A post for 9/11: Muslim American heroes.

In honor of all we lost on that terrible day, a short list of just a few Muslim American heroes. I don’t know the first man’s name, but aside from being a hero, it would seem he’s also a very good friend.

  1. 9/11 first-responder

  2. Mohammad Salman Hamdani, 9/11 first-responder – A 23 year old paramedic, Mohammad Salman Hamdani died trying to save lives at the World Trade Center. After his death, Hamdani’s Muslim faith was seen as reason to suspect him of collaborating with the terrorists — thankfully, the truth of his life and death eventually came out. Rep. Keith Ellison evoked Hamdani’s memory at Peter King’s hearings into the “radicalization” of American Muslims, breaking down in tears as he did so.
  3. Cpl. Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, US Army – Twenty years old when he was killed by an IED in Iraq, Cpl. Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan’s military awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, a bronze star, and a good conduct medal. His unit was scheduled to ship home a month before he was killed, but the 2007 surge extended Khan’s combat tour. His story came to the forefront of America’s discussion of Muslim patriotism when Colin Powell discussed Khan’s sacrifice at some length on Meet the Press in 2008.kareem-rashad-sultan-khan
  4. Rep. Keith Ellison – This country’s first Muslim member of Congress, Rep. Ellison (D-MN – see above) is sharp, compassionate, and a dedicated advocate for the civil rights of all Americans. On a personal note, I will forever be grateful to him for being one of the very few members of Congress to ever travel to the Gaza Strip, and for defending the good name of Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the much-maligned but little-read Goldstone Report on Israel’s 2008/09 war in Gaza.
  5. Farhana Khera – President and Executive Director of Muslim Advocates and the National Association of Muslim Lawyers, Farhana Khera previously served as Counsel to the US Senate Judiciary Committee. She also worked for six years under Sen. Feingold (D-WI), Chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee at the time. Her areas of expertise include racial and religious profiling and American civil liberties, about which she has said: “After the horrific attacks of 9/11, and the realization that the American-Muslim community was bearing the brunt of new, overly broad laws and policies, and some of our fellow Americans feeling perfectly fine abridging our rights, it was incumbent on us as Americans and as Muslims to step forward and fight for the founding values of our country.”
  6. Farouk El-Baz – Today the director of Boston University’s Center for Remote Sensing, Dr. El-Baz served as the Supervisor of Lunar Science Planning for NASA’s Apollo Program from 1967-1972, and then went on to establish and direct the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum. Perhaps of even greater weight and import, however, Dr. El-Baz had a shuttle named after him in Star Trek: The Next Generation (!):

el-baz-shuttle5And finally a video that I just love, the work of of Muslim-American country singer Kareem Salama and filmmaker Lena Khan. To learn more about the clip (which won the grand prize in the One Nation, Many Voices short film contest in 2008), read this post by my friend Rabbi Rachel Barenblatt.

If you have some names you’d like to add, I’d be very grateful if you did so in the comments. 

السلام عليكمas-salamu alaykum – peace upon you, and on us all.

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If you’re interested in reading some Muslim responses to terrorism (spoiler: they’re against it), click here.

For my thoughts on how we write about terrorists who happen to be Muslim, click here.

And finally, please note that the above is an edited version of a post I first ran in 2011.

Writers need to learn to write differently about terrorists who happen to be Muslim.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/63/Salat_Salah_%22Muslim_Prayer%22.jpg

How to pray as a Muslim.

The first thing I read on the morning after the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a well-written, well-constructed, and very informative piece about Chechnya, Chechens, and the Tsarnaev brothers written by David Remnick (a hell of a writer) in The New Yorker (a hell of a publication).

Yet in the midst of all this quality, Remnick fell into a particularly pedestrian, non-quality trap: He used simplistic conventional wisdom as shorthand, and in so doing, conflated (whether intentionally or not) two very different things that simply are not conflatable.

Throughout the piece, wherever there is reference to the Tsarnaevs’ religion, there is an unspoken assumption that the more religious a Muslim is, the more likely that Muslim is to engage in extremist behavior. For instance:

The Caucasus region is multicultural in the extreme, but the predominant religion in the north is Islam…. In 1991, nationalist rebels fought two horrific wars with the Russian Army for Chechen independence. In the end, the rebel groups were either decimated or came over to the Russian side. But rebellion persists, in Chechnya and in the surrounding regions—Dagestan and Ingushetia—and it is now fundamentalist in character. The slogan is “global jihad.” The tactics are kidnappings, assassinations, bombings.

…Members of the [Tsarnaev] family occasionally attended a mosque on Prospect Street in Cambridge, but there seemed nothing fundamentalist about their outlook.

…[Tamerlan, the older brother,] described himself as “very religious”; he didn’t smoke or drink…. Three years ago, he was arrested for domestic assault and battery. 

“He was a cool guy,” Ashraful Rahman said [of the younger brother, Dzhokhar]. “I never got any bad vibes from him…. Dzhokhar went to the mosque more than I did, but he wasn’t completely devoted.”

The problem here is how much is left unsaid, and it’s very hard to quantify or sketch an absence. Nowhere does Remnick (who is, as I say, a hell of a writer, and I believe an unusually honest and careful one) say anything even remotely like “the more religious a Muslim is, the more likely that Muslim is to engage in extremist behavior.”

But when you’re writing in a society which everywhere makes just that assumption; a society in which the faith, Scripture, habits, and even clothing choices of Muslims are frequently treated as signs of a violent pathology, you must be particularly careful not to further a conventional wisdom that is not only wildly inaccurate, but physically dangerous to Muslims. Remnick doesn’t need to write “the more religious a Muslim is, the more likely that Muslim is to engage in extremist behavior” — far too many of his readers will make the leap on their own.

There is one sentence in the piece in which Islam is mentioned in a context that does not, somehow, end up in violence. Dzhokhar’s friend Essah Chisholm says this:

“Tamerlan maybe felt like he didn’t belong, and he might have brainwashed Dzhokhar into some radical view that twisted things in the Koran.”

“Some radical view that twisted things in the Koran” – nine short words that open a door to the possibility that in order to descend into pathological violence, a Muslim must, in fact, twist the Qur’an, twist his or her faith, leave actual Islam behind and create something awful and new onto which he or she slaps the word “Islam” — just as the KKK, and Westboro, and Scott Roeder call themselves Christians; just as Yigal Amir, and Baruch Goldstein, and the West Bank’s Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva call themselves Jews.

But that door is small, so small as to be missed entirely. In the very next paragraph we read:

Tamerlan’s YouTube channel features a series of videos in support of fundamentalism and violent jihad… [one] provides a dramatization of the Armageddon prophecy of the Black Banners of Khurasan, an all-powerful Islamic military force that will rise up from Central Asia and defeat the infidels; it is a martial-religious prophecy favored by Al Qaeda.

Writers use shorthand all the time, often in order to create space to tell a complicated and complex story. In 21st century America, “he started to pray more frequently” is often shorthand for “this was a Muslim about to descend into pathological violence” — but when we use that shorthand, we are, in fact, denying the complexity of the very story we’re telling.

We can no longer write this way. If our goal is to tell the truth, we can’t let dangerous inaccuracies fill the spaces between our words. We have to seek out sources who can help us clarify to readers that what terrorists call “Islam” is not accepted as such by the vast majority of the faithful; that increased devotion is almost never a sign of hatred but rather a sign of love of God; that 99.999% of Muslims who pray five times a day would no sooner launch a terrorist attack than would 99.999% of faithful Christians or Jews. That terrorists who happen to be Muslim represent not Muslims, but pathology.

Remnick serves as my example here, but as anyone who has spent any time reading about the events at the Boston Marathon can attest, he is far, far from the only writer who has fallen into this trap.

The story of terrorism, and fear, and those who would harm innocent people, and the innocent people they harm is far too important a story for us to get wrong by means of shortcuts. We need to write better.

Muslim responses to terrorism.

Update: Yes, this is a re-up, but given the recent discovery that the NYPD has been spying on Muslim students as far away as Yale, it seems rather timely.

Ever since the 9/11 attacks, the world’s Muslims have been called upon to address the issue of violence perpetrated by other Muslims. On the one hand, this strikes me as unfair — why on earth should person A have to explain person B’s behavior? — but on the other, it also strikes me as pretty human. That day of horror seared us all, and for non-Muslims, the question seems to boil down to: “Hey Muslim person, why I shouldn’t fear you?” Unfair, perhaps, but human.

So, I often write, here and elsewhere, in defense of Islam and Muslims — or, as I see it, in defense of the American values of equality, liberty, freedom of religion, and so on. I have a Masters Degree in Middle Eastern Studies, and have read and reviewed several shelves-worth of books about the faith and the lands in which Islam is the majority religion, and all this provides me with some useful background. But bottom line: I’m not Muslim, and can’t represent the faith.

Actually, even if I were a Muslim, I doubt that I could “represent the faith” — I don’t imagine, for instance, that I can represent Judaism, Jew though I may be. But of one thing I am certain: As I don’t represent Islam, neither do al-Qaeda, or the Taliban, or Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

The voices of extremists may be the loudest emerging from the Muslim people, the ummah, right now — or: these voices may be the best amplified by our fears and the people who have reason to feed them — but they don’t represent the ummah.

And here we arrive at my point: Don’t trust me — trust the Muslims who say so in their own words.

Consider first this passage from Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed:

Only 46% of Americans think that “bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians” are “never justified”…. Contrast this with data taken the same year [2007] from some of the largest majority Muslim nations, in which 74% of respondents in Indonesia agree that terrorist attacks are “never justified”; in Pakistan, that figure is 86%; in Bangladesh, 81%; and in Iran, 80%.

And then consider the following, a small (very small) compendium of Muslim responses to extremism that I have found. You’ll note that some are recent, and some date back — because even though we don’t hear much about it, the world’s Muslims have been continuously condemning extremist violence for some time:

(more…)

So, Pete King and those hearings. What’s up with that?

A quick and dirty post, with some good links for those looking to catch up on the heck is up with the King hearings into the American Muslim Community.

  1. Excellent one-stop shopping post at Mother Jones, laying out the backstory and facts of the hearings: Peter King’s Radicalization Hearings, Explained.
  2. The House Committee on Homeland Security site – the bare structure of the hearings, including panel composition, and, not for nothing, their actual name: “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.”
  3. Adam Serwer’s excellent post explaining why the composition of the panels is part of the problem,”King’s Strategically Arranged Hearing Panels”: “The only Muslims on the third panel will be people prepared to parrot King’s unsubstantiated, negative views of Islam and American Muslims.”
  4. Adam Serwer’s excellent post on the inconsistencies in King’s approach to terrorism as a concept: “But How Does King Feel About Hamas?”: “If King applied his principles consistently, he’d be calling for the Obama administration to negotiate with Hamas.”
  5. Adams Serwer’s excellent post (are you picking up on a pattern here? But I digress) on the facts of Muslim assistance to law enforcement in dealing with terrorism threats, “Terror Plots Foiled With the Assistance of the American Muslim Community”: “Rep. Peter King of New York [has been] repeating the widely held fiction that American Muslims don’t do anything to fight terrorism. Here’s a list of terror plots that have been foiled with the assistance of the American Muslims.”
  6. The study to which Adam refers in his post, “A Tracking of Plots by Muslim and Non-Muslim Violent Extremists Against the United States”: “Muslim communities helped U.S. security officials to prevent over 4 out of every 10 Al-Qaeda plots threatening the United States since 9/11. Muslim communities helped law enforcement prevent three-quarters of all Al-Qaeda related plots threatening the U.S. since December 2009.”
  7. A study that finds that — just like in the Christian and Jewish communities — the more religiously active American Muslims are, the more likely they are to participate in civic life: “American Muslims Find Mosques Help Muslims Integrate into American Political Life.”
  8. My friend Dave von Ebers on the dangers of the constant drip-drip-drip of hate and dehumanization that goes beyond the events in Yorba Linda, and beyond high-profile Congressional hearings, and is simply part of some folks’ daily life: “The Consequences of Prejudice.”
  9. My earlier post with suggestions (including sample scripts and letters) for responding to the recent wave of Islamophobia, including the fact that a member of the US Congress is casting aspersions on an entire faith community.
  10. UPDATE: How could I have forgotten? Dean Obeidallah, a terrific Arab-American comedian best known probably for his appearances in the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour (which was outstanding, BTW), will be — and I am not making this up — live tweeting the hearings (!). He normally tweets at @deanofcomedy, but apparently during the hearings, he’ll be tweeting on the @whatunitesus account (the account associated with advocacy group WhatUnites.Us) — which is only right and meet, as what certainly unites us, on good days, is an ability to laugh at our all too human ridiculousness. And that’s what these hearings are: ridiculous. Check him/it out!

Image by Ridzdesign.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

Dear Rep. Rohrabacher; Or: You, too, can take part in democracy!

The observant reader is by now aware that I crosspost most of what appears here at Angry Black Lady Chronicles, a joint that gets less Black, but no less Angry, by the day. We are Team Benetton, hear us roar!

Be that as it may, Angry Black Lady is also a Lady With Many Smart Friends, and one of her friends, Kumar, drafted a really wonderful letter to his US Representative, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), in response to the ugly events that took place in Yorba Linda on February 13. I wanted to post it here, as it really is a terrific example of what these letters can look like. “I challenge you,” Kumar writes,”to toss aside your party affiliation and stand for dignity, respect and tolerance of all human beings, regardless of religion” — and that’s pretty much the whole enchilada right there, isn’t it?

Mr. Rohrabacher,

I am writing to an elected official for the first time in my 43 years.

I’m sure you know by now what took place in Yorba Linda on February 13th.  I am referring, by the way, to the so-called protest, not the peaceful, family-oriented, faith-based humanitarian event that was disrupted in a shameful manner.

I call on you to speak up publicly and loudly AGAINST the participation of and encouragement by three elected officials, two of whom are your colleagues in Congress.  As Federal Representatives, they are sworn to uphold the Constitution, but this video shows that they did exactly the opposite:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NutFkykjmbM

I think it should be abundantly clear from the exact words of the politicians at the “protest” that their views aren’t actually about freedom of speech or freedom of assembly or having alternative viewpoints.  Rather, these officials are clearly speaking of restricting others’ freedom to practice the religion of their choice, and putting their support behind the generalizations that people make as a result of ignorance, fear and hatred.  The latter should be repugnant to any decent human being, but the former is certainly more dangerous to a free society, particularly when government officials are involved.

I don’t know exactly how to implore you to do something about this, except to say “Do something about this!”  I’m asking you to make it clear, in a public forum, that advocating the deaths of fellow citizens, solely based on their religion, is PRECISELY what this country was founded to overcome.

I don’t really care that you and these other elected officials are of the same political party or that you serve neighboring districts.  In fact, I challenge you to toss aside your party affiliation and stand for dignity, respect and tolerance of all human beings, regardless of religion.  If these elected officials’ actions are allowed to happen without consequence, then bigotry begins to become institutionalized in government offices.

I will wait and see what you do (or don’t do).

Write to your people, people! Click here for that list of links and ideas that I posted the other day (I included a short sample letter, but frankly, Kumar’s is a whole lot better).

And one last thing: Matt Duss, National Security Editor at the Center for American Progress and a terrific writer whose work appears at The Nation, The American Prospect, Think Progress (and lots of other worthy places), pointed his Twitter followers today toward this really useful study:  “American Muslims Find Mosques Help Muslims Integrate into American Political Life.” The most impressive number from the study (to my mind) is: 95% — that is, 95% of Muslims identified as having “high levels of religiosity” feel that “Islam is compatible with political participation in the United States.”

Here’s the study’s conclusion (but it’s well worth reading the whole thing — it’s even short!):

Despite the popularized idea that Muslims are radicalized around the country in mosques, we find that mosques help Muslims integrate into US society, and in fact have a very productive role in bridging the differences between Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States. This is a finding in social science that is consistent with decades of research on other religious groups such as Jews, Protestants and Catholics where church attendance and religiosity has been proven to result in higher civic engagement and support for core values of the American political system. Likewise, mosques are institutions that should be encouraged to function as centers of social and political integration in America.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

How to support Muslims.

UPDATE: The “Today I Am a Muslim Too” rally (see #6) is now behind us (read about it here) but all of the rest of the following suggestions are still a go!

UPDATE #2: Make sure you read this post, too — it’s essentially a guestpost, someone else’s most-excellent letter to his Congressman.

In recent weeks, I’ve produced a couple of  posts in which I call on folks to respond to the decision of Rep. Pete King (R-NY) to hold hearings into the “radicalization” of American Muslims, but as we saw yesterday, King’s hearings are not the result of a single, narrow mind, but are rather reflective of a broader wave of anti-Muslim bigotry and hysteria that gripped the nation on September 12, 2001 and has been roiling our society ever since.

I firmly, genuinely believe that the fight for the full inclusion of Muslim Americans into mainstream American society is one of the two defining civil rights struggles of our era (the other being the fight for LGBTQ rights), and I further believe that it is incumbent upon all Americans of good will to stand by their fellow citizens. So today, I’m going to make that a little easier for you. (more…)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

On February 13, members of a faith-based charitable organization gathered in Yorba Linda, California to raise funds to support women’s shelters, help the homeless and combat hunger.

This same organization is active in interfaith outreach. One of its leaders offered the opening prayers at the recent inauguration of the governor of Illinois, and it will be holding its annual banquet in Chicago this weekend, the theme of which is “Fighting Fear, Teaching Tolerance.”

You can understand why, then, on February 13, a handful of elected officials — specifically: Yorba City councilwoman Deborah Pauly, US Congressman Ed Royce, and US Congressman Gary Miller — joined a group of a few hundred protesters (shouting such things as “Go back home!” and “USA!” and, for good measure: “Fuck you!”), in order to declare the faith-based philanthropic event “pure, unadulterated evil.”

Oh wait. Perhaps that’s actually utterly incomprehensible — nay: batshit crazy.

By now, of course, you’ve understood that — oh! It must have been Muslims! Because if it had been Christians or Jews or Hindus gathered to do social justice work, at this point in American history, there would have been no angry, spittle-flecked faces.

No, no, it must have been Muslims, because Muslims — men, women, little boys, little girls, all of them dressed in their finest, hair brushed, party shoes on little feet, come together to help those who cannot help themselves — are clearly, unequivocally, “evil.”

Natch.

What red-blooded American elected official would not, under such circumstances, declare her pride in her 19 year old son, a Marine, and suggest — I’m sorry, not suggest, but rather, say flat out — that there are “quite a few Marines” like her son who “will be very happy to help these terrorists to an early meeting in Paradise” (to the delighted laughter of the crowd).

What group of self-declared “patriotic Americans” who announce that they “love our Constitution” wouldn’t yell at Americans of faith on their way to a social justice event: “One nation under God, not Allah!” (patriotic Americans can’t be expected to know that the word “Allah” is simply Arabic for “God,” like the Hebrew “Yahweh,” a word patriotic Americans often use in Christian rock ditties).

What patriotic Americans wouldn’t yell at these other Americans (still on their way to help battered women and the homeless and the hungry): “Your hands are bloody! Your money is bloody! Get out!”

Indeed, what sitting member of this nation’s legislative branch wouldn’t reach out to a group of patriotic Americans screaming (and I do mean screaming) curse words at children and parents on their way to a charity event in order to say to the screamers: “I am proud of you, I am proud of what you’re doing.”

It was, after all, Muslims.

What do they expect, what with their headscarves and their beards and their belief in one God and the imperative to do good and their American citizenship and their trust in this nation’s founding documents, including that one bit that talks about freedom of religion? How dare they think they can just walk on into some building in California and raise funds for those in need? How dare they think they can bring their children and expect their children to learn about a life of good deeds and holy behavior? How dare they think that their government representatives (local and national) might not suggest that they are ripe for killing — I mean: ripe for being sent by members of their own military to “an early meeting in Paradise”?

How dare they.

The simple truth of the matter is that I’m ashamed to share citizenship with those protesters, and yet more ashamed to know that Deborah Pauly, Ed Royce and Gary Miller have any power, of any kind, in the nation that is my home.

But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen these spit-flecked maws and the venom they spew. We saw them in 1943 when they joined Lt. Gen. John DeWitt in declaring that “we must worry about the Japanese all the time until he is wiped off the map”; in 1951, they provided names of the innocent to Senator Joe McCarthy as he and the House Un-American Activities Committee destroyed American lives; in 1960, they stood on sidewalks howling “Nigger!” at six year old Ruby Bridges, as she crossed the color line to go to school; in 1979, they savagely assaulted Sikhs and Mexicans for looking like Iranians, and again in 2001, for looking like Arabs.

They are the worst that this country has to offer. They are the dross of our society, the black hearts and empty shells against which the Framers sought to protect us in our founding documents. They are ignorant, they are dangerous, they are a blight and a stain — and they are, whether we like it or not, us.

I might not want to call these unholy miscreants “American” — but American they are. They are American, they are human, and however much I would set walls between us, I can’t.

I cannot wish them away. I cannot impose holiness upon them. I cannot force them to take on the mantle of the American values they currently trample with such glee.

I can only confront them with the truth, push the ignorance into the smaller and yet smaller corners, and build on the certain knowledge that they will not win the day.

Today, Japanese-Americans serve in the Administration of a black President, and the name “McCarthy” is shorthand for a time universally recognized as one of the darkest in American history.

Today, Americans of good will, of all colors and stripes, are horrified by the events in Yorba Linda. Across the country, across the airwaves, on the internet, in homes and in conversation, we are raising a hue and a cry, declaring our loyalty to our Muslim brothers and sisters in solidarity and faith.

Our union is not yet perfect, and it will likely never be.

But as we face down the remains of centuries of bigotry and hate, and bring our better angels to bear against the underbelly of American society, we make the union better. Stronger. More perfect.

“We the people” means all the people — and if a few hundred ill-informed bigots and their spectacularly un-American elected officials don’t know that, then it’s up to us, Muslim and non-Muslim Americans of good will, to let them know.

This is a moment on which our children will look back, and boggle at what innocent people had to face. It’s a moment in which some will shine as heroes, and others will go down in ignominy. It’s a moment that will help define our nation and our future, and it’s in our hands to decide if we will act in support of the American Idea, or stand idly by.

This is it. There’s work to be done, and we’re the only ones who can do it.

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The event I describe above can be seen in the following video. It’s infuriating and more than a little disturbing, but I urge you to watch it — there’s something to hearing the tenor of the hate, and seeing the dignity with which people under verbal assault go about their business, that clears the mind and sharpens the senses.

Click here to learn about some of the many, many responses of Muslims categorically rejecting terrorism; click here to hear the words of a Muslim 9/11 first responder; click here for a ideas [update: including sample scripts and letters] on how to respond to America’s current rash of Islamophobia.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

On the essential American-ness of Muslim Americans.

Once again, thanks to the Twitter (in this case, @ggreenwald), I’ve been made more aware of an important issue than I might otherwise have been.

Apparently the reprehensible Rep. Peter King (R- Ignoramus City NY) is holding hearings next month regarding the threat American Muslims pose to their own country. King maintains that “over 80 percent of the mosques in this country are controlled by radical Imams,” and that when it comes to combating terror and times of war, Muslims are not “American.”

I’d heard about these shenanigans, but wasn’t really following very closely. Then this morning Glenn Greenwald (a man with whom, it must be noted, I do on occasion have my disagreements!) tweeted a link to that first story I referenced above, writing

This Peter King hearing on American Muslims is certain to be one of the most disgusting spectacles seen in some time.

And I just thought: Yes. Yes it is.

Awhile back, I posted a short compilation of Muslim statements categorically rejecting terrorism, which might prove informative here, and ThinkProgress has done great job of debunking the King nonsense:

King’s assertion that American Muslims aren’t cooperating with authorities and that Muslim organizations in the U.S. aren’t denouncing terrorism is simply false. At an event sponsored by the Center for American Progress, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) reported that, “About a third of all foiled al-Qaida-related plots in the U.S. relied on support or information provided by members of the Muslim community.” …

But the hearings/investigations aren’t really about establishing fact. They’re about establishing an idea: Muslims are dangerous.

King is planning a show, a game, a series of entirely symbolic events, all with one aim: To establish in the mind of the average Real American [tm] that Muslim Americans aren’t Real Americans — that they are, in fact, a threat to Real Americans. Why, if a member of the US Congress believes these people to be dangerous enough to warrant hearings, by gum, they must be dangerous!

As such, facts — as written on paper or blinking on computer screens — aren’t really what will outmaneuver such an effort. No, what’s called for here are good optics. What’s needed is something, or somethingS, that will be more symbolically powerful than the implications of a Congressional hearing.

After seeing the Greenwald tweet, I immediately began thinking of all the ways that I would try to combat the hearings’ message, were I the Person In Charge of Public Relations for Muslim Americans.

How about sending Muslim veterans in uniform to the hearings (possibly from among the more than 200 Muslim Americans to be awarded combat action ribbons)? Or newspaper commentary by those who knew Muslims killed in action? How about interfaith prayer vigils across the country? Or maybe just Muslims declaring themselves in some public place outside the hearings, ala the Rally to Restore Sanity: “I’m a Muslim doctor,” “I’m a Muslim teacher,” “I’m a Muslim dad.” (I’d love it if singer Kareem Salama would chime in with his own sign: “I’m a Muslim country/western singer” — Kareem, call me!).

Sadly, I am not the Person In Charge of Public Relations for Muslim Americans.

But I believe I’m going to try to run with these ideas, or push them along, or put them out into the general political ether. How, I’m not sure. By what means, also not sure. But I have some ideas about that, too.

I’ll let you know!

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In the meantime, if you have some thoughts about the essential American-ness of Muslim Americans, let your Senators and Representatives know! The best way to do that is via letter — letters take forever in the nation’s capital (really – security, and all), but we’ve got a little bit of time before the hearings, so knock yourselves out! The second best way to contact your elected representatives is by phone, followed by email. But however you do it, please do it! You can find contact information for you Senators here and your Representative here. This is especially important if your Representative is on the Homeland Security Committee – check here.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.