City of Brass


In 2002, the Bush Administration created a Muslim Registration Database, called NSEERS. It was finally dismantled in 2011 by President Obama and had a perfect score of 0 terrorists caught out of 100,000 registered.

The architect of NSEERS, Kris Koback, was just named to Donald Trump’s Presidential transition team, alongside Islamophobia Industry scion Frank Gaffney (maybe).

Trump spokespeople openly cite the Japanese Internment as precedent for registering Muslims. And our mainstream media helpfully points out that a Muslim Registry wouldn’t even be unconstitutional.

All of which is fine, just fine. Let the Registry come. But I will not register. Whatever the consequence of not registering may be, I will not register.

Perhaps other Muslims may choose to register. I’ll even publish their argument here if they desire. But I will not register.

Some Jewish Americans have stated – with indescribable courage – that if the Muslim Registry happens, they too will register. I do not have enough words to express my gratitude and my awe. Muslims and Jews in America are uniting as I’ve long argued we must, well before Trump. But I ask them to reconsider, because I certainly wouldn’t want them to risk their own civil liberties on my behalf. I will not register. I would prefer that no one register. We need Jewish support for when we refuse to register first; if that civil disobedience fails, then we will need their solidarity, but let’s aim to misbehave first. #DoNotRegister.

“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.” — Captain Mal

Reading this op-ed on the caste system in India made me immensely sad, especially this honest and sincere but still utterly nonsensical defense by an educated, modern, upper class Brahmin:

For the last two years, I have been speaking with a Brahmin from Bengal, a philosopher and a teacher of ancient logic, a man conversant with both Eastern and Western intellectual traditions. I admire him in many ways — his immense learning, his defense of tradition in the face of Western influence — but when I questioned him about the prohibitions of caste he gave me an answer that turned my stomach.

“If a person is suffering from a communicable disease, you would not let him touch your utensils,” he said. “You have this one idea of contamination, but you refuse to accept that there might be certain spiritual conditions …” His voice trailed off. He seemed to know that he had lost me. As if wanting to clear the air, he said: “You have to understand that modern European culture is based on the idea that all men are born equal, and later become differentiated. The Indian idea is different. We believe that men are born unequal, but we are all — Brahmin, sage, cobbler, outcaste — heading toward the same destiny.”

It was a valiant attempt at a defense, but in the end absurd. It would mean that millions of lower-caste Indians, like Rohith Vemula, had to forfeit the aspirations of this life in exchange for the promise of some ultimate destiny, many lifetimes away, in which all differences would be obliterated.

For the record, the man’s summary of what western culture is based on is as propagandic as his own defense of caste. I think all societies are based on one kind of inequality or another. In the West, the explicit equality for “all men.. created equal” hinged on the definition of “men” which both implicitly and explicitly excluded some men, and all women.

Caste is India’s original sin, like slavery is America’s, occupation is Israel’s, Communism is China’s, etc. A nation can overcome its sin on paper – usually legally – but at a social level, the repercussions continue to reverberate down through its life.

There’s no salvation for a nation in the divine, or forgiveness, either.

myself in attendance, one mourner among many, at Ashara Mubaraka 1438

The year 1438 is upon us, and I am in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to attend the annual Ashara Mubaraka sermons of his Holiness, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS, commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Husain at Karbala.

We mourn Imam Husain’s AS sacrifice on behalf of Islam, not as Shi’a, but as Muslims. Husain AS made an unthinkable sacrifice to defy the defilement of Islam by the tyrant Yazid LA, whose depraved reign as Caliph would have destroyed Islam from within. The grief we express during Ashara is not just out of our mohabbat (love) for the Prophet and his Ahlul Bayt (household), but also for the necessity of his sacrifice.

“I learned from Hussain how to be wronged and be a winner, I learnt from Hussain how to attain victory while being oppressed.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Ashara is not just for Shia or just for Muslims. Like all fulcrum points in history, Ashara belongs to all of mankind. The incomprehensible contrast of divine guidance versus human fallibility, of mankind’s inherent nobility versus mankind’s learned cruelty, comes alive in the story of Karbala with a universal relevance. Ashara transcends time and space, such that wherever a people strive against tyranny, whenever a hero sacrifices himself and all he/she holds precious for the sake of something greater than himself/herself, that place is Karbala and that day is Ashura.

“The principles of Hussains’ revolution became an approach to every rebel who want to take his rights from his oppressors.” — Victor Hugo

Mourning is amplified when mourners assemble. In every jamaat (congregation) around the world, mourners gather to remember Husain AS. Individually, we are like fragments of a stone inscription, shattered by the cynicism, temptations, and distractions of the material plane. Gathering together in remembrance of Husain AS reunites us, nourishes and heals our faith, and allows the message of Islam that was defended at Karbala to be read once more upon our souls. The act of gathering together bears living witness to the ultimate victory of Husain AS, who died for Islam in the most literal sense. We, his mumineen (faithful), will not allow his sacrifice to be in vain.

“If Husain had fought to quench his worldly desires…then I do not understand why his sister, wife, and children accompanied him. It stands to reason therefore, that he sacrificed purely for Islam.” — Charles Dickens

We mourn because we love. The stronger the love, the greater the mourning; the indifferent do not mourn. Love is the basis of our humanity; the very word insaan (human) is the root of the word anasat (intimacy) in Arabic. When anasat is betrayed, the human soul never fully recovers. The truer the love, the deeper the wound. Imagine, then, the wound upon insaniat (humanity) itself, when the truest love of all, that of the divine, was betrayed at Karbala? The violent irony of humanity’s own capacity for inhumanity is truly heart-breaking.

Related: My last visit to East Africa was also for Ashara, in Mombasa in 2008. Also, see for a comprehensive overview of the Ashara Mubaraka event. Elsewhere, Aamer Jamali draws an analogy between the Holocaust and Karbala for emotional significance. Finally, a deeply personal reflection on Ashara’s symbolism by Durriya Badani.


I saw the tragedy in Nice yesterday and like everyone else with a conscience, I despaired. My prayers are humble but I offered them regardless for the victims and their families, and the people of France. I hope that the investigation concludes with real answers as to why the driver of the lorry acted and provides a path forward to prevent such a horrific tragedy again. This was France’s Oklahoma City.

Newt Gingrich saw the tragedy in France and thought to himself, how can I leverage this tragedy for my own ambitions? The result was an impromptu audition for Donald Trump’s VP on Fox News, where he called for “deporting” Muslims who believe in Shari’a:

“You have to monitor the mosques,” Gingrich said Thursday evening on Fox News’s “Hannity.” “Where do you think the primary source of recruitment is? We should … test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Shariah, they should be deported… Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization. Modern Muslims who have given up Sharia — glad to have them as citizens. Perfectly happy to have them next door.”

Since he is a valid contender for the office of the Vice President of the United States, we are obligated to respond to him rather than dismiss him as the unprincipled opportunist that even his political allies know him to be. So, a few thoughts.

1. Which Shari’a?

Gingrich’s knowledge about Shari’a likely comes from Fox News. If we are going to establish a test, then we need to define what Shari’a means in context. If we are talking about the actual Shari’a that Muslims follow, it has 4 sources, in the following rank of priority: The Qur’an, The actions and words of the Prophet Mohammed SAW (The Sunnah), consensus from the community of scholars, and legal reasoning. At every stage of this chain of authority, there are different interpretations, compilations, schools of jurisprudence, and analyses. The result is not a linear, black and white ideology as some fringe Muslim sects insist, but a diverse tapestry of thought and practice, that spans the globe and time and race and culture.

When you ask a Muslim if they believe in Shari’a, they will probably answer yes, not because they support ISIS but because they are part of that global tapestry and they have their own unique position within it. The only answer is yes.

2. The First Amendment

It is painful to admit that a potential candidate for the Vice President of the United States needs schooling on this, but here is the full text of the First Amendment, which is part of the Bill of Rights ratified as Amendments to the Constitution of the United States on December 15th, 1791.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

3. Which Muslims?

Gingrich did not specify which Muslims he would subject to his test. Donald Trump’s infamous Muslim Ban only applied to Muslim non-citizens, either seeking immigration status or already here. But taking Gingrich at his word, given his reputation as the thinker and intellectual he is, suggests no such distinction. Without clarification from him, we must assume given the context of his remarks about “incompatibility” that he means all Muslims, regardless of citizenship status.

4. The Fourteenth Amendment

The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified after the US Civil War, on July 9, 1868. The relevant part of the Amendment is the Due Process clause, which reads as follows:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Note that “any person within its jurisdiction” applies to citizens and non-citizens alike.

5. Which mosques?

Gingrich blithely states that mosques are the centers of radicalization, but the truth is that Muslims are radicalized online, not in mosques. Muslims with access to mosques are exposed to the full scope of the tapestry of Shari’a and traditional teachings by trained imams and scholars, which overwhelmingly condemn terrorism and violence. Further, Muslim American communities in the United States are cohesive and a bulwark against radicalization – in fact, Muslims themselves have a long history, gratefully acknowledged by the FBI, of assisting authorities and informing on radicals to prevent terror attacks. Contra Gingrich’s assertion, having a mosque next door full of Muslims who will say they believe in Shari’a, is a good thing for preventing terror.

6. Which Western civilization?

ISIS and other radical Muslim groups are not acting randomly. They are acting deliberately. To paraphrase Marco Rubio, let’s dispel once and for all with the fiction that ISIS doesn’t know what they are doing, they knows exactly what they are doing. ISIS is undertaking a systematic effort to change this civilization, to make the West more like the rest of the world… it is a systematic effort to change the West – by eliminating the Gray Zone.

Fools like Gingrich play right into ISIS’ hands. Comments like his are the true “fifth column” in our midst.

7. Muslim Go.

To Newt Gingrich, this is all an augmented reality video game, like Pokémon Go. Gingrich thinks he can just run around and capture all the Muslims in his Poke-ball. It won’t be as easy as all that. The United States fought a war of Independence and a Civil War for the Amendments that he so casually tramples on – he devalues an immeasurable sacrifice paid in blood by true American patriots for these rights.

I stated it in the title of this essay and I conclude with it here. Mr. Gingrich, I believe in Shari’a. Come at me, then, and make your attempt to deport me or do unto me as you will. My ally is the Constitution and the American People. Yours is Donald Trump and a legion of red hat-wearing racists and xenophobes. Even if you prevail over me, you won’t prevail over America or the West, because you don’t understand what America is, or what the West really is. For all your erudition and intelligence, you don’t understand what the Founders or the North or the Allied Powers were really fighting for. And that is why you will lose. I’m honored to be your target. Let’s play Muslim Go, Mr. Speaker. Your turn.


Well, Mr. Gingrich, looks like your hail-Mary gambit backfired: