GOP Candidates Welcomed by Protesters

On February 25, while GOP candidates prepare for their final debate, protesters from numerous minority activist groups in Houston and surrounding cities united to take a stand against bigotry and racism.

Latino migrants, Muslims, low-wage workers, the LGBT community, and more used this opportunity as their platform to rally local Houstonians and call on Trump and other Republican candidates to stop the division that they are trying to create amongst the community.

Houston, being one of the most diverse cities in the country, proved that hate speech is not welcome. Together, the protesters stood strong calling to action the need to elect a candidate who will be the voice for all and to promote tolerance amongst all minorities.

They marched forward, getting as close as they could to the theatre where the debate was held, chanting, “the people united will never be divided!” With the eyes of the nation upon them, they stood in cohesion yelling loud, “We ain’t goin’ nowhere!”

Executive Order 9066 and Why Muslim-Americans Should Vote

From the comfort of our school desks, we learned about the intensity and crucial historical moments of World War II. However, what was often glossed over in our US History classes was the internment of Japanese- Americans beginning February 19, 1942.

Today marks the 74th anniversary since President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the removal and confinement of all Japanese-Americans forcing some 110,000 families into relocation camps. These “relocation campus” might very well be paralleled to concentration camps, tarnishing the image of the free world and leaving a stain of intolerance and racism. Even those who weren’t necessarily Japanese but of Asian descent faced the same kind of scrutiny based on their appearance.   

It would bring great comfort in knowing such an appalling and trying time in history would never be repeated, but Muslim-Americans face a similar threat if presidential candidate Donald Trump continues with his rhetoric unabated. However, we have the ability to change the political climate by voting and establishing a political presence.

Your vote is your voice. Simple. We are a democracy and we have strength in numbers. This stems from our right to vote and elect a president who will unify the nation and evade any pressure founded on fear to divide the country based on race and religious differences. Confronting the past will honor the present. Let’s make sure this never happens again.

By choosing not to vote you are pledging consent to the current climate against Muslims and other minority groups that Republican candidates have set out to create. Being part of the conversation will help prevent future politicians from targeting any minority that lives in this country because we will no longer be silenced and we will be voting.

March 1 is the Texas primary election day. Follow this link to learn about early voting for the primaries in Texas and be sure to check out a sample ballot if it’s your first time voting!

If you’re in Harris County click here

Islamophobia In Toronto?

Toronto is known to be one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world. Rich with multicultural food and art, this Canadian city also holds the title for having the most tolerant people in North America. Not to mention they take the cake in hosting the largest LGBT festival in the world. Most recently, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau set an example of how world leaders should react to the refugee crisis by exhibiting phenomenal hospitality in welcoming Syrian refugees to Canada. Torontonians hold more university degrees than anyone else, proving the logic that more education leads to more tolerance and acceptance of those from different ethnic backgrounds. With all these accolades, what could ever go wrong in such an amiable city?

Shockingly: Islamophobia. It’s a fear that spreads across countries and communities. No corner remains untouched. There have been a number of hate crimes reported across Canada, with at least six reported anti-Muslim incidents after the Paris attacks in November of 2015.

While in Toronto, I too spent most of my stay admiring such a dynamic city. I was in awe of the community Torontonians had built. However, that changed all too soon.

While walking back from a local grocery store with my two siblings, groceries in hand, a man started walking toward us. He gave my sister a glare in hopes of intimidating her. As soon as he came face to face with my sister he said, “Whatchu got under there?” My sister, not really understanding what he was referring to, kept walking.

My brother however, looked at him and responded, “Don’t worry about it”. But the man persisted: “Yes I am gonna worry about it, you got something’ to say?” and then he began charging towards my brother. My brother, not giving it a second thought, dropped the groceries, put his MMA training to use and kicked him hard right in the gut in an attempt to protect us.

The man jumped back and took a fighting stance. In an attempt to shield my brother from what was to come, I got in between them and implored my brother to just walk away. But I knew, as did my brother, that there was no turning back now. Before the man could get close enough to swing at my brother, security from the nearby stadium came rushing out. One of them held the man back away from us and the other apologetically helped pick up our groceries, while continuously apologizing for the man’s behavior.

We went on our way, in complete silence and utter shock in the events that played out. We never thought we would encounter such treatment in a city as accepting as Toronto. All I could think about was: what would have happened had my brother not stepped in to protect us? Would we have been able to protect ourselves against such aggression and bigotry?

If this experience taught me one thing, it is this: self-defense classes are crucial, now more than ever, especially for Muslim women who are often identifiable targets. You never really know when you might be placed in a situation where you have to protect yourself. And even in places where you might feel safe, Islamophobia will rear its ugly head. There is no shame in empowering each other to learn not to rely on the protection of others. After such an encounter, this has motivated me greatly to take action within my own community and educate those around me of the importance of knowing physically how to counteract such situations.
I have never been the type of person to rely on someone else to defend and protect me in such situations, and I don’t intend on becoming that person now. Teach your sisters, mothers and daughters to be independent and not wait for someone else to step in and come to their aid, there might come a time when no one will be there.

SELF DEFENSE

Islamophobia was once just an academic whisper, but now it’s a topic discussed amongst many progressives and activists alike. Violence is on the rise against Muslims and those mistakenly stereotyped as Muslim. It’s time those of us reacted by learning how to defend ourselves against these violent aggressions.

On December 12, a group of my friends organized an all women’s self-defense class that was held at a local Houston mosque. The mosque took an initiative to host an unconventional event, and in addition, given the current climate for American-Muslims and the violent rhetoric targeting Muslims, a class for women on how to protect themselves from any man or woman who intends to bring them harm is empowering, and necessary.

The class was held by a female instructor, who happens to be non-Muslim, who brought her teenage son, another young male volunteer, and another female volunteer. We had a total of two young men as an option for women who wanted to learn how to defend themselves against a man using the proper techniques.

Everything changed when the female Director of the ISGH masjid walked into the women’s section of the mosque yelling, “What are you doing here, get out!” Through a very unfortunate exchange between her and one of the organizers, the decision was to just move the class to the patio.

Later that evening, the following email was sent out:

“ASAK,

I have been doing Quranic classes for new learners in the mosque Women’s area since Sept. 2015. It was mentioned in the Annual Report and the attendees of the masjid are well aware of it. My time of class is 12.00 p.m. till 1:30 p.m. Today there were a lot of young men and women in the women’s area. I asked them to what was going on, they said they are being taught self -defense. To my dismay, I saw young girls in hijab grabbing boys hands kicking legs up in the air and kicking the boy aiming at his groin area. IT WAS A SHOCKING SIGHT! I informed them to leave at which point a young person started arguing with me and was being disrespectful even calling me a lair.  He kept saying he has permission from the AD to conduct this class with some instructors. I am shocked to say that this activity went on in the patio and was observed by my students, another teacher, and my husband at 12:30 p.m. AD is promoting haram activity right in the prayer hall of the ladies section. He should not have allowed any such activity in Masjid S——__. This is a serious matter and the Shura should ask for his resignation immediately!

-Signed Director of __ ISGH”

Finally, when our mosques make an effort to attract youth and integrate present issues into their programs, those in power discourage these efforts and distract with a debate on whether it is halal or haram. As an American-Muslim, I strongly believe in taking action. I recognize that through education people can grow tolerant and accepting of the different people around them. However, closed minded bigots will always exist; therefore, learning how to protect yourself is a necessary step.

Muslims are so quick to pass judgment on one-another and are always ready to tear each other down. Whether it’s a jab at a Muslim girls’ dress, how she wraps her hijab, or even the glares she receives when walking into the men’s section, there are abundant reasons why we can’t seem to keep our mosques full. We don’t have enough empowering programs, everything is segregated, and God forbid if you even make eye contact with a Muslim brother.

So a friendly message to the current uncles and aunties who seize seats of power, I implore you to see the light and the error of your ways. The cultural idea that the “grown up is always right”, really has no presence at the masjid, and will lead to the further alienation of the Muslim youth. It’s time the youth rally together, harness their inner progressiveness and take over.

 

Disclaimer: There will be another self-defense class, however the location has yet to be determined.