Back in April, after Trump ordered airstrikes on Syria, the Indiana Center for Middle East Peace, Inc. hosted a panel discussion/conversation about the escalation. Michael Spath was a wonderful moderator as always and Sam Jarjour had some great insight to share. I had a few words, and many hand gestures, to share (starting at the 37th minute and going on for about 10 minutes). Dr. Ammar Ghanem was able to make it and share some of his insight (minute 67) as well.
Many thanks to Terry Doran and his friend Tracy who filmed the event.
Click here for video
Jim Banks starts off a May 3 column by stating, “Like many Hoosiers, I had questions about Donald Trump's views on foreign policy, his temperament and his view of America's role in the world.” This gives the reader the impression that he, too, was somewhat skeptical of the reality TV mogul's transition into politics and subsequent presence on the world stage.
Such skepticism was apparently quickly dissipated as Banks hails our president for his leadership, citing examples from the president's hundred-and-some-odd days' tenure in the oval office. In particular, the 3rd District representative mentions bombing Syria's Assad regime and escalating the fight against Islamic State terrorism. Banks concludes our president is off to a strong start in what seems to be an arduous journey of undoing eight years of foreign policy failures.
While I do somewhat agree with Banks' statement on the previous administration's foreign policy failures, I strongly disagree with his assessment of President Trump's actions.
I am one of those Hoosiers who had questions about Trump but, unlike our congressman, my concerns are not allayed by his actions; rather, they have become much more heightened.
The strike on Syria's Assad regime that Banks uses as an example of Trump's decisiveness on key national security issues is bewildering, to say the least. The war in Syria is now a threat to our national security? When did it become so? That certainly wasn't the case according to many of Trump's contradicting statements about Syria. Going from a “we should stay the hell out of Syria” position to dropping 59 missiles without any plan, heeding of consequences or a “what's next” strategy is not “an appropriate but measured response to a global humanitarian crisis,” but rather a cause of alarm to us all.
Is Trump all of a sudden motivated by the humanitarian crisis? “No child of God should ever suffer such horror,” said the president in his statement after the U.S. bombing, but aren't those the same children he said he had “absolutely no problem looking them in the face” and telling them to go home when they come to our country escaping such horror? I find the use of the words “humanitarian” and “God” as mockery to the faithful and to humanitarian activists.
Was it the use of chemical weapons? If that's the case, then why is the method of killing more important than the killing itself? Shouldn't killing be abhorred whether by chemical weapons or a thousand cuts? Our outrage/action should be about what's happening, regardless of method. And what if the bombing killed Russians or Iranians (our country claims both support the Assad regime)? Have we thought of the potential war that might ensue from such haphazard action?
And what early promising results of our intensified fight against terrorism is Banks speaking of? I am all for eradicating terrorism, but have we not learned that greater force and intensity does not scare away terrorists, rather it reinforces the narrative of “the West is at war with us” espoused by such groups? You can't bomb away such an ideology.
War is not the only answer to fight this elusive “terrorism,” so how about a strategy that's beyond dropping more bombs instead?
There is a lot more criticism that can be leveled against Trump's actions, but my main criticism is of those who surround him and the role they play. A blanketed, unabashed praise of any president and cheerleading him without any critical analysis of his actions or their consequences only enables him further. Enabling can also be done by being silent when truth needs to be spoken, by being complacent, by shirking your responsibilities as a representative of your community.
Our congressmen and -women and our senators are not elected to sing the praises of the one who occupies the Oval Office. Our system of checks and balances fails if neither takes place.
post originally published by the Journal Gazzette 05/15/2017
So after an overall sentiment of love, admiration and appreciation for what the United States in general and Fort Wayne in particular have offered us, the panelists, in terms of opportunities for success and a generally more welcoming atmosphere/environment than where we came from, I had a few "tough love" words to share with the audience at the conclusion of the "celebrating immigrants" panel discussion.
My tough love revolved around how we need to stop kidding ourselves with this "we are a post racial society" or "we are an inclusive community" and start doing some real grunt work addressing our conscious and subconscious biases. How although I appreciate everyone's presence, we need to stop patting ourselves on the back for having attended such a meeting and go have the candid conversation with the friend or family member who refuses to attend such events yet still paints a much different and often negative image of immigrants. I also pointed the fact that our panel is a skewed representation of immigrants (all educated with well paid jobs, mostly men) and that we must not forget that immigrants include those whose backs are just as broken as their English, who strive to make a better life for themselves and their children and LOVE this country even more than many of the ones born in it who take it for granted.
Many people (immigrants and non immigrants alike) expressed their appreciation for what I said, stated that they needed to hear it/it needed to be said and applauded me for speaking up. Beyond that appreciation however lies a question that was more implied than directly asked which is "why wouldn't more immigrants have such uneasy conversations with people and call out the many biases that are expressed toward them?"
I'll venture a grossly generalized answer to the question
I believe it to be out of respect and appreciation. Many don't want to seem ungrateful or disrespectful to a country that welcomed them and afforded them an opportunity. Most, if not all, do not have the sense of entitlement that comes with being born here (not bratty type entitlement but entitlement in the sense of rights that are enjoyed from birth and not gained at an older age).
This type of gratitude often supersedes many of the problems or issues that they encounter due to the "don't bite the hand that feeds you" attitude.
This type of attitude is universal across all immigrants (I said I will grossly generalize) regardless of educational achievement or financial success.
This type of attitude also creates a vicious cycle as often the gratitude is mistook for meekness and airs a sense of inferiority that is, unfortunately more often than not, met with arrogance than humility.
This type of attitude needs to be changed if we, immigrants, are to be treated, as our adopted constitution guarantees, equally.
I was honored to be part of a tremendous group of panelists celebrating immigrants in Fort Wayne. Thank you Progressive Social Hour for putting together such an important program and thank you Universal Education Foundation of Fort Wayne (UEF) for being hospitable and generous as usual. Many thanks also to our wonderful mayor Tom Henry for being there and sharing some opening remarks with the close to 200 people in attendance.
Here is a quick summary of some discussion points I was privileged to share
- we need to stop seeing our society as a melting pot and start appreciating the beauty of the mosaic that is America
- we need to look beyond the label and celebrate the humanity of those we impose the label upon
- I bet you you know an immigrant or a refugee within 3-4 degrees of separation. Get to know them and their story and don't let others tell it for you
- we must MUST acknowledge our conscious and subconscious biases towards "other" and realize the fact that we do not live in a post racial, all inclusive society. Once we realize that and appreciate it as a fact we can move forward
- Fort Wayne is a great place to live and has a solid foundation on which we can strengthen our community further. But we have to go beyond the cordial niceties and live what we purport as Hoosier hospitality and get to know those who do not look like us, believe like us or talk like us
Please tag yourself if you attended
Was honored to speak at today's No Ban No Wall rally in our beautiful downtown. An electric crowd of at least 300 people withstood the freezing cold to make their voices heard.
Below is the text of my speech
Dear brothers and sisters in humanity
Dear brothers and sisters in justice
My name is Ahmed Abdelmageed
I am a Muslim, Palestinian, immigrant American
I've been to many events like this
And I have to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with events like these
I hate that our nation
a nation that claims democracy as its credence
a nation that boasts human rights as its practice
A nation that is strengthened by the people who come to its shores
from all walks of life
To put their sweat, blood and tears to make it home
Is currently ripping apart the very fabric of its own society
But at the same time I love that every time a threat exposes certain fragilities within our democracy
Every time there is an exposed hypocrisy
Every time we feel a tug that could tear the fabric of our society
You show up
You show up to remind everyone that WE the people will not stand idly by while justice is being trampled upon
That we the people will not succumb to fear mongering
That we the people will stand up for what is right
That we are not here solely because we belong to a group targeted by hate
We are here for justice
We are here for equality
We are here for one another
So when you are targeted for where you come from then you and I are one
I am not only Palestinian, I am Syrian, I am Iranian,
I am Sudanese, I am Iraqi, I am Somali, I am Yemeni, I am Libyan and I am Mexican
When you are targeted for your skin color then you and I are one
I am not only white, I am brown, I am black, I am red and I am yellow
When you are targeted for what you believe then you and I are one
I am Muslim
I am Christian
I am Jew
I am each and everyone of you
For we are the United in the United States of America
Dear brothers and sisters in justice
What is of utmost importance at this time is for those who do good to continue to do so. You're the constant in the equation, the rest is variables
And remember we can individually pray for peace but we must all work for justice
#NoBanNoWall #MuslimBan #ImmigrantsWelcome
Governor welcomed Muslims to pray at Statehouse, vice president applauds their exclusion from America
My refugee travel document was issued by Egypt as a result of the Israeli occupation of my parents’ hometown of Yebna, Palestine, in June 1948.
My parents sought refuge in Qatar in the early 1960s due to continued military expansionism by the state of Israel and helped build Qatar as a businessman (my father) and a teacher (my mother). Qatar, like the majority of Arab countries, unfortunately, does not naturalize you even if you were born and raised there. My parents’ dedication to providing a better life for their children led them to seek refuge again in Canada in 1996.
I became a Canadian citizen in 2000, at the age of 22, then moved to the U.S. and have been calling this country home since then.
I became a full-fledged American citizen on June 15, 2012. On Aug. 22, 2012, at the Indiana Statehouse and in the presence of more than 100 people and then-Gov. Mitch Daniels, I kicked off the Muslim Alliance of Indiana’s annual Governor’s Iftar (breaking of the fast) with a recitation of the following verse from the Holy Quran, 2:183: “O believers, fasting is enjoined on you as it was on those before you, so that you might become righteous.”
The annual Governor’s Iftar was an event Daniels began hosting once elected, a symbolic gesture of inclusivity and a celebration of one aspect of our Hoosier diversity. After all, Indiana is home to many Muslims who contribute to the economic, civil and political dynamics of our state – Muslims who were born and raised here, generation upon generation, and Muslims who chose Indiana as the place where they can realize their full potential.
At the conclusion of the program, I led a Muslim prayer in the atrium with more than 50 Muslims in congregation. It was a day that I will never forget, a day I boast about to many of my friends who live in different countries around the world. I tell them, “There I was, a citizen for two months, standing in the middle of the most symbolic of state governmental institutions and in the company of people from all walks of life, celebrating my faith. This is why I became an American citizen; this is why I call America home.”
A year later, when Mike Pence became Indiana’s governor, there was a little bit of concern from the Muslim community about whether or not Pence would continue the tradition his predecessor started. Much to our pleasant surprise, Pence agreed to continue with the iftar and attended the first one with his wife. I recall that he was very personable and easy to talk to. He made everyone feel welcome and was indeed a gracious host.
Fast forward to now – the country is in an absolute frenzy. An executive order issued by President Donald Trump bans people who almost exactly fit my profile from entering my country.
And there, next to the man who issued such a decree, is Pence, the man who once told a very similar crowd, “We love having you here.” The man who on Dec. 8, 2015 said, “Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional” is now applauding such a ban.
So I would also like to ask Mr. Pence, will you be the same gracious host you were then? Will you welcome a group of American Muslims who, just like the rest of our great nation, come from all different corners of the world and our great country? Will you sit comfortably and listen to the Quran being recited by a Muslim immigrant of Palestinian origin, just like you did then?
When you say, “Life is winning again in America,” whose life are you speaking about?
I appreciate the fact that, as a Christian, you “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,” but let’s not forget the rest of Proverbs 31:8-9.
It continues “for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Article originally posted by Journal Gazette on 02/02/2017
So when Mike Pence became Indiana's governor, there was a little bit of concern from the Muslim community about whether or not he will continue the tradition of Governor's Iftar that his predecessor Mitch Daniels started. It was a symbolic event put together by the Muslim Alliance of Indiana to strengthen the relationship between Muslim Hoosiers and their government. Much to our pleasant surprise, Pence agreed to continue with the iftar and attended with his wife. I recall that he was very personable and easy to talk to. He made everyone feel welcome and was indeed a gracious host.
So in honor of Trump's proposed ban on Muslim immigrants, I wanted to resurface this picture from a couple of years back as a reminder.
I would also like to ask Mr. Pence, will you be the same gracious host you were then?
Will you welcome a group of American Muslims who, just like the rest of our great nation, come from all different corners of the world and our great country?
More importantly, will you sit comfortably and listen to the Quran being recited by a Muslim immigrant of Palestinian origin just like you did then?
I appreciate you marching for life today sir but let's not forget about those who are already living.
A session with too little substanceFBI Director Comey offers little to satisfy his invited audience
A couple of weeks ago I was invited, among many others, to a meeting with FBI Director James Comey in Indianapolis. I believe I was invited because of some of my community work here in Fort Wayne and because I am a 2014 FBI Citizens Academy graduate. I drove two hours each way for what ended up being about a 25-minute address by and Q&A session with the director.
Comey, who is a 6-foot, 8-inch towering figure, entered the room where 20 community members representing multiple ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds and various levels of community engagement were seated. He sat at a designated chair in front of the group, welcomed us all and said he is here to talk about whatever we want to talk about. “Heck, I’ll even talk about the (Hillary) Clinton emails,” he said, and proceeded to discuss why he decided to write to Congress on Oct. 28, announcing the agency’s review of new emails relating to the case. He reasoned that it basically came down to “making a tough decision now or a tougher decision later”; basically either discuss the findings and be transparent or face questions about them later.
That set the tone for us in the audience. He was here to dismiss allegations about his supposed effect on the outcome of the election. Fair enough. He is the director and his agency called the meeting, so he is certainly within his right to set the tone. Except, I was not going to let a meeting with the FBI director go without at least an attempt at making some effort toward getting answers about issues of particular concern to me. So as he was finishing up his introductory remarks about how difficult the job is (which I say without any hint of sarcasm, I do not envy him) and how he is blessed to work with strong teams across the U.S. (I can say with all honesty that our local team here has been great and very responsive), he concluded by saying he is grateful for us who are involved in our communities and who can help the FBI’s work and image.
He then opened the floor for questions and I raised my hand. After introducing myself and the community I supposedly represent, I asked: “Some members of the (Muslim) community find it really hard to trust the FBI, especially with what we are hearing and reading about entrapment cases. How do you think I can bridge the two images (an FBI that is there for the people vs an FBI that sets people up)?” His answer, at least as I understood it, is that sometimes these are necessary measures that need to be taken and that at the end of the day we should all get to know each other better, build strong relationships and have open channels of communications (as various communities within a society and as citizens with the FBI). After that, other members of the audience asked a couple of questions, thanked him and the FBI profusely for the work they do and we all gathered in the lobby for a photo op.
The interaction left me with more to be desired. I reached out to a friend from Indianapolis who was also at the meeting, and I asked him whether he felt an air of dismissiveness in the director’s opening remarks and in his answer to my question. My friend felt the same way and further remarked that when someone asked Comey “what keeps you up at night?,” the first thing he talked about was the “evil that you cannot see” being the “bunch of savages called Islamic State.”
We all agree that ISIS is a threat but, my friend remarked, he would have thought the FBI would be more nuanced and balanced – especially knowing that, according to the global terrorism database at the University of Maryland, out of more than 200 terrorist attacks in the U.S. during 2000-14, about six were identified with or claimed by an Islamist group.
I certainly appreciated the opportunity to meet with Director Comey and would do it again without hesitation. I believe in dialogue and engagement on all levels. But I walked away from that meeting with perhaps more questions than answers.
Why is it that the director of the FBI would choose to address, in his opening remarks, the Clinton email issue, knowing full well that the audience he is speaking to had representatives of ethnic and religious minorities that have been the target of vicious hate crimes? Why, when asked about an issue that has shaken the trust of many citizens in his agency, did he dismiss that concern with a generic “we gotta do what we gotta do” kind of response?
How am I, as a Muslim-American, supposed to ease the fears and concerns of many Muslim-Americans who have been the target of intense hate, scrutiny and distrust by some members of our society and, more importantly, by members of government agencies that are supposed to serve and protect all? What does it say about the priorities of the FBI when the answer on the tip of the tongue of its director to the question of what keeps him up at night is a concern that is disproportionate in its magnitude to the actual threat?
I am a bridge-builder and will continue to work to improve the society in which we live. I am not, however, a mouthpiece who will simply parrot what I am told. I will challenge and I will question methods because that is what democracy is all about.
Originally posted by the Journal Gazette on December 25th, 2016
I have read and listened to a lot of discussions about the recent elections and what the winning of Trump signifies/indicates. There are many discussions surrounding the fascistic characteristics of the Trump persona, the rise of the alt-right, white rage.....etc. one major discussion that I feel is missing however is the one with regards to what is being viewed as "elitism" and the movement against it.
There is a strong "anti elitism" sentiment that I believe underlies a lot of what has led to the election of Trump. Elitism here is not being defined in the traditional/classical sense (i.e a group of people with a certain ancestry, certain supposed quality, worth, or wealth) but rather elitism is being used, as far as I can see, to refer to those who have achieved a higher educational level and flex a bit of intellectual prowess.
For example, Obama's a Columbia education and Harvard law degree have become a point against him. His oratory skills and use of big words (like oratory) and the air of sophistication in which he presents himself have all pinned him as an elitist in the eyes' of many people. His education, instead of making him a role model and a success story, has put him far away from regular, everyday folks. (Also being black doesn't help, but that's aside from this particular point)
Contrast that to the Trump image; The oxymoronic Blue Collar Billionaire. He is the epitome of elitism. But his "successful" business ventures and the "bar talk", "shoot from the hip", "speak my mind" style of communication has made him the American ideal of the "average guy"
(Also being white helps tremendously with shaping that image but that's besides this particular point).
You don't hear much discussion about Trump's Ivy League education. That's intentional.
He doesn't weigh in on philosophical/hypothetical/scientific/legal matters. That's also intentional.
Trump has figured out that there is, among many other things, this resentment of educational accomplishments. Too cleaned up of an image to jive with the "pull yourself up from the bootstraps good old American". It doesn't quite mesh with the good old days of being compensated by the amount of elbow grease you put into something. This fluffy education, especially the liberal kind, has lost us our ways. He has figured out this growing public opinion wave of "useless education" that doesn't "put food on your table" that is exacerbated by the rising costs of higher education; the perceived schism that is developing between classroom and application (meaning, no straight one-to-one correlation between subject A and job skill B; the "I never used calculus ever again so I don't need to learn it in the first place" mentality) and coupled with an air of superiority that comes from some of those who achieved a little bit of a higher level of education. You know, the ones that laugh at the "simple folks and their simple ways" the "uncultured" and "backwards" amongst us.
Trump is capitalizing on a sentiment that needs to be addressed at the very roots of our society. We need to have conversations about how we all play a role in our society. That each one of us is an essential piece of the puzzle. That education is not a means for getting a job but rather an enlightenment that helps you become a better you. Education is not a step in the societal ladder but a building block in the societal structure. Market dynamics should not be the main or only factor in your educational decision making. Educational cost should not be an impediment. If we don't break this cycle then unfortunately I don't think we will ever bridge this ever growing divide.
We need to talk about the role of education in our lives.
What are your thoughts?
Dear Congressman Jim Banks,
Congratulations on your well deserved election to congress. I want you to know that I voted for you. That I looked at who you are and who you are trying to become and voted for you. That I believed the conversations we had, while you were campaigning, when you said that we are all Hoosier and that you will represent us all the same regardless of what faith we ascribe to or where we hail from.
In your victory announcement you said that your campaign "have focused on a positive, solution-oriented agenda to address the challenges our country faces" and Now that you are elected I ask you, will you address my challenges?
Will you help my wife feel safe again? Heather, whom you've met, was born and raised here. Yet for the very first time in her life she feels unsafe in her own country. Will you consider her challenge and the challenge of many women and men who bravely and proudly show a faith that is different than the professed faith of our president?
Will you address her challenge in Trump's America?
What about my daughter and two sons, who are of the same age as your two daughters, will you address the challenges to their childhood? What about the children of my Black, Sudanese, Chadian, Mexican, Bosnian, Burmese and Arab friends? Will you uphold the trust their parents put in you by voting for you? Will you address their challenge in Trump's America?
What about me? A person you shook hands with, looked straight in the eye and promised a change. Will you address my challenge when I come back from visiting my family in the Middle East in January? What if I tell you that on the same trip I plan on going to Mecca to perform a mini pilgrimage, will you address my challenge at the borders in Trump's America?
Will you address my challenge and the challenge of many immigrants who chose to make America home, who toil day in and day out to keep it great, who appreciate, respect and uphold the values that make it the sanctuary they chose, will you address our challenges in Trump's America?
I ask because I put my trust in you by giving you my vote. I ask because I need to know that the person I chose to represent me will address my challenges with the same commitment and fervor he/she would give to any other challenge.
I will pray for your success as you face the many challenges ahead.
An immigrant, Muslim, American husband and father in Trump's America
Palestinian, Muslim, American, Husband, Father, Academic, Pharmacist, Coffee Addict, Nutella phene, Pseudo writer, Soccer player, former Canadian, Community servant, Pinch hitter imam, interfaith ninja, Intellectual vigilante, and the undisputed KING of snark