I hope you are praying for our country as we keep ourselves healthy and productive.
The Muslim American community must play an important role in building bridges in our divided country. We have done enough dialogue among like-minded interfaith partners. Now is the time to take our partners with us in engaging with those who do not agree with us. They are our brothers and sisters in humanity. They are our neighbors.
I know it is easier said than done but remember that God Almighty has asked Muslims to work for the common good, even with those enemies who denied Muslims the right to worship (Quran 5:2).
We must strive for the Prophetic mission of justice, fairness, and equity by fully participating in civic discourse with service, good communication, and networking. These are the Prophet Muhammad’s success strategies. May God’s peace and blessings be upon him.
More urgently, we must not think of this terrorist act as an isolated incident. It is part of a dangerous pattern of injustice that is manifested through nationalism, racism, fascism, and authoritarianism. These have led to World Wars, the Holocaust, genocides, and the killing of two million Muslims in the post-9/11 world. In Quranic terms, it is Dhulm (oppression). It is an Islamic duty to fight Dhulm (Quran 4:135). We must individually and collectively devote our time and resources to counter nationalism and racism. Islamic teachings for the universal brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity are important for us to revisit and incorporate in our teachings, khutbas, and family life.
Now some thinking points and talking points about the Capitol Hill terrorist attack last week.
- It’s not over yet. The FBI is warning about something similar recurring in Washington D.C. and in all 50 states in the lead-up to the January 20 inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden.
- Those who organized online included militia members, specifically the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters. They are very anti-Muslim, Islamophobic groups. According to their websites, their members include serving police and military officers, as well as retired officers. They are using last Wednesday’s attack to recruit new members.
- These invaders planned to kill. They erected gallows with a noose at Capitol Hill, but they were unable to capture elected leaders, even though they fought for access to Senators and Congresspersons. A brave police officer, Eugene Goodman, lured them away from the Senate doors. Twitter had to ban the hashtag “hang Mike Pence”.
- Besides the hardcore extreme militias, the invaders included thousands of Republicans and supporters of QAnon conspiracy theories. It also included some elected leaders, mostly men but some women, mostly white, but some Hindus with Indian flags, as Indian media is reporting.
- Not all 8,000 who terrorized Capitol Hill were the expected white racists and extremists. Case in point: some people of color were there; the Trump supporter who was shot dead by police as she was breaking the last door separating the attackers from the Members of Congress was once an Obama voter but later became a believer in QAnon conspiracy theories.
- These invaders included some teachers, as interviewed by the media. Teachers’ presence must not be surprising since according to surveys, 25 percent of Islamophobic attacks on Muslim children in school are by teachers themselves.
- We must learn about the rise of tyranny and fascism. It is no longer something that is the preserve of dictatorships abroad. It has come home. Tyranny and fascism killed tens of millions of people in the 20th century. I purchased 100 copies of this Timothy Snyder and distributed it to friends a few years ago. I recommend you read it as well. It is a guide to surviving and resisting America's turn towards authoritarianism.
The last thing Muslim Americans should do is to remain silent. Silence is not an option. Those militias who attacked Capitol Hill are known to have attacked Masjids as well.
Just like the Nashville Christmas bomber, who no mainstream media has talked about now for the last two weeks, news of this traumatic event will be forgotten soon instead of serving as a wake up call for the country. That is, unless we keep this serious national security threat part of an ongoing national conversation.
- Keep using the term “terrorists” when talking about the attackers of Capitol Hill.
- Raise the question of why the Department of Homeland Security disbanded its team on domestic terrorist threats.
- Call talk shows in your area and if they are not calling the Capitol Hill attack “terrorism”, ask them why. The violence has terrorized the whole nation. The U.S. Secretary of Army Ryan McCarthy is saying that 25 domestic terrorism cases have been opened as a result of it. So the use of the term “domestic terrorism” is acceptable.
- Online comments below a major news item in newspapers have largely replaced the letters to the editor section. Do participate there with your name.
Muslims Highlighting Right-Wing Extremism
- Muslim Network TV interviewed Daryl Johnson a month ago about the threat of right-wing violence in the U.S. Johnson is the former senior analyst for domestic terrorism at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. That was before the department was terminated under pressure from Republicans.
- Raise questions in the media about what President-Elect Joe Biden plans to do about domestic terrorism.
- Justice For All had asked President-Elect Biden, in a December 2, 2020 memo, to give priority to fighting domestic terrorism.
- At this writing, reports have noted that Ali Alexander, whose former name is Ali Akbar, a self-described Christian Arab and Black man is the founder of the "Stop the Steal" campaign and the organizer of the invasion of Capitol Hill. Now, he is raising money through a so-called Christian crowd source website called GiveSendGo. Sign this petition to stop this fundraising.
- While violent extremists are being dropped and banned by Twitter, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, we must open the doors to respectful dialogue with non-extremist supporters of President Donald Trump. Remember that 74 million voters who chose him last November are our neighbors. Their voices must be heard. For the country to come together, difficult dialogue and respectful listening must take place. Some Muslims who engaged a few Tea Party groups were successful in defusing their Islamophobia.
- Whenever the nationalism genie has come out of the bottle it takes a long time to put it back. Therefore, it is important to focus on our nation’s education system. Our schools and teachers must raise a generation who are better neighbors and better citizens.
- Ask your local law enforcement about what their security plans are to protect government buildings on January 20. Remember that the 1995 Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was a right-wing extremist who injured 759 people and killed 168, including children.
- Ensure that your Masjid, community, and neighborhood remain safe. Check with local police about beefing up security over the next few weeks.
- Muslim organizations and Masjids who regularly issue statements criticizing terrorism should continue that practice. Most failed to condemn the Christmas Day Nashville terrorist attack, as well as the terrorism on Capitol Hill. There is still time to be on the record. Whether criminals are Muslim or White, they are hurting humanity and we have a responsibility to condemn and speak out against it.
- Avoid generalizations. Not all Trump supporters are violent; not all Whites voted for him; not all of his voters approve of terrorizing Congress. A number of Black Americans and as many as 30 percent of Muslim Americans voted for President Trump.
- If you are active politically, you must ensure that both parties call out right-wing extremism and rhetoric within and outside their ranks.