City of Brass

Ramadan has begun! We know, because of the sightings of statements by politicians in social media. Let’s review, and grade:

President Obama:

Note, this is a twitter link to the Full statement at It’s an eloquent and respectful statement, and includes a clear shot at Trump. However, while I am sure that the allusion to refugees is sincere, it is burdened with the weight of Obama’s foreign policy, which is forever tainted by the drone war in Pakistan & Afghanistan, failure to close Gitmo, the support of the Yemen offensive, and a general failure of opportunity with regards to the Arab Spring (see: everything written by Shadi Hamid). The shot at Trump is red meat for Muslims, which shouldn’t distract us (as red meat is meant to do) from a critical stance. Grade: B.

Hillary Clinton:

Hillary’s tweet is fairly innocuous and reasonable. I appreciate that she wrote the tweet herself. Like Obama’s tweet back in 2013 it doesn’t really say much beyond the bland appeal to family and happy thoughts, but that’s a constraint imposed by Twitter. For anyone like myself who remembers Hillary’s position on the Dubai Ports World imbroglio (versus President Carter), it is hard to view Hillary’s outreach to Muslims with a non-cynical eye. Hilariously, the tweet was dissected by Islamophobes as implying that Hillary may have converted to Islam, because of the use of “We”. For the benefit of those on the right with Sharia-paranoia and who lack an understanding of grammar, let’s point out that Ramadan is an event in time, therefore all human beings regardless of religion are literally in Ramadan, right now. There are no exceptions, unless you have a TARDIS. Grade: B.

Since it clearly needs to be said explicitly, No, Hillary Clinton is not a Muslim. Donald Trump, however…

Bernie Sanders:

Bernie didn’t have anything Ramadan-specific, but instead posted this video about ending religious bigotry and making a call for “living a moral life” where ideals of justice should (ahem) trump those of capitalism and greed. It’s a great video and message. Not exactly a Ramadan message per se, but the timing clearly meant it to be Ramadan-related. Bernie has been doing well organically with Muslims, so he doesn’t need to pander. His video is making a broader outreach to people of faith as a whole, and in that regard I like the way he didn’t focus it solely on Muslims but targeted it to all faith communities. Grade: A.

Donald Trump:

He hasn’t said anything about Ramadan, but did spare a moment to tweet something nice about Muhammad Ali. And you know what? I think it’s probably the most sincere thing he’s tweeted yet (Bernie disagrees). Trump and Ali had a generally positive history. Whether Trump understands that Ali was Muslim or not is irrelevant; the fact that Ali had a strong opinion on Trump’s Muslim ban is also irrelevant. For Trump, saying something nice takes serious effort, and there’s literally zero political constituency that Trump could possibly be pandering to by saying it. Grade: A.

It’s a sign of our political relevance that Ramadan does elicit a response by politicians, even if indirect. However, the passing of Muhammad Ali gives context to this political outreach. Ali was determined to not be the “white man’s negro” and he was fearless in refusing to play that game – for example, with regards to serving in Vietnam. By refusing to fight, he epitomized jihad. We must take inspiration from Ali and resolve not to be the “imperialist’s Muslim.” Let this Ramadan, embedded in the politics of the day, refresh our resolve to put our Deen first and Dunya second, inshallah!

Ramadan mubarak to all!