore, Pakistan. She died suddenly from heart failure at 25. She never saw the Vale of Kashmir again after Partition. 

My maternal grandmother, shown here with her sisters-in-law, was one of Kashmir's most beautiful women. Partition led to her family fleeing to Lahore, Pakistan. She died suddenly from heart failure at 25. She never saw the Vale of Kashmir again after Partition. 

Unless we take heed of the lessons of the past, the crimes and horrors of Partition could be re-lived, this time on a global stage. Think for instance of the practical effects of the Muslim Ban and the aggressive anti-immigrant targeting operations of ICE that have been launched by Donald Trump of late. Both, in many ways, resemble Pakistan's efforts to root out religious and ethnic minorities in 1947 during Partition, and again in 1971, when Pakistan summarily expelled millions of Hindu residents living in Pakistani-held Bengal (now Bangladesh). Trump's fixation on silencing his opponents and bypassing constitutional safeguards on executive power scream of Indira Gandhi's actions before her sudden cancellation of democracy and emergency rule period in the 1970s, a nadir for India's democracy. 

To defeat Trump and his dangerous, bigoted agenda will require Americans to actively engage their democracy in the 2018 midterm elections. At all costs, Congress must not be allowed to become a rubber stamp for Trump, as he continues to appropriate powers and privileges far beyond the scope of the presidency. Moreover, investment in democratic participation must include embracing our American identity as a people whose greatest strength is our diversity. E Plurubus Unum: out of many, one.  

This diversity is best embraced through supporting and empowering activists hailing from diverse narratives within the American Dream to run for office, thereby sharing their part of the American experience, and spurring cross-pollination in the American marketplace of ideas. That is why I founded The Pluralism Project, whose main mission is to inspire Americans through educating them about our country's beautiful tapestry of diversity and pluralism. 

The Pluralism Project was originally an idea that my Pakistani maternal grandfather, S.M.K. Wasti had thought of in order to train and educate community organizers to run for office in his native Pakistan. His idea was met with fierce opposition by his fellow One Percenters in the country he helped to found. 

The Pluralism Project was originally an idea that my Pakistani maternal grandfather, S.M.K. Wasti had thought of in order to train and educate community organizers to run for office in his native Pakistan. His idea was met with fierce opposition by his fellow One Percenters in the country he helped to found. 

The work of the Pluralism Project includes training candidates hailing from diverse narratives to run for office nationwide, as well as creating and disseminating media content that helps to educate Americans about the diversity of our country and its benefits to our society as a whole. The Pluralism Project plans to focus on disseminating these uncoordinated communications especially in media markets that often do not hear diverse and pluralistic American narratives, thereby working to undercut white supremacy and radicalization in rural and ex-urban areas of our country.

The single greatest regret of my grandparents' generation remains the failure to overcome ethno-nationalism and communal chauvinism in the era of Partition in India seventy years ago this year. My hope is that we can avoid a similar fate for Americans on the global stage and at home during the era of Trump, through counteracting Trump's vile hatred of diversity and pluralism at the ballot box. Only time will tell if the tide to stop Trump will raise all boats and save our shining city on a hill from catastrophe. I am optimistic that together, we can save ourselves from the forces of hate, and unite around the idea that truly: out of many walks of life, we remain indivisible with liberty and justice for all, insha'Allah.  

Finishing My Grandfather's Work.

Making a Difference in Politics, One Progressive Candidate at a Time

Earlier this month, I publicly launched The Pluralism Project, a federal hybrid PAC that will focus on 1) supporting and offering training to candidates hailing from diverse backgrounds to run for office nationwide, and 2) produce and market several digital ads highlighting America's beautiful social tapestry of diversity and pluralism in the aims of promoting a more unified country in the face of Republican divisiveness and efforts to empower the Alt-Right and white nativists. But the idea wasn't originally mine, it was my Pakistani maternal grandfather's: S.M.K. Wasti. 

The House of Wisdom & The House of Lancaster

My grandfather's proposed solution was based on the House of Wisdom found in the ancient Muslim capital of Baghdad, where scientists, clergymen and scholars of all faiths and races would form the world's first think-tank with the imperial mandate to create sound public policy for not just the major political and religious issues of the day, but also matters of education, mathematics, science, literature and the dissemination of what was decided and learned to the greater empire. In Baghdad, at the time one of the world's most pluralistic and diverse places to live, the House of Wisdom was focused on the principle of inclusion and embracing both diversity and pluralism in order to ensure all perspectives were heard and considered in order to make comprehensive policy decisions and scholarly discoveries.

As the son of a Shakespearean scholar, Grandfather Wasti was familiar with English history, and especially the War of the Roses. He saw Henry Tudor's unlikely rise to power, and the wisdom of Tudor in unifying of the Houses of Lancaster and York as exactly what he would his project would be doing in Pakistan, which is a former British colony. In Tudor's honor: he named his idea The House of Lancaster. 

Empowering Democracy, A Continent Away

Grandfather Wasti was disturbed by the lack of political and public policy training of the winning candidates of Pakistan's first free elections in the 1970s. He noticed that while many talked a good game, they often played on religious populism and jingoist sentiments in Pakistan to alienate non-Muslims and other oppressed minorities to strong-arm an election result. Often these candidates were secular themselves, but played on the piety and heartfelt sentiments towards Islam of Pakistan's illiterate masses. Grandfather Wasti warned successive governments and ministers that the everyday concerns of Pakistan's massively rural and impoverished citizenry were being ignored, to the detriment of civil society, and democracy. This was the era of when Pakistan decided to invest billions in a clandestine nuclear program, and Pakistan's Prime Ministers famously stated that his people "would eat grass" if that's what it would to take in order to achieve the creation of an atomic weapon (his people would come close). Grandfather Wasti feared that Pakistan was nearing a tipping point where Islamist fanaticism would overcome Pakistan's civil society, and plunge Pakistan into a dangerous netherworld of extremism and political chaos. He was right. 

The One Percent Crush My Grandather's Hopes

Sadly, Pakistan's elites judged my grandfather as a hopeless intellectual and academic. But they also went a step further, and considered him to be a dangerous man.  Grantfather Wasti's sense of solidarity with Pakistan's working poor despite his social caste and economic class threatened to unleash Pakistan's diversity and pluralism to challenge the narrative of political Islamists who cared for only one thing: achieving power at all costs. Therefore, Pakistani power-brokers worked to sideline and marginalize Grandfather Wasti for his commitment to a Pakistan for all, even those he disagreed with. The House of Lancaster project would never come to be, and Pakistan would eventually become one of the world's least tolerant towards religious minorities, actively disenfranchise ethnic minorities, and especially harass and de-legitimize women in the public sphere.  The power of his idea to educate and train candidates and elected officials on the issues facing everyday Pakistanis was terrifying to the rulers, so they crushed his hopes.

America & The Pluralism Project

Today, America is at a similar tipping point as Pakistan was in the 1970s. After 8 years of embracing America's pluralistic and multi-faceted identity as a land of hope delivered and change realized, a caustic and dangerous minority of Republicans have hijacked the American Dream for their own misanthropic designs. Pakistan too, had an election where a hope-based, left leaning campaign to bring socio-economic justice won the vast majority of the votes, but due to technicalities could not take power. Those who did take power belonged to a super-wealthy elite that made its fortune through being brutal landlords who gouged tenants and had a questionable track-record of never-ended legal problems and sex abuse accusations. One familiar enough with the contours of modern world history could be forgiven for being confused and mistaking what is happening today in capital of the free world to Pakistan's plight in the early 70s. Dark times lie ahead for the Resistance, and moreover for the more than 300 million souls who call America their home.

Yet, there are many key differences. For one, nearly all of Pakistan's elites were committed to continuing to oppress the wide majority of the population to enrich themselves. A few brave men and women including my grandfather were all that stood in their way. Moreover, in an age where landline phones were hard to find, computers, social media and the internet were non-existent, and where the federal government actively murdered democratic activists in broad-daylight: grassroots organizing could and did get many brave people killed without legal or political repercussions for the murderers. 

Thankfully, the Donald hasn't gotten that much power yet. 

Honor Thy Grandfather, Empower Grassroots Democracy.

Here in America, men and women like my father and mother can achieve untold heights both economically and socially. Our freedom is hardwired into the DNA of our country, and we take pride in it. Whereas my grandfather was politically ham-stringed by his own colleagues, friends and even relatives for dreaming to empower Pakistanis to educate themselves about what it would take to change their homeland for the better, my fellow Americans and I have no such inhibitions. That is why I decided to risk my personal political clout and found The Pluralism Project. To finish what Grandfather Wasti began in his homeland, in mine. 

Our elected officials by and large do not reflect the breadth & variety of life narratives our our pluralistic America. Few are scientists, nearly none are social workers or union organizers. President Obama's decision to forego wealth and become a community organizer in South Chicago was mocked by Republican extremists in 2008 & 2012. Nearly no Muslims are elected in Maryland, a state whose massive Muslim population speaks over 80 languages. Native Americans, Inuit & Hawaiians struggle to win seats in the lands of their respective ancestors. Arab & Iranian Americans have become captains of industry and champions in business, yet they too are greatly underrepresented in office. Women are nowhere near 52% of our legislators. A man who casually jokes about sexual assault sits in the Oval Office. These facts, especially that last one, must be addressed. 

Empowering remarkable public candidates from these diverse personal narratives is the overarching political mission of The Pluralism Project. The social mission is to help Americans from different communities, states and tribes to come to know one other, understand one another's public policy stances; to help those candidates work together towards an America that is not ruled by the populism of the vocal minority that elected a man of hate to the highest office in the land.

We plan to start by training candidates through the end of the year on how to be a candidate: how to fundraise, how to campaign in public, put together a field plan, and build a coalition around them of supporters and voters to carry them to the finish line. We'll also go over public speaking, political strategizing, and most importantly: brief the candidates continuously about public policy matters affecting their local communities and how they can help shape law and policy to serve their electorates and fellow Americans--regardless of the color of their passport. 

My grandfather began a mission to change how politics worked against the everyday people of his country by hijacking their democracy. Today, I am finishing his work in my own country, insha'Allah.

Thank you, Naana Abu. 

The Case for a Living Wage.

 

 

I recognize that many people think of the $15 minimum wage proposal in Montgomery County as another example of "Progressives Gone Wild". Allow me to dispel that notion.

Over the past month, I have met and interviewed dozens of students at Montgomery College who are responsible for paying their own tuition. Many of them are phenomenal students, maintaining GPAs of 3.5 and above. Yet they struggle with paying tuition because they do not qualify for grants, as their parents have middle class incomes in the county and region where cost-of-living are some of the highest in the country. Many of the students work minimum-wage jobs as much as 30 or 40 hours a week in order to afford their college expenses and tuition. Those long work hours keep them away from their studies and also inhibit both their enthusiasm and confidence when it came to applying to four year higher learning institutions. This is because many are not sure how they will afford to continue their future educations. Seven out of every 10 of the students I spoke to were young women, nearly all of whom were often paid less than their male peer. More often than not, they belonged to a minority background. However, many of them were young white women, as well.  

Montgomery County cannot continue to be one of the most desirable places to live, work and grow up if our young people have to sacrifice their higher education goals in order to just financially survive. I recognize that many small businesses and retailers will argue that they will need  to choose between hiring a young person or persons of color who has less experience any person of non-minority background with slightly more experience, should there be an increase in our county's minimum wage. However, I am not convinced that any county as pluralistic and diverse as our own that employers will shun those potential employees with the greatest need if they can do the work.

My father was a small business owner who employed a workforce at his company that often time was made up exclusively of minorities for 20 years. I remember hearing French, Spanish, Albanian, Turkish, Punjabi, and Hindi/Urdu on a regular basis when visiting his office. I asked him what he thought of a $15 minimum wage, his answer: it is a moral requirement in our day and age. 

We cannot pretend that living in our county has not become a great deal more expensive since when I was a boy. Whether or not these costs are relatively higher or even lower than comparable other regions is not relevant. What is relevant is the absolute reality that to live comfortably in our region now costs more than $80,000 a year in salary. Working-class and middle-class families are being denied a comfortable standard of living because they are being priced out. We need a living wage. 15 dollars an hour is a good start.

The Maryland Trust Act

"What is America? It is a collection of immigrants jawaan baytah (youthful son), coming together to rise and succeed. It takes an extraordinary person to take the risk of crossing borders from everything they knew and held dear to come to a new world. Americans are made extraordinary not by those who are born here, but by those who come here. We must protect their sense of belonging and welcome in our society."

 -Dad

My father came here as a student 32 years ago as a young man with no clue how to make it in a country whose culture and idioms he had not concept of. He raised two children with disabilities without proper nouns in his native tongue, founded two successful companies, put a roof over the heads of countless relatives in addition to our immediate family, and survived the economic crash of 08 by being a man of courage of conviction. He brought the best of his culture--honor, humility, gumption, undeterred conviction to America, and gave jobs to Americans and his fellow New Americans alike.

The Maryland Trust Act makes sure that immigrants like my father feel secure while living that their extraordinary lives as people who bravely chose a new life in a new world. New Americans built Maryland, and are taking us all with them to higher heights every single day. I urge Senators Bobby Zirkin and Jim Brochin of Baltimore County to look beyond the bogeyman that Larry Hogan and Donald Trump have caracatured our immigrant communities as, and vote with their hearts in favor of the Trust Act as a moral statement of who we are as Marylanders. I urge you both to consider the plight of thousands of Marylanders who braved unimaginable challenges to come to our emerald state's shores for a chance at a better life, and are now living in fear merely because of the color of their passports. Please, pass the Maryland Trust Act. 

The Maryland Trust Act

"What is America? It is a collection of immigrants jawaan baytah (youthful son), coming together to rise and succeed. It takes an extraordinary person to take the risk of crossing borders from everything they knew and held dear to come to a new world. Americans are made extraordinary not by those who are born here, but by those who come here. We must protect their sense of belonging and welcome in our society."

 -Dad

My father came here as a student 32 years ago as a young man with no clue how to make it in a country whose culture and idioms he had not concept of. He raised two children with disabilities without proper nouns in his native tongue, founded two successful companies, put a roof over the heads of countless relatives in addition to our immediate family, and survived the economic crash of 08 by being a man of courage of conviction. He brought the best of his culture--honor, humility, gumption, undeterred conviction to America, and gave jobs to Americans and his fellow New Americans alike.

The Maryland Trust Act makes sure that immigrants like my father feel secure while living that their extraordinary lives as people who bravely chose a new life in a new world. New Americans built Maryland, and are taking us all with them to higher heights every single day. I urge Senators Bobby Zirkin and Jim Brochin of Baltimore County to look beyond the bogeyman that Larry Hogan and Donald Trump have caracatured our immigrant communities as, and vote with their hearts in favor of the Trust Act as a moral statement of who we are as Marylanders. I urge you both to consider the plight of thousands of Marylanders who braved unimaginable challenges to come to our emerald state's shores for a chance at a better life, and are now living in fear merely because of the color of their passports. Please, pass the Maryland Trust Act. 

The Maryland Trust Act

"What is America? It is a collection of immigrants jawaan baytah (youthful son), coming together to rise and succeed. It takes an extraordinary person to take the risk of crossing borders from everything they knew and held dear to come to a new world. Americans are made extraordinary not by those who are born here, but by those who come here. We must protect their sense of belonging and welcome in our society."

 -Dad

My father came here as a student 32 years ago as a young man with no clue how to make it in a country whose culture and idioms he had not concept of. He raised two children with disabilities without proper nouns in his native tongue, founded two successful companies, put a roof over the heads of countless relatives in addition to our immediate family, and survived the economic crash of 08 by being a man of courage of conviction. He brought the best of his culture--honor, humility, gumption, undeterred conviction to America, and gave jobs to Americans and his fellow New Americans alike.

The Maryland Trust Act makes sure that immigrants like my father feel secure while living that their extraordinary lives as people who bravely chose a new life in a new world. New Americans built Maryland, and are taking us all with them to higher heights every single day. I urge Senators Bobby Zirkin and Jim Brochin of Baltimore County to look beyond the bogeyman that Larry Hogan and Donald Trump have caracatured our immigrant communities as, and vote with their hearts in favor of the Trust Act as a moral statement of who we are as Marylanders. I urge you both to consider the plight of thousands of Marylanders who braved unimaginable challenges to come to our emerald state's shores for a chance at a better life, and are now living in fear merely because of the color of their passports. Please, pass the Maryland Trust Act. 

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Rest in Peace, Elie Wiesel

Yesterday, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel died at age 87. An accomplished author who knew the power of words all too well, Wiesel chose to devote his life to furthering the art of the written word. His short novels, Night, an account of the tragic events of Wiesel's time at Aushwitz and Buchenwald during the Holocaust, and Dawn, a novel about the loss of innocence in the struggle to free Israel from British rule, had a profound impact on me as a young adult in high school and college. Both novels played a role in my decision to become a bridge builder between Muslims and Jews around the world. I also read Wiesel's novel The Judges, semi-existential modern-day parable about how to respond to evil and the perversion of what exactly is "good" by many seeking power, one summer after a particularly morally-challenging semester in college. Needless to say, Wiesel had a profound impact on me as a young American man.

But it was Wiesel's outspoken insistence that we Americans save the lives of Muslims being massacred in the tens of thousands by Russian-supported Serbian forces in Bosnia that left the deepest impression on me as a human being.

During the two decades leading up to disintegration of the multi-ethnic, religiously diverse Yugoslavia, Yugoslavia's government were firm supporters of the Palestinian cause, and broke ties with Israel following the Six Day War that were not re-established until 1991. Yugoslavia's ruling strongman, Tito, was a major supporter of Arab nationalism, especially as Arab nationalism from the 1950s until the 1990s was fervently anti-Islamic. Yugoslav policy was to repress Islam among the Bosnian population of Yugoslavia, promoting secular nationalism. As a nod to keep Bosnia's Muslims from completely turning against their government, Tito publicly and firmly supported the Palestine Liberation Organization, then led by Yasser Arafat. The PLO would not recognize Israel's right to exist until after Yugoslavia collapsed, and would carry out horrific acts of anti-Semitic violence across the globe with Yugoslav-provided weapons and armaments for several decades.

Upon Tito's death and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Bosnia's Muslims called for independence on the ground that their religious freedoms and cultural identity had been forcefully repressed under a Serb-dominated Yugoslavia. Croats and Muslims in Kosovo demanded the same right. Serbia launched a multi-pronged war and mass-extermination campaign against all who opposed their continued rule within a new Serbian state that sought to dominate non-Serbs. Given that Serb nationalists blamed Bosnians and their Islamic faith for centuries of nominal rule by Ottoman Turkey in the recent past, Serb forces focused their efforts on exterminating Bosnia's Muslims first and foremost.

In 1993, while the Clinton administration was fully engaged in trying to save Bosnian lives, our post-colonial European allies were not. The result was a divided NATO, coupled with crushing negative public opinion for another foreign intervention (we were disastrously engaged in Somalia at the time) weakened our country's ability to do much of anything to bring an end to Serbia's reign of terror. As a result: 250,000 Muslim lives would be lost before America would bring its full force to bear to end the Bosnian Genocide.

But on April 22 of that year, at the grand opening of the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., Elie Wiesel ditched his written remarks and instead made a plea to America to end its isolationism, and save the lives of Bosnia's Muslims. That is to say: Wiesel reached out to save Bosnian Muslims from annihilation on the principle of Never Again should any people be subject to the horrors of a genocide. Wiesel's morality and commitment to what was right, and his public siding with the voiceless cause of Bosnia's Muslims remains a virtuous act that will forever bless his name and memory. 

Elie Wiesel was a literary giant who shaped my personal identity and sense of social justice had passed away. He was more than just the author of "Night", "Dawn", "The Judges" and countless other stories about morality and principle in our world. Wiesel was a man who acted upon his beliefs for the sake of others.

May God grant Elie Wiesel peace in the hereafter, as he championed peace and justice for all in the here and now. 

 

Ramadan's Final Ten Nights

During the last ten nights of Ramadan, Muslims seek out through prayer and contemplation a sacred night where God is believed to erase our sins of the past year should we ask Him to, and to finalize the destinies of each member of our great human family for the coming year.


While we begin to seek out God's mercy and ask for the good of this world and the hereafter, I have some important things I would like to ask of those who know me.


I ask that you forgive my shortcomings, forgive my failings and the times I might have hurt you or failed you, and to forgive my past misdeeds by you. While I have strived hard to be a person of honor and decency, my heart aches at the many times that I have had neither since turning 18. Please grant me your pardon, as I have fully granted to those who have wronged me in our shared past this night.


We are living in a world embroiled in conflicted emotions and uncertain circumstances. What we can do by one another is to show compassion to the stranger, and to those we have disagreement with. I hope that Ramadan might show all of us a path on which we can all grow our souls on together.


Peace be with us all.


-Hamza

Ramadan

I'm not a religious Puritan.

I was president of a Jewish fraternity in college, have a love of hookah, dated my wife before we became married, wear shorts at prayers, and have a number of unendingly unorthodox positions on religious matters.

But what really gets to me as a Muslim is that we are in the month Ramadan, and I'm unnerved by those from our religious community who think this month's fasting revolves around drink and water. It's about actions as well.

I've heard mean gossip, swear words, snide remarks and now on Facebook, I've seen even memes making fun of famous people's looks from Muslims observing the fast. I've experienced people being aggressive and unfriendly because they want to eat or sleep or drink water.

The whole idea of the Ramadan fast is to restrain your ego (an-nafs), and teach yourself to find an inner calm while conversing with God. I urge my fellow Muslims to look within themselves and change what is ugly about our internal selves this Ramadan by seeking out The Eternal God, and reminding ourselves that we are just specks of carbon and water in a much greater universe.

 

Also: it was only when I lost my ego that I had any success in political activism. People with big egos rarely achieve truly good works.

Talking Points: Orlando Shooting Tragedy

Muslim Community Talking Points

Orlando Shooting Tragedy

Prepared by: Muslim Democratic Club of Montgomery County

Our Shared Sadness

The Muslim community is heartbroken at the horrifying events that have occurred in Orlando, Florida this past weekend. We cannot express in words the depths of our outrage as a community. Our hearts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Community leaders from all walks of life will take part in an event on Monday June 13 to show solidarity with one another in Montgomery County, Maryland. Please read our Joint Media Event Advisory for more details

In the face of this utterly horrific tragedy, the Muslim Democratic Club of Montgomery County has assembled the following talking points for Muslim community leaders.  

1.       The Shooter was deranged and unstable.

a.       Omar Mateen, 29 years old, was divorced and with good reason: his ex-wife described him as “mentally ill and mentally unstable.” She divorced him because he was physically abusive.

b.      Mateen’s father described him as hateful towards members of the LGBTQ community.

c.       Mateen’s classmates and colleagues described him as “aggressive”.

d.      Mateen’s ex-wife further state that he was irreligious.

 

2.       This isn’t about terrorism, it’s about gun violence.

a.       Every Day on Average (all ages) 297 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides & suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police intervention. (source: bradycampaign.org)

b.      Every day, 89 people die from gun violence: 31 are murdered. (source: bradycampaign.org)

c.       Chart 1: Number of Deaths by Mass Shootings in 2016:

d.      Guns by country: The country with the most number of guns per capita after America is Yemen, which is in the middle of a civil war and home to multiple armed militant groups:

 

e.      The number of American deaths by terrorism over the past decade is dwarfed by the number of deaths by domestic gun violence:

 

3.       Islam has never endorsed killing people because we disagree with them or their lifestyles.

a.       Islam teaches us that to take a single life is to have killed the world, and to save a single life is to have saved the entirety of the world.

b.      Across the country, Muslim community leaders and congregation leaders (“Imams”) have issued statements and edicts forbidding violence and condemning extremism.

c.       Muslim Americans uphold the constitution, and moreover just last week we laid to rest the people’s champion, Muhammad Ali, a Muslim American leader who exemplified tolerance and a commitment to non-violence as an Islamic religious tenet.

d.      The Quran teaches us to agree to disagree with those we do not agree with, and to greet even those who wish us harm with peace, as the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did throughout his life.

4.       Within hours of the shooting, every major Muslim organization in America from every sect of Islam not only condemned the mass shooting, but reached out with prayers to the LGBTQ community.

a.       Sunni, Shiite and Ahmediyya organizations all immediately condemned the mass shooting in Orlando.

b.      CAIR, MPAC, ICNA. ISNA and many others have issued statements condemning the shooting attacks, and offering support to the victims and their families.

c.       Montgomery County’s Muslim community issued a joint statement with LGBTQ community leaders condemning Saturday night’s violence and calling for solidarity.

d.      A Solidarity Iftar will be preceded by speakers from the Muslim and LBGTQ communities on June 13, 2016 in Montgomery, Maryland. Please contact Hamza@HamzaKhan.me for details.

5.       America is about living together and agreeing to disagree.

a.       When America’s constitution was written, detail was paid in the Bill of Rights to protecting the rights of minorities—be they social, religious, or otherwise. In other words, our country was founded with the understanding that all Americans are free to practice their way of life without molestation. The Muslim and LGBTQ communities have both striven to protect one another’s constitutional rights for many years.

b.      Islam as a faith has a strong religious tradition of live and let live, as well as protecting the rights of others—especially those we might disagree with on any number of matters. The true state of being a good Muslim is to be a compassionate citizen of one’s society.  

6.       Muslim Americans have in place rigorous anti-terror and anti-radicalization programs

a.       To re-emphasize: Saturday night’s attacks were not about terror, but about a deranged person committing a horrific act of gun violence. That being said, Muslim Americans are on the forefront of combatting extremism and terrorism, especially here in Montgomery County, MD:

b.      WORDE – the World Organization for Research and Development launched the Montgomery County BRAVE Model some years ago. The Montgomery County BRAVE Model has a core focus on generating public awareness about the risk factors of violent extremism, and empowering the appropriate figures to intervene with vulnerable individuals before they choose a path of violence. The model is now evidence-based and has an undergone an independent, scientific evaluation. To learn more, visit: http://www.worde.org/programs/the-montgomery-county-model/

c.       MPAC launched the SafeSpaces project some years ago that focuses on empowering communities in order to secure the sanctity of the mosque and Muslim communities in promoting Islamic values of civic engagement, public safety and healthy identity formation. To learn more, visit:  http://www.mpac.org/safespaces/

 

MEDIA ADVISORY: LGBTQ and Muslim Community Leaders Stand in Solidarity, Condemn Florida Mass Shooting

Media Press Advisory & Press Statement
What: Elected Officials, LGBTQ & Muslim Groups Solidarity Event
When: Monday June 13th, 7:00PM-9:30PM
Where: WORDE Headquarters 19650 Club House Rd Suite 205, Montgomery County MD 20886
CONTACT: Hamza Khan (301) 851-1173 (hamza@hamzakhan.me) 
Patrick Paschall (409) 771-6763 (ppaschall@freestatelegal.org) 

LGBTQ and Muslim Community Leaders Stand in Solidarity, Condemn Florida Mass Shooting

Early this morning, a lone gunman opened fire at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The Muslim community and the LGBTQ community condemn in the strongest terms the murder of dozens of people and injuries of dozens more. Just last week, our champion Muhammad Ali brought together people of all faiths to celebrate his life and legacy. Today we mourn another attack on our citizens surely meant to divide us rather than bring us together.  

“We will not let hatred and terror to divide our society and the families that lost their loved ones. You have our regrets and condolences, but more importantly our support and solidarity. Together, we are one greater community,” said Muslim Democratic Club of Montgomery County President Hamza Khan.

On the same night as the shootings, Muslim American leaders gathered with elected officials and community allies, including members of the LGBTQ community for an iftar organized by the Muslim Democratic Club of Montgomery County. 


 “These events highlight what we have long known to be true - that the struggle is not over as we work to create a world in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people are free to live authentically, with safety and dignity, in their own communities across Maryland, our country, or the world,” said Patrick Paschall of Freestate Legal and Equality Maryland.

State Senator Richard Madaleno wrote “Yesterday I marched with my family in the Capital Pride parade on a brilliant and joyous day, amazed by the progress the LGBT community has made in this country. Today we awoke to the horrible news of an inconceivable act of terror and hate against the gay community and the Muslim community. This violence was designed to sow fear and division. We must not succumb to this effort. My family stands with the Muslim community, the LGBT community, and all fair-minded Marylanders in solidarity for love and understanding. We will use this moment to build a stronger community truly welcoming of all.”  
 The Muslim community and the LGBTQ community have each worked tirelessly to build civic involvement among their constituencies, often working together around core issues. We look forward, in light of today’s shooting, to increasing cooperation and working together to prevent bigotry and hatred.
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