I’ve long held the stance that there’s a certain prototype of a Muslim you need to emulate, living in the West, if you come to prominence (whether it is actively sought or is a by-product of the work that you do).
I don’t want to add on to the false conceptualization of the “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West. It is incorrect on so many levels. For one, linguistically, it makes no sense. How can a geographic region and a global religion be in conflict? You gotta make some racist leaps in order for that one to work. But historically, it’s also been proven to be false. The fact that the likes of Bernard Lewis are still cited as experts of Islam just riles me.
But that is not why I write this post.
Ilhan Omar, U.S. House of Representative from the state of Minnesota, has been in the news a lot this week… month… pretty much the entire time she’s been a national figure.
I must admit I was skeptical about the recent mid-term elections. Not the intents of the people running, but the effect that they can realistically have. It will be a slow process and I may not even see the kind of change this country needs in my lifetime. But one thing that has become apparent is that some individuals are not afraid to address the ills that face us, on a global scale. And that is heartening. Ilhan Omar’s standing up to the war criminal that is Elliot Abrams is what sealed the deal for me. She wasn’t just going to sit and be the token hijabi woman she was expected to be. She did her homework and was not afraid to interrogate the lies that have been a part of our “humanitarian” aid efforts abroad since at least the ’70s.
It’s not the Republican backlash she has received that prompts me to write this post. I am not surprised by that. Nobody should be surprised. To me, what is more insidious are the reprimands she’s been getting from the Democratic establishment who want her to toe the line. Yeah, you can criticize Trump, go for it! But speak the truth outside that one? No. Your identity is all that we care about. You make the party look good because of all the firsts we get to claim. But keep your darned ideas to yourself.
Trump has always been a sideshow. Criticizing him alone just feeds our egos. But if you really want to change things for the betterment of the 99%, you gotta go deeper. And I’ve realized, most politicians aren’t willing to do that. Why? Because of corporate interests. Big Pharma, the NRA, AIPAC, etc. as Ilhan rightly pointed out, hold a lot of political influence. In theory, there is nothing wrong in lobbying — and it’s legal, so arguing otherwise is a moot point. But in practice, it’s not the grassroots lobbies that shape policies. It’s the big ones with geopolitical financial interests that pave the trajectory for the actions we take.
Conflating what Ilham actually said with very real albeit wholly misdirected anxieties is only obfuscating the truth.
Will Ilhan be forced to change to fit the sanctioned narrative of the “good” Muslim? It remains to be seen.