Yesterday I witnessed the blank horror of a family who realized they had just become refugees.
A young Turkish couple, here temporarily on assignment. And after the failed coup and the completion of Erdogan's metamorphosis into a dictator, I told them asylum was the best - and only option. A one-way street, a bell that doesn't unring, fraught with pitfalls, and whatever other options you were thinking about, forget it.
Immediately, thoughts of family. Will they go after my family? Should I go back and risk jail so maybe they won't go after my brother?
We have no one here. No one.
When could we ever go back? What? I have to wait 3 years to maybe win my case, then 5 more to become a citizen? I can't really travel?
I can't fight my case at home...there is no law in Turkey anymore. I have to trust you, my brother, my family has to trust you.
We have to make a decision. We have no more country. We have kids, but so does my brother. How can I leave them? What if they go after my parents? Who knows what will happen? If I don't go home I'm guilty. They'll call me a Gulenist. They did already, I found out yesterday. I'm on a list. I'm on a list. I'm on a list.
I'm on a list.
To watch people become refugees is horrifying. There were no tears - just a blank, numb look - and that just made it worse. They asked me to decide for them. I guess getting robbed of your life has a deleterious effect on your cognitive abilities. I couldn't decide for them, of course. I properly stayed safe in the advisory zone, droning on about legal options, immigrant intent, and exceptions to the one-year bar. The husband turned to his wife and said, "He's a lawyer," meaning, of course, that my legal drivel wasn't helping.
I thought back to the cases of hundreds of other clients who have suffered the trauma of forced displacement. People's responses to the trauma are varied, but God, they're all *so human.* Witnessing the initial shock, however, is secondarily traumatic. The horrid, blank look of educated, proud and accomplished people who can't even conceptualize what the next step might be.
No one chooses never to be able to go home.
Dear Mr. Gingrich:
I'm going to award you a prize. A prize for the most ignorance ever crammed into one sentence. Really. You outdid Trump, and that's no small-fingered feat. "We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background and if they believe in sharia they should be deported."
I just had to try to break that down.
First, let's try to understand what a "person of Muslim background" is. Would that include Boris Johnson, whose great-grandfather was a Muslim Turk? What about ex-Muslims, including ones who are known Islamophobes? What about non-Muslims who think Muslims should have religious freedom? Or people with Muslims in their families...*ducks blows*...like our beloved Muslim POTUS? I don't understand, Mr. Gingrich. I'm quite sure the Founding Fathers didn't describe people in terms of their religious "background," which is probably why it doesn't exist in the Constitution.
Second, a religious "test." Well, this one's been beaten to death after Trump called for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration "until we can figure out what the hell's going on." When your civics knowledge is below that of the average fifth grader, Mr. Former Speaker of the House, I'm not too confident you'll ever figure out what's going on.
Third, "believe in sharia." As Asifa Quraishi-Landes wrote in the Washington Post this morning, shariah "is a body of Quran-based guidance that points Muslims toward living an Islamic life....Shariah is divine and philosophical." You can believe in God, or believe in an article of faith, or a divine book, a prophet, etc. But we don't "believe" in shariah - we follow it. It's a legal and ethical system. Your ignorant commentary, Mr. Gingrich, belies a basic understanding of what "sharia" means. You'd fail a Sunday school test on the subject, but you want to test all of us.
Fourth - "shariah." You arbitrarily - and without authority - define shariah by headline-grabbing rulings involving stoning, flogging, subjugation of women, and death. Yes, there are a lot of troublesome rulings, as there are in every legal system. But as Imam Zaid Shakir has written, "Normative Islam is based on both rulings and interpretive principles. Those who, like ISIS, separate the rulings from the interpretive principles underlying them, both misrepresent Islam and open the door to varieties and degrees of harm that the religion strictly forbids." Like our system of common law, the sharia as a legal and ethical system has the tools to tailor rulings for different societies and different times.
This is emblematic of the acceptable drivel when it comes to my faith. In 2014, Fox host Megyn Kelly debated Hassan Shibly of CAIR-FL. Whenhe confronted her about her ignorance of maqasid ash-shariah, she retorted, "Well I know they stone women!" More recently, Ben Carson (who?) furthered the ignorance by saying "what I would like for somebody to show me is an improved Islamic text that opposes Shariah." Both of these public figures benefit from the vacuum of facts: no one really understands what shariah is, so it can be arbitrarily redefined as an object of hate. But you don't get to define it, Mr. Gingrich.
Mr. Gingrich, you can't test something you can't even define, let alone understand. Why should we be surprised, though, coming from you? You said poor kids lack work ethic, so they should be put to work mopping floors. Let's not even talk about your professed belief in the sanctity of marriage, when you couldn't even relate your own marital history without invoking your Fifth Amendment right. You equated aninterfaith cultural center near Ground Zero to a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust museum.
Please let smarter people check your comments. Or, you know, just shut up.
I penned some thoughts on Eid morning and was thinking about how while crazed criminals were attacking the City of the Prophet, a normal person simply and beautifully expressed solidarity with a much-maligned community. I like to believe we both recognized that hate is an endless downward spiral, and if we don't take the time to express solidarity, we help perpetuate the cycle.
It's been quite a tumultuous Ramadan if you're a Muslim in the West. We've had to confront this evil nemISIS over and over. I myself have felt my gorge rising even during the fast: "Again?" You couldn't reverse engineer a more hateful group, or one that knows exactly where to strike our sensitivities. Striking Madinah, the City of the Prophet, and Islam's second holiest site, exemplifies this.
Facebook seems to be under fire for turning your newsfeed into an echo chamber, serving up only what it thinks you're interested in and thereby enhancing confirmation bias.
So I spent time reviewing a few recent issues of Dabiq, ISIS's propaganda zine. And their governance manual, as well as an online recruitment manual. I wanted to try to understand whether they were "Islamic" and what this death cult shared with me, if anything. How could they kill so wantonly?
I think about all the support I'm blessed to receive - colleagues and friends who know not all Muslims are like this - and still find myself wondering, if the roles were reversed, would I be so understanding?
Every time they strike, I see the same arguments unfold: we have an (understandable but knee-jerk) reaction of disgust and contradistinction, and we tweet #notinmyname from the virtual rooftops of the world. We're hit back with #ThisIsTrueIslam and are denounced as watered-down Muslims. In the middle are observations that both sides can find what they need in the Qur'an, and that willful blindness to the "Islam" of ISIS is ultimately a copout.
Every time. The same arguments. The only thing different this Ramadan is that the arguments didn't have time to unfold before the next macabre attack.
We're all getting played - Muslims and non-Muslims alike. These strong reactions are EXACTLY what ISIS wants. The nastier the better: conveniently call all normal Muslims "apostates" or "disbelievers" and there is a lot of low-hanging fruit that can't get out of the way of a sword. Reduce the world into black and white, so it will fit into 140 characters.
Because they hog media attention, ISIS gets the power and influence it craves. They're not the most dangerous or violent group in the world - that dubious distinction goes to Central American gangs like MS-13 and Mara 18.
We're connected to our brothers and sisters overseas. But in our zeal to distance ourselves from ISIS, and following through with the scripted dialogue that becomes more and more permanent every time they strike, let's not indirectly empower them.
They are dangerous and have to be dealt with, for sure. But the strong reactions of disgust - I can't help but feel this feeds into their power.
When I read Dabiq, I almost laughed at the childish black-and-white worldview. You can tell, when read in connection with their recruitment manual, who it's meant for, and how to get young minds there. They'll get all the impressionable ones, but they'll net a few smart folks who fall for it, too. I spent some time a few months ago comparing their governance documents with Mein Kampf - and the similarities are chilling. Look, folks. They're counting on you not understanding them, dismissing them, fearing what you'll find in their propaganda.
Don't give them that power over you. Some might say we should call for a jihad against ISIS. (Jihad meaning a righteous struggle, not some extremist war) I agree inasmuch as ISIS deserves to be fought against - but I don't want it to turn into a soundbite like "war on terror." Ideologies have to be starved, asphyxiated, pushed to the fringe. ISIS draws breath through its recruitment system, right? Who's choking it?
So let's remove the taboo, the fear that having a link to Dabiq in your search history will get you indicted. Don't be afraid of them. Learn who they are. And then make sure you are wherever they seek new recruits.
This isn't CVE. This is grassroots activism. It's not just Muslims that can do it. They're online. We can fight them from our computers.