2 Ironies of Dr. Carson’s Islamophobia in his Presidential Aspirations

International news has picked up on comments of GOP presidential nomination hopeful Dr. Ben Carson who believes that America shouldn’t have a Muslim president.  Let’s say a Muslim was going to run in any party or as an independent for American presidency.  I find Dr. Carson’s comments ironic for the following reasons:

  1. There are Americans who were against Barack Obama becoming president because of him being black.  There are still Americans against him simply because he’s black, and the reality is that there are Americans who will not vote for Dr. Carson because he’s black.  That he thinks that a Muslim is not American enough to become president differs little from white supremacists who think black folks don’t epitomize what it takes to have a real American president.
  2. Given that 20% to 30% of enslaved Africans brought to America were Muslims, there’s a good chance that at least one of Dr. Carson’s ancestors was a Muslim. It’s as if Carson loves the fruit of America while hating the tree that gave birth to the fruit.

I’ll gladly debate Dr. Carson on his views about a Muslim not being fit to be president, from one black Detroiter to another.  I’ll even break my own rule and go on a FOX National talk show to do so.

Islamophobia in Sterling Heights demands condemnation and discussion


By Dawud Walid | Thursday, 09.17.2015, 01:10 PM

The evening of September 10th in Sterling Heights, Michigan reflects the complex convergence of trauma and bigotry that affects Chaldean and Muslim communities in Southeast Michigan.
The American Islamic Community Center (AICC), which currently resides in Madison Heights, purchased property in neighboring Sterling Heights to relocate its small center to build a larger community center to meet the needs of the Muslim community.  Once AICC’s request for a special land use permit was made known to Sterling Heights’ residents, a sea of opposition came out against it in 5 separate city council and planning commission meetings. There was also a separate protest against the proposed community center to boot including the mayor voicing opposition.
On the eve of the anniversary of 9/11, the planning commission unanimously voted against the proposed Islamic center. After the hearing, Muslim community members including myself were faced with jeers, profanity and physical intimidation. One Muslim woman was even spitted upon in her face by a resident who celebrated the decision.
Oppositions to Islamic centers and schools are nothing new to American Muslims in post-9/11 America. People with bigoted agendas have protested special land use permits and zoning accommodations for Muslims from Pittsfield Township, Michigan to Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
What makes Sterling Heights different from others was the vast majority of protestors coming from the Chaldean community, Christians who originate from Iraq.
The protests in Sterling Heights were not really about the proposed height of the Islamic center and traffic concerns as some claim. There are churches off of primary roads in the city that are equivalent heights, and a traffic study by AICC reflects that no adverse impact would take place if the center was built at the proposed location.
The opposition clearly desired that the area, which is majority Chaldean, continues to remain so and that an Islamic center is not welcomed there.
The largest concentration of Chaldeans in the world resides in Metro Detroit. There are literally more Chaldeans in Sterling Heights than in Baghdad. Due to the chaos which engulfed Iraq as a result of the misguided American invasion of Iraq in 2003, Chaldeans were displaced like other Iraqis. The difference between them and Iraqi Muslims, however, is that as Muslims continue to live in Iraq, though circumstances are tough, Christians have almost disappeared.
Michigan Muslims most certainly sympathize with the plight of Chaldeans as well as Assyrians in Iraq and the reasons why large numbers of them were forced to resettle in Michigan. It is easy to understand that Christian Iraqis who were displaced from are traumatized.
Michigan, however, is not Iraq.
Michigan Muslims were not part of the al-Qaeda and Daesh criminals that destroyed churches, killed clergy and displaced Christians from their land in Iraq. The countertransference of Christian suffering in Iraq onto Sterling Heights Muslims is misguided to say the least.
The recent drama in Sterling Heights is not the first time that Michigan Muslims have received misguided opposition from a section of the Chaldean community.
Beginning in 2011, members of the Chaldean community were the primary opposition to the American Muslim Diversity Association (AMDA) Islamic center project in Sterling Heights. In the same year, members of the Chaldean community joined a group from the ultra-conservative Jewish community in opposition to the Islamic Cultural Association (ICA) establishing a community center in Farmington Hills. During the same timeframe, the Walled Lake based Aramaic Broadcasting Network (ABN) hosted Islamophobes from Acts 17 who came to Dearborn to disrupt the now defunct Arab International Festival.
It is incumbent upon leaders within the Chaldean community to firmly denounce the Islamophobic elements which exist among them including from some who purport to represent Christianity. As we know that it takes time for a people to heal from collective trauma, the leadership of that community has to set the tone for healing and reconciliation. Being quite about or brushing aside the issue of anti-Muslim intolerance among some Michigan Chaldeans is no solution; it is in fact irresponsible.
Hopefully the recent events in Sterling Heights will spark awareness among Chaldean and Muslim leaders in Metro Detroit that the two communities must hold regular community conversations just not leaders meeting once or twice then going back to the status quo.
The process of reconciling the pain and frustrations between Chaldeans and Muslims in Michigan will not be without pain but must happen. Otherwise, such ugly situations as what recently took place in Sterling Heights will repeat themselves and possibly escalate.

Walid: Religious accommodation for all


Dawud Walid12:05 a.m. EDT September 11, 2015

An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) discrimination complaint was filed last week on behalf of an American Muslim who was placed on unpaid leave after having a religious accommodation revoked. Previously she had been excused from serving alcohol as a flight attendant on ExpressJet Airlines based upon her sincerely held religious beliefs. With the national hoopla surrounding Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis refusing to issue marriage licenses for same sex couples based upon her beliefs as a Christian, some have made false comparisons with this and the ExpressJet issue.

Charee Stanley began working for ExpressJet prior to converting to Islam. After becoming Muslim, she later accepted the majority opinion within Islamic teachings that Muslims are prohibited from serving alcoholic beverages. Upon bringing her sincerely held beliefs to the attention of ExpressJet, airline reportedly stated that her co-flight attendants could serve alcoholic beverages upon request to both accommodate passengers and Stanley given their Detroit hub flights always have two flight attendants. Stanley welcomed and followed these directions by the airline.

This accommodation reportedly took place without any issues for approximately two months until a co-worker who returned from maternity leave launched a complaint containing Islamophobic overtones about Stanley not serving alcohol as well as referring to Stanley wearing a head scarf and possessing a book with “foreign writings.” The accommodation which the airline gave to Stanley was subsequently revoked before she was placed on unpaid leave which could lead to her eventual termination.

Stanley accepted the religious accommodation to not serve alcohol which also had a provision for passengers to still procure alcoholic beverages. Davis, in contrast, invoked her Christian beliefs to deny marriage licenses, which is an essential part of her job as an elected county clerk. Thus the issue of Davis using her positional power to deny marriage licenses at the expense of others and Stanley who did not oppose passengers’ choices to consume alcohol are quite different.

Ultimately the EEOC will investigate Stanley’s case and make a determination. What we do know is that our courts uphold the general principle of reasonable religious accommodations for workers that do not impede the essential functions of their jobs. Fellow co-workers serving alcohol instead of Stanley clearly did not impede in her primary functioning as a flight attendant. The bottom line is no American should have a religious accommodation revoked by their employer due to a complaint by a co-worker with apparently bigoted views.

Dawud Walid is executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan.

Mosque opposition in Sterling Heights is about more than location

On September 10th, there’s a scheduled planning commission hearing regarding a proposed mosque off of 15 Mile Rd and Ryan Rd in Sterling Heights, Michigan.  The proposed mosque has been met with opposition in three different city government meetings within the past month.  Much of the opposition has come from the Chaldean community, a Semitic people who are Christians that originate from Iraq. Even the mayor voiced his opposition to the mosque project in part to side with the Chaldean community though he backtracked from this position in a media story yesterday.

In 2011 in Farmington Hills, some within the Chaldean community teamed up with members of the Orthodox Jewish community to oppose the Islamic Cultural Association’s (ICA) plan to establish a community center with a prayer area.  During the same year, members of the Chaldean community launched vitriolic opposition against the American Muslim Diversity Association (AMDA) which sought to establish the first mosque in Sterling Heights.  After much contention, the mosque was eventually approved.

As we stood to defend ICA and AMDA, we did not focus on the fact that much of the anti-Muslim bigotry projected at these projects was coming from within the Chaldean community.  Between regular anti-Muslim comments on AM talk radio on almost a daily basisthe Aramaic Broadcasting Network (ABN) based in Walled Lake giving platforms to the nation’s most notorious anti-Muslim bigots, and a series of mosque oppositions, it is clear that there is a serious problem of Islamophobia within the Chaldean community in Michigan.

I empathize with the suffering of Chaldeans in Iraq.  Unlike Sunnis and Shi’is, Chaldeans and Assyrians had no armed militias to protect them after the misguided invasion of Iraq by American and British troops in 2003. Christians were forced from their homes, churches were attacked and clergy were murdered. The once vibrant community of Christians in Iraq has now become almost extinct.

Sterling Heights is in Michigan, however, not Iraq.

Putting Iraq into context, the vast majority of people murdered in Iraq by Al-Qaeda and Daesh have been Muslims.  The majority of houses of worship that continue to be attacked are mosques.  The religious leaders who continue to be killed are overwhelmingly Muslims.

But again, Michigan is not Iraq.

Michigan Muslims are not responsible for the burning churches and killing Chaldeans.  In fact, the majority of Muslims in Michigan and America were opposed to the immoral invasion of Iraq which opened up the hell that caused the large uprooting of Chaldeans to Michigan after 2003.  What is also ironic is that even when it came to Chaldeans opposing AMDA and their invoking of what took place in Iraq, the congregants of AMDA are majority Bengali-Americans, their resident imam is from Pakistani heritage, and I preach there as well, an African-American veteran of the US Navy.  The opposition launched against AMDA was clearly illogical.

Much of the Islamophobia coming from Chaldeans in Michigan is counter-transference in my estimation.  Those who have come here from Iraq suffered deep trauma, and that is being transferred to Michigan Muslims who are not responsible for that trauma.  When persons go through severe trauma, there is a much higher risk that they become abusers if that pain has not been dealt with therapy.  I believe that many Chaldeans migrated to Southeastern Michigan which has a large Muslim population and that trauma was not dealt with robustly enough during their resettlement.  I’m not making excuses for the Islamophobia in their community but am looking at one of the causes that it may be addressed if there is to be path forward after September 10th.

Bigotry is wrong no matter who it is projected at.  In this era in which we are having a national discussion on race relations and legacy of white supremacy, it saddens me to see so many Chaldeans, a people of color, who are using their religious privilege in America to marginalize another community of color.