By Nick Gier
Last December President Obama praised sports heroes who are Muslims. A clueless Donald Trump tweeted: “What sport is he talking about, and who?” Trump must have forgotten about his friend Muhammad Ali, whom Trump once called a “terrific guy” and an “amazing poet.” Ali was also a Sufi Muslim, the most peaceful of all Islamic sects.
In addition to Ali, there are of course boxers such Mike Tyson, Bernard Hopkins, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Matthew Saad Muhammad, Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Hasim Rahman. Each of these fighters were either light heavy weight or heavy weight champions.
Three of the top ten scorers in NBA history are Muslims: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon. Other NBA Muslim stars are Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Hassan Adams, Larry Johnson, Nazr Mohammed and Rasheed Wallace.
Muslims in the NFL are Muhammad Wilkerson, Aqib Talib, Hamza Abdullah, Husain Abdullah, Oday Aboushi, Az-Zahir Hakim, Ryan Harris, Abdul Hodge, Ahmad Rashad, Ephraim Salaam and Usama Young.
Once again Trump has put his small foot in his big mouth.
Much more so than their European counterparts, American Muslims have assimilated and have risen to the top of major professions. There are over 180 prominent American Muslims in politics, military, business, art, comedy, film, music, TV, modeling, scholarship, science and journalism. Sayed Raheel Farook, the brother of the San Bernardino shooter, is a decorated Navy veteran.
At WSU and the UI there are dozens of Muslim scholars and scientists who have become outstanding members of our community. Shaikh “Ghazi” Ghazanfar had a distinguished career in the UI economics department, and he won many awards both on campus and in the city. Assimilation par excellence!
In his incendiary speech after the Orlando massacre, Trump reiterated his plan to ban all Muslim immigration and added that American mosques should be “respectfully” surveilled. When Ali criticized presidential candidates “who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda,” Trump, incredibly enough, responded that Ali was not talking about him.
Trump also claimed that the Muslim community does not report extremists in their midst. But terrorism expert Charles Kurzman responds: “To claim there is no cooperation is false and defamatory to the Muslim-American community.” The FBI states that it has a “productive relationship” with the Muslim community and 20 percent of its tips come from its members.
Several examples are instructive. The mother of 17-year-old Ali Amin, on the advice of her imam, turned in her own son, who is now serving 11 years for supporting ISIS. In 2014 a woman in Minneapolis showed police messages from her brother Abdi Nur. He has been charged with providing material support for ISIS, but he has avoided arrest.
Also in 2014, Adam Shafi’s father reported to officials that he thought that his son had been radicalized. The son was later arrested while boarding a plane to Turkey. He was charged with supporting al-Nusra, a Syrian group allied with al-Qaeda.
Not all of this cooperation has been reciprocated. Although police departments generally assure their Muslim communities that their officers will be profiling behavior not Muslims per se, one imam reported that, after attending a police meeting, he was later held and interrogated a local airport.
Muslims in New York City are still smarting from a 10-year surveillance program that targeted Muslims and their mosques in the way that Trump now suggests. Two suits were filed against the city and settlements are now in place.
Hina Shamsi, the director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, declared: “For the first time, this watershed settlement puts much needed constraints on law enforcement’s discriminatory and unjustified surveillance of Muslims.”
The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations prefers to police its own. A spokesman explained: “We train our people to be very capable of identifying antisocial behavior and signs of radicalization. We have put into place a team of professionals to help people face that.”
The imam of Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was a Pakistani born family physician whose sermons are devoid of any signs of jihadism, so people are convinced that Mateen was radicalized on the Internet. One of his last Facebook posts was: “You kill innocent women and children by doing airstrikes. Now taste the Islamic State’s vengeance.”
Trump threatens to kill the families of terrorists and Ted Cruz wants to carpet bomb Syrian and Iraqi cities. Common sense dictates that this will further radicalize disaffected youth in America and Europe.
Nick Gier of Moscow taught philosophy and religion at the University of Idaho for 31 years. Read his columns on the 2016 election at www.NickGier.com/Election2016.pdf.
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