City of Brass

In just the past few weeks – the Laquan McDonald video in Chicago. The Jamar Clark shooting in Minneapolis. The attack on Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. The Paris attacks. and now, the San Bernadino massacre.

One thing that the #BlackLivesMatter movement teaches us is that the police are rarely held accountable. The firing of the police superintendent by Mayor Emanuel is the exception that proves the rule. But the root problem here is that racial profiling is persecution. Racist attitudes are empowered by guns and authority, and profiling becomes an expression of racism rather than an instrument of justice.

The Paris attacks fuel domestic Islamophobia, because it feeds a narrative of Muslims as a global single-minded horde of killer robots, never mind that Muslim Americans have been indispensable allies in the fight against terror.

The differing reaction between the Planned Parenthood shooting and San Bernadino – in fact, the initial reaction to San Bernadino alone, before and after it was known the perpetrators had Muslim names (see images above of the NY Post cover switcheroo) – illustrate the way in which compartmentalizing events into “terrorism” or “mass shootings” harms any effective policy response, or even a well-informed debate, about the role guns have in our society. Tragedies get labeled and sorted, and then dismissed from our attention by the next one, making it impossible to see the broader pattern. That blindness is willfully encouraged by special interest groups like the NRA and the $50m/year Islamophobia industry.

In a way, San Bernadino is the closest we have yet come to having the debate about gun control and liberty within a broader context of not just gun violence but also domestic terrorism. I tried to start that debate earlier, by asking (rhetorically) why gun owners don’t condemn as Muslims are asked to. But a more effective linkage was ironically made by Republican state Representative Tony Dale, who argued against admitting Syrian refugees to Texas because it’s too easy to get guns there.

Islamophobia is real, and if left unchecked will erode everyone’s rights, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, in ways far more insidious than mere gun control laws. If anything scares me‬, it’s how I was numb to the news while I thought San Bernadino was “just” an aggrieved white male. Only after it turned out that the shooter had a Muslimy name, did that numbness transmogrify into concern. The issue is not binary. gun control vs terrorism? I reject that false dichotomy. Even if the shooters are Muslim, the argument about guns in society and liberty applies. Its a debate we are told by the right that we cant even have. But I will not be silenced with the Muslim card.

There’s a great article in Slate that asks what price should we pay for liberty – and quotes Justice John Paul Stevens’ dissent to the Supreme Court decision in 2010:

In evaluating an asserted right to be free from particular gun-control regulations, liberty is on both sides of the equation. Guns may be useful for self-defense, as well as for hunting and sport, but they also have a unique potential to facilitate death and destruction and thereby to destabilize ordered liberty. Your interest in keeping and bearing a certain firearm may diminish my interest in being and feeling safe from armed violence.

In this, guns are identical to Islamophobia and racial profiling – they make the wielder feel more safe, but at the expense of our society’s liberty. And we know what Benjamin Franklin said about safety and liberty. Clearly, as a society that has failed Jamar Clark and Laquan McDonald, we seem to deserve neither.



This is a guest post by Yusuf Zakir.

My religion–Islam–is discussed and portrayed in the media quite a lot these days, much to my chagrin. The American public is, generally, fearful of Muslims. Anti-Islamic sentiment is at an all-time high (I refuse, by the way, to use the word “Islamophobia” because you should not be entitled to justify your prejudice by saying that you have a fear of the object of your prejudice).

The media portrayal of my religion can be disheartening, at the very least. But, I take great comfort in the fact that the Islam portrayed in the media is not the Islam that I know. The Islam that I know is very different.

I am a member of the Dawoodi Bohra community, a subset of Shia Islam. Our community adheres to our religious head and spiritual and temporal leader, Dr. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin (TUS), the 53rd Dai-al-Mutlaq. A central component of the Dawoodi Bohra faith is love (mohabbat). His Holiness teaches us: “there is no faith without love, there is no faith without love, there is no faith without love.”

This is not a complicated message, but in his sermons, His Holiness repeats it thrice. Why? Because it is absolutely critical to our faith. Love is, in fact, the key. Love is what binds us. Love for our family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and even strangers–it is, in essence, a form of worship.

In our complex and frightening world, this is easy to forget. But, if we take a step back, and consider the message, it is actually very plain and very human. Without love, we have nothing. But, with love, we have everything. It’s as simple as that.

When Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin arrived in America for his historic first visit as Dai-al-Mutlaq, his message resonated with love. “This is your outpouring of love [mohabbat] that my father taught you,” he said, “and you see my love for you.” His father, the 52nd Dai-al-Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (RA), traveled to the United States a number of times. He, too, delivered that very same message of love.

This October, His Holiness returns to America (Houston, specifically) to lead our community’s most important event: Ashara Mubarakah. Ashara Mubarakah is a ten-day commemoration of the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammed’s (SAW) grandson, Imam Hussain (AS), along with 72 of his family and companions. This is only the second time in our community’s history that Ashara Mubarakah is being hosted by the Dai-al-Mutlaq in America. Ashara Mubarakah is, in one way, a celebration of love–the love that Imam Hussain (AS) felt for all of us. A love so great that he submitted to the will of God and gave his life for us; a love so profound that his last gesture before his departure was to pray for us.

I will be one of the thousands fortunate enough to attend the sermons in Houston, and as I do, I will take great comfort in knowing the reality of my faith: one that is filled with, and focused on, love.

Yusuf Zakir is a global recruiting manager with an emphasis on diversity outreach at a global law firm in Orange County, CA. He is a former attorney, practicing as a securities litigator and as a judicial law clerk for a federal district judge.



This weekend, there is a planned, armed protest “in every country, at every mosque” by a group called the “Global Rally for Humanity”. So far, the protests are falling short of global, but they do have 21 mosques, community centers and government offices nationwide targeted for the protests, including the famous Mufreesboro mosque in Tennessee. Here’s their snazzy scarevideo that asks “what dose (sic) the Qur’an say about you and your family if you are not Muslim?”

Their facebook page warns that “Humanity is attacked daily by radical Islam” and calls on all self-styled patriots to organize local protests – and there’s the usual overlap with gun ownership radicals, too – the Arizona protest organizer says attendees should “”be vigilant to exercise ALL of your Constitutional rights!” (I’m guessing he doesn’t mean the First Amendment) and the Dearborn protest is being billed as an “OPEN CARRY anti-mosque pro-AMERICA rally”.

CAIR’s press release urges all mosques to take extra security precautions this weekend and provides more detail:

“Organizers of the hate rallies have indicated that participants in states with open carry laws may be armed and that provocations such as the use of live pigs and Quran desecrations may occur.

“The anti-Islam rallies come at a time of increased hate-motivated crimes and bias incidents nationwide targeting persons and property associated, or perceived to be associated, with Islam and the American Muslim community.

“Many of these planned rallies may not take place, or they may consist of only a handful of people shouting slurs at worshipers. But given the recent endorsement of Islamophobia by national public figures, it would only be prudent for mosque and community leaders to prepare for any eventuality.”

(note, CAIR also has a mosque security and safety guide that all mosque administrators should read)

The threat is real enough that the Department of Homeland Security is scheduling a conference call today to discuss security measures and precautions, via their Community Engagement team:

From: Community Engagement [mailto:xxx-xxx-xxx-xxx@HQ.DHS.GOV]
Sent: Monday, October 05, 2015 9:17 AM
Subject: Incident Community Coordination Team (ICCT) Call Regarding (Planned Protest Outside Mosques on October 9 and 10)

Dear Community Partners,

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (DHS CRCL) is activating an Incident Community Coordination Team (ICCT) call to discuss protests apparently planned to take place in front of mosques in 20 cities across the country on October 9 and 10. Please join us for the conference call on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 at 3:00 PM EDT (12:00 PM PDT).

Senior leadership from DHS and other federal agencies will join us for the call, including from the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and other interagency partners.

CRCL has already heard from many of you who have expressed concerns and requested information and points of contact as a result of this issue. The Department of Homeland Security has resources available that communities may leverage for their safety and security. We would like to emphasize that if members of your community have been or may be the targets of possible hate crimes or other forms of violence, it is imperative that you contact your local law enforcement officials right away.

(I’m not sharing the details of how to join in for what I hope are obvious reasons). I am grateful to DHS for taking the threat of rightwing terrorism seriously enough to be proactive in this regard.



Ever since 9-11, and well before it, this is the litany of accusation that ordinary Muslim Americans have had to endure:

  • Muslims do not condemn – there is no million Muslim march against terrorism.
  • Islam is an inherently violent religion.
  • There are no moderate Muslims – only potential terrorists.
  • The Qur’an promotes violence.
  • Muslims need to reform their religion.
  • Your first amendment right of freedom of religion is not absolute.
  • Radical jihadists speak for all Muslims.

The very people who claim to be defenders of liberty are almost eager for an attack on a soft target like a school by Al Qaeda/Itranian/Shabab/ISIS/threat du jour to justify taking away the rights of religious freedom and due process from their fellow citizens. They pose as Islamsplainers, experts on a religion they despise, whose ijtihad is in curious sync with that of radical Islamists, which allows them to dismiss the living Islam of their neighbors.

This is why the gun ownership debate is so ironic. Let’s shift mindsets for a moment. There is a non-negligible overlap between Islamophobic authoritarians and gun ownership radicals: right-wing, conservative Republicans who profess unfettered freedom for themselves – primarily but not exclusively white, male, Christian – and claim victimhood by everyone else who dares assert a desire for those same freedoms.

Certain questions are worth asking:

  • Do responsible gun owners condemn gun violence?
  • Are gun owners inherently violent? Is there such a thing a a moderate gun owner?
  • Are all gun owners potentially mass murderers?
  • Does the NRA’s interpretation of the Second Amendment promote violence?
  • Do we need to reform the Second Amendment?
  • Is the second amendment right to gun ownership an absolute?
  • Do gun ownership radicals speak for all gun owners?

I personally find the parallels to be striking. And I don’t think the answers to all of the above questions is necessarily yes.

Let’s be clear. It is just as unjust to force Muslims to bear responsibility for the actions of murderers who share their religion, as it is for gun activists to bear responsibility for the actions of murderers to share their convictions.

The difference however is that ordinary Muslims have stepped up to the plate. Muslims *do* condemn – loudly, and often. Muslims are indispensable partners in the fight against preventing domestic terrorism. Muslims endure restrictions on their rights of freedom of religion that no other religious community must bear – for example, the Park 51 project in New York is dead. Compromises are made by Muslim communities in every state as they seek to build their own places of worship – usually in response to “concerns about traffic“. Christian and Jewish holidays are recognized by schools without complaint, but when NYC give kids a day off for Eid, or the Empire State Building glows green, it’s seen as “creeping shari’a”.

To date, responsible gun owners have not followed the example set by Muslims. They are silent in the face of mass shootings – and allow gun ownership radicals to speak for them, turning every somber tragedy into another excuse to push the obscene political talking point that “more guns would have prevented the tragedy”. Unlike Muslims, who understand that there is a problem, gun owners pretend there isn’t one – even though 10,000 Americans die every year from gun violence, whereas if you include 9-11, the average is 300. If you treat 9-11 like the obvious outlier it was, then the average deaths from terrorism is actually 30 per year (Keep in mind this definition of “terrorism” is only limited to radical Muslim violence – rightwing supremacist terrorists have killed twice as many people as radical Muslims since 9-11). Unlike Muslims, gun owners do not accept even the slightest infringement of their 2nd Amendment right in principle. Unlike Muslims, gun owners have not played any role in working with law enforcement and local police to prevent gun violence, even with respect to simple common sense policies like closing gun show loopholes.

The bottom line is, more guns equals more deaths.

Gun ownership per capita vs deaths from guns, by country - click to enlarge

Gun ownership per capita vs deaths from guns, by country – click to enlarge

When gun owners begin to take the problem of gun violence as seriously as Muslim Americans do the threat of radical jihadism, then they will literally save thousands of lives.

Muslims are often lectured by Islamophobic authoritarians that the patience of the American people is finite. Just one more large-scale attack by radical jihadis will mean the end of our rights, and persecution of Muslim Americans (even internment) will be justified in the name of safety and self defense. The Constitution is not a suicide pact, we are told. (I happen to agree – but I interpret that phrase in exactly the opposite way). Well, gun owners: if the patience of the American people is indeed finite, surely you are closer to testing its limit than we Muslim Americans. Your fellow believers have inflicted much more death on this nation than ours. I urge you to follow our example in taking the threat seriously rather than crying victim. The real victims are those who were murdered.

So, when presented with the irony above, what’s the solution? One appealing idea – more Muslims need to join the NRA. I am absolutely serious. At the very least, it will make any mob inclined towards violence against us think twice. Islamophobia is not harmless – Bisara village in India is just one example of where we are potentially headed. But it would also be useful in blurring the lines between rigid ideological camps, and make everyone more receptive to pragmatic compromise. As a Muslim liberal, I cannot justify persecution of gun owners rights while asserting my own – and I sincerely believe that if gun owners come to the same conclusion, then we can actually make progress in terms of policy, and ameliorate two problems (Islamophobia and gun violence) at once. Together, we can save lives.

Related resource: The Mass Shooting Tracker, which accurately and reasonably defines a mass shooting as “when four or more people are shot in an event, or related series of events, likely without a cooling off period.” Also, President Obama has had 6 speeches in 6 years about gun violence – he’s right. Enduring this violence is a political choice.

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