Explaining undercurrents of bigotry at Texas Muslim Capitol Day

Every two years when Texas legislature is in session, CAIR Texas organizes Texas Muslim Capitol Day. Muslims primarily from Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston travel to Austin to meet with their state representatives and push for legislation in a co-ordinated matter.

This years legislation:

I. Support The Dream Act
II. Support Safe Texans (legislation that would require body cameras on cops)
III. Push back against “Anti-Foreign Law” bill that is meant to target Muslims for Sharia Law (and would affect other religious minorities). Sharia Law is a set of rules that dictates what Muslims can eat, how they get married, how inheritance is set up, etc. Remember the original puritans came here for freedom of religion, so this legislation is unAmerican & unconstitutional.
IV. Support a piece of legislation that says the government cannot interpret religious texts.

Anyways, this is all important stuff for Texas Muslims to be at the table for. The folks behind CAIR Texas obviously worked hard to coordinate the meetings, media, speakers, and 600 participants. The speakers came from across Texas, varied in faith and age level, and were passionate speakers that spoke positively in front of a large crowd of young kids.

With that established, there were a few things I noticed that were, what I call, “undercurrents of bigotry”.

1. A small but intense group of protestors showed up to spew vitriol. I would find out later that one of them actually went up to the podium and interrupted the speakers list to say “Mohammad will not take over Texas”. Most of the chants from this crowd were xenophobic, such as “Muslims go home/We don’t want you here”.

Remember that Islam has been in America almost as long as Christianity. The first Muslims came here through the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Looking at the young kids from Iman Academy, many of them are black. Black Muslims are active leaders in Muslim organizations and participants in the mosques of Texas. To think that Muslims came here from the recent wave of Middle Eastern/North Africa immigration is a form of anti-blackness; it is to deny black history as American history.

2. One of the protestors was a white man carrying an Israeli flag. One of the Muslim participants was a South Asian man wearing a shirt that said “Free Palestine”. Representative Molly White told the media that she is placing an Israeli flag on her desk and asking all Muslim constituents to pledge allegiance to America.

Why is Israel and Palestine, a political issue where indigenous people are being driven off their land and systemically cleansed, coming up at Texas Muslim Capitol Day? Because many people still use the word “conflict” to describe the Israeli-Palestinian “thing” that is going on in “The Middle East”.

Reducing Israel’s occupation of Palestine to a “Jews v Muslims” game, where “Muslims” are the “others” is a dirty narrative, but it’s not an accident. In order to occupy a Palestine, Zionist settlers had to believe they had divine right to marginalize the Palestinians. We’ve heard this story before, in American history, when American settlers thought they had “manifest destiny”. Anyways, this necessitated the intertwining of Zionism with the Jewish identity. Judaism is not Zionism, but Zionism needs Judaism to justify the violence inflicted on Palestinian civilians (This brand-merger, if you will, was made popular after the Holocaust, when Europe decided it would be a good idea to push the Jews out of the continent instead of dealing with its own anti-semitism problem). Palestinians did not experience an equivalent “Muslimizing”. The Palestinians are a religiously diverse people who are indigenous to historic Palestine. You don’t have to create a divine-right ideology to justify the land you are already living on, but you do need to create such a theory to take over someone else’s land and marginalize its people.

If you still need convincing: notice how the Israeli flag has a religious symbol on it while the Palestinian flag does not.

So what is going on here? Why do Muslims around the world mobilize for Palestine if this is a “Zionist state occupying Palestinians” situation?

1. Because it’s a legitimate cause to support
2. The occupation has been going on for decades
3. And also because…the way Israel and Palestine has been framed by the mainstream media is to suggest it’s a Muslims v Jews conflict. It’s been used to fuel Islamophobia, which is what brought protestors out to TMCD

Because Muslims have been othered in America, they are asked to explain Palestine or put in a position to defend Palestinians. Muslims who are not Palestinians (and most Muslims in America are not Palestinian…And a significant portion of Palestinians are Christian..Think about this..) are asked to defend or explain or are grouped in with Palestinians.

This is called homogenization.

This leads Muslims around the world to feel a deep emotional connection to Palestine, to the point where they sometimes feel that they own the cause or can speak on behalf of Palestinians in resolving the “conflict” over there yonder in “The Middle East”. (Read the #MLI conversation going on right now about this very phenomenon. It’s called faithwashing).

Other conflicts affecting Muslims like: Boko Haram terrorizing locals, Syria’s Assad killing at least 200,000 people, ISIS killing and terrorizing Muslims, the violence in South Sudan, the violence against Rohingya in Burma, do not have this kind of hyper-awareness amongst Muslims around the globe. Again, this is due in large part to the length of time Israel has been occupying Palestine, and the screwed up Jews v Muslims mainstream Western interpretation of the occupation.

Now juxtapose this homogenization of Muslims forced into the narrative of Israel & Palestine with the reality today: I met Nigerian, White, Egyptian, Syrian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Black, and Indonesian American Muslims just in my limited interaction with others.

Bottom line: Oppression isn’t linear. The intersection between anti-black racism and Islam manifests when people don’t recognize Islam as an American religion. The intersection of oppression against Muslims and the oppression of the Palestinians shows up with Rep White placing the Israeli flag on her desk and asking Muslim Americans to
confirm they are domestic.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s