Why a Muslim in the White House left after only 8 days


I Was a Muslim in Trump’s White House

 

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When President Obama left, I stayed on at the National Security Council in order to serve my country. I lasted eight days.

In 2011, I was hired, straight out of college, to work at the White House and eventually the National Security Council. My job there was to promote and protect the best of what my country stands for. I am a hijab-wearing Muslim woman––I was the only hijabi in the West Wing––and the Obama administration always made me feel welcome and included.

 

Like most of my fellow American Muslims, I spent much of 2016 watching with consternation as Donald Trump vilified our community. Despite this––or because of it––I thought I should try to stay on the NSC staff during the Trump Administration, in order to give the new president and his aides a more nuanced view of Islam, and of America’s Muslim citizens.

I lasted eight days.

When Trump issued a ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries and all Syrian refugees, I knew I could no longer stay and work for an administration that saw me and people like me not as fellow citizens, but as a threat.

The evening before I left, bidding farewell to some of my colleagues, many of whom have also since left, I notified Trump’s senior NSC communications adviser, Michael Anton, of my departure, since we shared an office. His initial surprise, asking whether I was leaving government entirely, was followed by silence––almost in caution, not asking why. I told him anyway.I told him I had to leave because it was an insult walking into this country’s most historic building every day under an administration that is working against and vilifying everything I stand for as an American and as a Muslim. I told him that the administration was attacking the basic tenets of democracy. I told him that I hoped that they and those in Congress were prepared to take responsibility for all the consequences that would attend their decisions.He looked at me and said nothing.

It was only later that I learned he authored an essay under a pseudonym, extolling the virtues of authoritarianism and attacking diversity as a “weakness,” and Islam as “incompatible with the modern West.”

My whole life and everything I have learned proves that facile statement wrong.

My parents immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh in 1978 and strove to create opportunities for their children born in the states. My mother worked as a cashier, later starting her own daycare business. My father spent late nights working at Bank of America, and was eventually promoted to assistant vice president at one of its headquarters. Living the American dream, we’d have family barbecues, trips to Disney World, impromptu soccer or football games, and community service projects. My father began pursuing his Ph.D., but in 1995 he was killed in a car accident.

I was 12 when I started wearing a hijab. It was encouraged in my family, but it was always my choice. It was a matter of faith, identity, and resilience for me. After 9/11, everything would change. On top of my shock, horror, and heartbreak, I had to deal with the fear some kids suddenly felt towards me. I was glared at, cursed at, and spat at in public and in school. People called me a “terrorist” and told me, “go back to your country.”

My father taught me a Bengali proverb inspired by Islamic scripture: “When a man kicks you down, get back up, extend your hand, and call him brother.” Peace, patience, persistence, respect, forgiveness, and dignity. These were the values I’ve carried through my life and my career.

I never intended to work in government. I was among those who assumed the government was inherently corrupt and ineffective. Working in the Obama White House proved me wrong. You can’t know or understand what you haven’t been a part of.

Still, inspired by President Obama, I joined the White House in 2011, after graduating from the George Washington University. I had interned there during my junior year, reading letters and taking calls from constituents at the Office of Presidential Correspondence. It felt surreal––here I was, a 22-year-old American Muslim woman from Maryland who had been mocked and called names for covering my hair, working for the president of the United States.

The evening before I left, bidding farewell to some of my colleagues, many of whom have also since left, I notified Trump’s senior NSC communications adviser, Michael Anton, of my departure, since we shared an office. His initial surprise, asking whether I was leaving government entirely, was followed by silence––almost in caution, not asking why. I told him anyway.I told him I had to leave because it was an insult walking into this country’s most historic building every day under an administration that is working against and vilifying everything I stand for as an American and as a Muslim. I told him that the administration was attacking the basic tenets of democracy. I told him that I hoped that they and those in Congress were prepared to take responsibility for all the consequences that would attend their decisions.He looked at me and said nothing.

It was only later that I learned he authored an essay under a pseudonym, extolling the virtues of authoritarianism and attacking diversity as a “weakness,” and Islam as “incompatible with the modern West.”

My whole life and everything I have learned proves that facile statement wrong.

My parents immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh in 1978 and strove to create opportunities for their children born in the states. My mother worked as a cashier, later starting her own daycare business. My father spent late nights working at Bank of America, and was eventually promoted to assistant vice president at one of its headquarters. Living the American dream, we’d have family barbecues, trips to Disney World, impromptu soccer or football games, and community service projects. My father began pursuing his Ph.D., but in 1995 he was killed in a car accident.

I was 12 when I started wearing a hijab. It was encouraged in my family, but it was always my choice. It was a matter of faith, identity, and resilience for me. After 9/11, everything would change. On top of my shock, horror, and heartbreak, I had to deal with the fear some kids suddenly felt towards me. I was glared at, cursed at, and spat at in public and in school. People called me a “terrorist” and told me, “go back to your country.”

My father taught me a Bengali proverb inspired by Islamic scripture: “When a man kicks you down, get back up, extend your hand, and call him brother.” Peace, patience, persistence, respect, forgiveness, and dignity. These were the values I’ve carried through my life and my career.

I never intended to work in government. I was among those who assumed the government was inherently corrupt and ineffective. Working in the Obama White House proved me wrong. You can’t know or understand what you haven’t been a part of.

Still, inspired by President Obama, I joined the White House in 2011, after graduating from the George Washington University. I had interned there during my junior year, reading letters and taking calls from constituents at the Office of Presidential Correspondence. It felt surreal––here I was, a 22-year-old American Muslim woman from Maryland who had been mocked and called names for covering my hair, working for the president of the United States.

The climate in 2016 felt like it did just after 9/11. What made it worse was that this fear and hatred were being fueled by Americans in positions of power. Fifth-grade students at a local Sunday school where I volunteered shared stories of being bullied by classmates and teachers, feeling like they didn’t belong here anymore, and asked if they might get kicked out of this country if Trump won. I was almost hit by a car by a white man laughing as he drove by in a Costco parking lot, and on another occasion was followed out of the metro by a man screaming profanities: “Fuck you! Fuck Islam! Trump will send you back!”

Then, on election night, I was left in shock.

The morning after the election, we lined up in the West Colonnade as Obama stood in the Rose Garden and called for national unity and a smooth transition. Trump seemed the antithesis of everything we stood for. I felt lost. I could not fully grasp the idea that he would soon be sitting where Obama sat.

I debated whether I should leave my job. Since I was not a political appointee, but a direct hire of the NSC, I had the option to stay. The incoming and now departed national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had said things like “fear of Muslims is rational.” Some colleagues and community leaders encouraged me to stay, while others expressed concern for my safety. Cautiously optimistic, and feeling a responsibility to try to help them continue our work and be heard, I decided that Trump’s NSC could benefit from a colored, female, hijab-wearing, American Muslim patriot.

The weeks leading up to the inauguration prepared me and my colleagues for what we thought would come, but not for what actually came. On Monday, January 23, I walked into the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, with the new staffers there. Rather than the excitement I encountered when I first came to the White House under Obama, the new staff looked at me with a cold surprise. The diverse White House I had worked in became a monochromatic and male bastion.

The days I spent in the Trump White House were strange, appalling and disturbing. As one staffer serving since the Reagan administration said, “This place has been turned upside down. It’s chaos. I’ve never witnessed anything like it.” This was not typical Republican leadership, or even that of a businessman. It was a chaotic attempt at authoritarianism––legally questionable executive orders, accusations of the press being “fake,” peddling countless lies as “alternative facts,” and assertions by White House surrogates that the president’s national security authority would “not be questioned.”

The entire presidential support structure of nonpartisan national security and legal experts within the White House complex and across federal agencies was being undermined. Decision-making authority was now centralized to a few in the West Wing. Frustration and mistrust developed as some staff felt out of the loop on issues within their purview. There was no structure or clear guidance. Hallways were eerily quiet as key positions and offices responsible for national security or engagement with Americans were left unfilled.

I might have lasted a little longer. Then came January 30. The executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries caused chaos, without making America any safer. Discrimination that has existed for years at airports was now legitimized, sparking mass protests, while the president railed against the courts for halting his ban. Not only was this discrimination and un-American, the administration’s actions defending the ban threatened the nation’s security and its system of checks and balances.

Alt-right writers, now on the White House staff, have claimed that Islam and the West are at war with each other. Disturbingly, ISIS also makes such claims to justify their attacks, which for the most part target Muslims. The Administration’s plans to revamp the Countering Violent Extremism program to focus solely on Muslims and use terms like “radical Islamic terror,” legitimize ISIS propaganda and allow the dangerous rise of white-supremacist extremism to go unchecked.

Placing U.S. national security in the hands of people who think America’s diversity is a “weakness” is dangerous. It is false.

People of every religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and age pouring into the streets and airports to defend the rights of their fellow Americans over the past few weeks proved the opposite is true––American diversity is a strength, and so is the American commitment to ideals of  justice and equality.

American history is not without stumbles, which have proven that the nation is only made more prosperous and resilient through struggle, compassion and inclusiveness. It’s why my parents came here. It’s why I told my former 5th grade students, who wondered if they still belonged here, that this country would not be great without them.

Interfaith Leaders Pledge to Support American Muslims


Interfaith Leaders Pledge To Stand By American Muslims, No Matter What

Christian, Jewish and Buddhist leaders attended prayers at a Washington, D.C., mosque to emphasize solidarity.

11/19/2016 04:41 pm ET

RON SACHS CNP
Catherine Orsborn, campaign director of Shoulder to Shoulder, speaks at The Nation’s Mosque in Washington, D.C.

Christian, Jewish and Buddhist leaders joined their Muslim neighbors for Friday prayers at a Washington, D.C., mosque, sending President-elect Donald Trump a strong statement of interfaith solidarity.

The religious leaders spoke out against Islamophobia and in support of American Muslims, who have been feeling fearful and uncertain about their future in Trump’s America. They also called on Trump to forcefully denounce anti-Muslim hate crimes, which the FBI reports shot up by 67 percent in 2015.

“We must promise that no one will ever make another American afraid ― not the bigots, not the alt-right, not the chief strategist of the next administration, not the president of the United States,” Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the advocacy group Interfaith Alliance, said at a press conference at the Masjid Muhammad. “No one will make the precious children of this community, of any community, afraid.”

After speaking with media, the interfaith leaders attended a prayer service at the mosque. Also known as the Nation’s Mosque, it’s about two miles away from Trump’s future address at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

RON SACHS CNP
Imam Talib Shareef is president of Masjid Muhammad, also known as the Nation’s Mosque.

The interfaith rally was organized by Shoulder to Shoulder, a coalition of over 20 national religious groups that have pledged to do what they can to stomp out anti-Muslim sentiment. In a letter signed by representatives from Reconstructionist and Reform Jewish traditions, as well as the evangelical, Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian and other Christian traditions, the leaders said they wanted to see Trump live up to his promise to be a president for all Americans.

“We, the religious institutions of this great nation, stand shoulder to shoulder with each other in support of our Muslim brothers and sisters,” the leaders said in the letter. “No one should fear for their own safety in this country because of how they dress, how they pray or how recently they arrived.”

In the days since Trump’s election, many American Muslims have watched with trepidation as the president-elect tapped members for his new administration who have professed negative and dangerous attitudes about Islam ― from potential attorney general Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who has endorsed banning Muslims from the country, to Trump’s pick for national security adviser, Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has called Islam a “cancer.” Other Trump supporters have pointed to the country’s World War II-era imprisonment of Japanese Americans as a precedent for creating a Muslim registry.

Kristin Garrity Sekerci, program coordinator at the Bridge Initiative, Georgetown University’s Islamophobia research project, said that she’s been shocked to see “notorious propagators and exploiters of fear and misinformation” offered high-level appointments in Trump’s administration.

“We must be vigilant in the face of such vitriol and fear not only in our nation and its elected leaders, but within our own faith traditions as well,” Sekerci said at Friday’s rally. “This fear and misinformation cannot be normalized.”

 

 

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Despite the fact that we are concerned and worried about our country being led by a racist, bigoted, sexist man, we have to remain positive and hopeful that our message will reach the White House and that our actions show that our words are filled with the kindness, compassion and empathy that we demand of our leaders.

Actions often speak louder than words, but words like Love, Faith, Hope, Justice and Equality are powerful in and of themselves, and spur us all to act for others.

 

Namaste,

Barbara

 

The Spirit of Peace


There is One God and our Universe is One and there is One unified humanity.

 

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

—Albert Einstein

 

 

 

Physicist Albert Einstein

Physicist Albert Einstein

 

 

 

 

We need to feed the hungry,

to house the homeless,

to free those in bondage,

to clothe the naked,

to embrace the despised

to reject the obscene

and to destroy complacency.

That’s what God wants—

nothing more and nothing less.

—Rabbi Greenspan

 

 

“There is an old Chinese tale about the woman whose only son died. In her grief she sent to the holy man and asked, “Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow.  We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life.”

 

The woman set off at once in search of the magical mustard seed. She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, “I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place?” They told her, “You’ve certainly come to the wrong house,” and began describing all the tragic things that had recently befallen them. The woman said to herself, “Who is better able to help these unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my own?”

 

She stayed to comfort them for a while, then went on in her search for a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hovels and in palaces, she found one tale after another of sadness or misfortune.

 

Ultimately, she became so involved in ministering to other people’s grief that she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard seed, never realizing that it had in fact already driven the sorrow out of her life.”

–author unknown

 

 

 

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                                     Peace

 

“Let us live in peace, God.

Let children live in peace, in homes free from brutality and abuse.

Let them go to school in peace, free from violence and fear.

Let them play in peace, God, in safe parks, in safe neighborhoods; watch over them.

Let husbands and wives love in peace, in marriages free from cruelty. Let men and women go to work in peace, with no fears of

terror or bloodshed.

Let us travel in peace; protect us, God, in the air, on the seas, along whatever road we take.

Let nations dwell together in peace, without the threat of war hovering over them.

Help us, God. Teach all people of all races and faiths, in all the countries all over the world to believe that the peace that seems so far

off is in fact within our reach.

Let us all live in peace, God. And let us say, Amen.”

—Naomi Levy

 

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Everyone talks about peace. And then the conversation ends and we put the thoughts of peace aside. Peace begins within each and every one of us. We must develop peace within our own hearts and souls. Then we have to make the effort to spread it out by giving old clothes to charity, volunteering in our communities, helping the sick and homeless. We can show compassion for those who are suffering financially, or who are struggling with mental illness. Then we can care about the politics of our country and our world, we can join a peace and/or justice organization.

 

We can pay attention when, in times like these,  people talk and promote war and injustice, and we can speak up for justice and peace. We cannot allow ourselves be caught up in talk of war.

 

What do we get from war…nothing

What does peace bring…everything.

Namaste

Barbara

 

 

Divine Love


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“Wherever I go, thou art my companion.

Having taken me by the hand thou moves me.

I go alone depending solidly on thee.

Thou bearest too my burdens.

If I am likely to say anything foolish, thou makest it right.

Thou hast removed my bashfulness and madest me self-confident.

O Lord, all the people have become my guards, relatives and bosom friends.

Tuka says, I now conduct myself without any care.

I have attained divine peace within and without.”

—Book of Prayers, M. K. Gandhi

 

What makes up Divine Love

What makes up Divine Love

 

“All things in creation and manifestation, even all things in existence, are held together by Ishk. This is Divine Love. It is difficult to express it in such a limited way, but we know that sunlight contains electricity, magnetism and numerous other forces or aspects of cosmic force.”

—From Spiritual Brotherhood, Samuel Lewis

 

“Gravitation, light, attraction, adhesion, and cohesion are all aspects of this Divine Love in the physical world. But even these aspects extend far into the unseen, and it cannot be said that Divine Love is limited or qualified by its mental aspects and characteristics…Behind all mysteries, behind all activity and behind all life is Love or Agape or Karuna which holds all things and persons together, which creates the beauty and harmony of this cosmos.”

—Samuel Lewis

Desire

 

“I desire you

more than food

or drink

 

My body

my senses

my mind

hunger for your taste

 

I can sense your presence

in my heart

although belong to all the world

 

I wait

with silent passion

for one gesture

one glance

from you. ”

—Rumi, The Love Poems of Rumi

 

 

Open up your heart

Open up your heart

 

“In your light I learn how to love.

In your beauty, how to make poems.

 

You dance inside my chest,

where no one sees you,

 

but sometimes I do, and that

sight becomes this art.”

—-The words of Rumi

 

 

You are a child of the Universe. Get out there and shine.

You are a child of the Universe. Get out there and shine.

 

“Love is the greatest component of life. It unifies everything. It attracts and draws to us all that is good. Through love we become more aware and responsive to the needs of humanity. We see the oneness, commonality, and the spark of God in each person. We can begin with our family, friends, and coworkers. We can love them even if we think they have done something wrong. We can be there for them, with compassion, kindness, gentleness and acceptance. That is how we demonstrate our human love.”

—James Van Praagh

 

Divine Love is everywhere.

Divine Love is everywhere.

All God’s Creatures


With the campaign for US President, and everything else that’s happening in the US and around the world today, it’s easy to forget about Mother Earth.

We continue to violate Mother Earth, on a daily basis, and some of here most wonderful creatures, such as Kamok, in the video below, are now endanger of becoming extinct.

Elephants continue to be killed for their ivory tusks, which is so senseless and cruel.  Rhinoceroses are being killed for their horns.  Poachers take their trophies and leave the bodies to rot as they carry off their spoils from the hunt.

We cannot continue to rape and pollute our planet and not expect to lose many wonderful creatures and, eventually, ourselves as our planet becomes less and less habitable.

Wild animals, like children, are part of our rich inheritance from our ancestors and we are not doing a good job of taking care of either.

Children are hungry, children are homeless, children are illiterate and unloved.

Baby Kamok lost her herd and her mommy due to a physical condition, but luckily for her — and for us — there are people who care, who took her in, and healed her and protected her from predators.

We can do no less for our own children, for ALL the children who live on Mother Earth, because we are all one race — the human race — and all children are ours.

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child and elephant

Is This Child Safe?


 

 

I have been thinking about holidays and children. Not just American children, but children in the UK and children in India. I have been worrying about children in Russia and in Jamaica.

 

I have been thinking of children who don’t have good role models or lunch money. I have been thinking about children who are afraid and ones who like to look at books and yet they can’t read. They can’t write their names. This is for all the children around the globe, every last noisy, coughing, running, laughing, crying, dirty, sassy one of them. I hope they have someone to hug them tonight when they go to bed and I hope they did not see violence today.

If the Child is Safe

We pray for children

who sneak popsicles before supper,

who erase holes in math workbooks,

who can never find their shoes.

 

And we pray for those

who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,

who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers.

who never counted ” potatoes”,

who are born in places we wouldn’t be caught dead,

who never go to the circus,

who live in an x-rated world.

 

We pray for children

who bring us sticky kisses and fistfulls of dandelions,

who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.

 

And we pray for those

who never get dessert,

who have no safe blanket to drag behind them, who watch their parents die,

who can’t find any bread to steal,

who don’t have any rooms to clean up,

whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,

whose monsters are real.

 

We pray for children

who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,

who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,

who like ghost stories,

who shove dirty clothes under the bed, and never rinse the tub,

who get visits from the tooth fairy,

who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool,

who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone,

whose tears we sometimes laugh at and

whose smiles can make us cry.

 

And we pray for children who want to be carried

and for those who must,

for those we never give up on and for those who don’t get a second chance.

For those we smother…and for those who will grab

the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.

—Marian Wright Edelman

 

This time of year, everyone is looking for presents. Some people just have everything or you don’t know them well enough to be certain to find the right present. A lot of time gets wasted on trying to find the perfect item. Well, I have a suggestion. You can go to Heifer.com and decide how much you want to spend. Your money will be added to others and a flock of chicks, ducks or geese will be sent to a village where there is extreme famine and poverty. You can send a part of a cow or goat. It is your choice. These gifts will help to feed their owners and the animals can breed and everyone is better off. You get a card to send to your friend or relative and the family or village gets what you pick for them. Perhaps, this year because of your kindness, there will be more children who will not go hungry and will be ever so grateful for the kind stranger who helped fill their belly.

 

Heifer.com is an organization which has been around for seventy years. They provide livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of people who struggle to have reliable sources of food. They are currently working in thirty countries.

 

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What we can do for a child of this world.

What we can do for a child of this world.

 

 

 

Children around the world playing. We can help them to continue to do so.

Children around the world playing. We can help them to continue to do so.