Shante Needham and Sharon Cooper, sisters of Sandra Bland, and Bland's mother Geneva Reed-Veal attend the funeral in the Chicago suburb of Willow Springs

Who is Sandra Bland and why should you care?

Shante Needham (R) and Sharon Cooper (2nd R), sisters of Sandra Bland, and Bland’s mother Geneva Reed-Veal (L) attend the funeral in Illinois, July 25. Jim Young / Reuters


By Rashida Tlaib

Sandra Bland, only 28 years old, was one of five sisters who was a musician, loved to serve her community, a summer counselor and passionate about the #BlackLivesMatter movement. She headed to Texas for a new job that she was thrilled about, and family members even described her mood as “ecstatic.” Her sisters said that she was outgoing, truly filled with life and joy.

She was found hanging from her jail cell after she was arrested for a claimed assault of the officer who stopped her on an alleged traffic violation. Now, what you should know is that the officer was tailgating her and the reason she pulled to the side of the road in order to get out of his way. When she did that she didn’t use her turn signal and sadly that is the reason he pull her over. When Sandra asserts her right to know why she was being arrested. The officer then begins to threaten her, “I’m going to drag you out. I’m going to light you up.” He later slams her head to the ground while she cried out “you are doing all this for a traffic signal.”

Sandra was in jail for three days.

Although the medical examiner said it was suicide, too many unanswered questions arose to the point where it is now being investigated as a murder.

Her family is devastated and can’t fathom that she could take her life, especially because she was excited to start a new chapter in her life. Just like me and many other young American Muslims, she voiced strong opinions about police accountability, racism, and hate in America. There are strong suspicions by the #BlackLivesMatter movement that the arrest was illegal, she was a victim of a broken and corrupt police system, and she would not have ended her life in a jail cell. People knew her as an activist against a police system that is structurally racist, so undoubtedly, many fear that there was wrongdoing on the part of the police department.

Why should we all care about the circumstances of what happened to Sandra? Because this happened right here in our backyard. Not that many are surprised, but it is a story that is very similar to what we hear from El Salvador, with kidnappings of civilians, or from Mexico, where local police are behind the kidnapping of 43 young people. People today get pulled over and detained by police every day without reason or justification.

Sandra’s experience with the officer, the traffic stop, the arrest, and later her tragic death, should be an awakening that an overhaul of the way we police communities of color is desperately needed, because the current system is completely broken and killing people.

Editor’s note: Rashida Tlaib is the child of Palestinian immigrants. She lives in Detroit. Tlaib made history in 2008 becoming the first female Muslim woman elected to the Michigan House of Representatives and only second in the country. Tlaib currently works at the Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice on the community benefits movement in Michigan.


Love is so much more fun than hate on wheels

By Rashida Tlaib
TMO Contributing writer

When you hear about protests or rallies, you don’t instantly think of a bunch of angry people on motorcycles, carrying guns in front of a religious institution. Well, that actually happened in Arizona this past weekend. Of course, the media failed us again by using labels that diminished the seriousness of how unacceptable, wrong, and blatantly racist the whole event was. Many of the participants even wore white privilege messages on their clothing. It was disgusting.

But a new generation of activist didn’t run away or get scared, but stood up using one of the most powerful ways today that we can combat hatred and misinformation– social media.

Imraan Siddiqi led the movement to combat hate on the ground in Arizona. More Christians showed up to stand in solidarity with their Arizona Muslim neighbors than protesters. Deepa Iyer, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Dawud Walid, Linda Sarsour, and countless others met up on Twitter using the hashtag #NotMyAmerica, and it became the leading trend online.

Yes, the racist trolls attacked some of them online, but that didn’t stop them. These individuals did the most American duty possible, defending our country’s values. They took on the fight to uphold the freedom of religion against intimidation. It was also truly inspiring to watch non-Muslims retweet and support our cause to Take on Hate. It was powerful to see love, truth, and even humor being used against messages of violence and hatred.

It was phenomenal to be engaged in this peaceful counter protest online. I know many may not have a social media account, but it was something to witness and so inspirational to be part of. The following tweets were inspirational and heartwarming (and funny!):

Drew Philp tweeted “I know my voice is small, but Muslims are always welcome in my community. #NotMyAmerica”.

Amardeep Singh said “Media throws out a narrative that we’re at each other’s throat. In fact, we have each other’s back. One love. #NotMyAmerica #Solidarity”

“In the last 24 hrs we’ve received love from: Evangelicals, Jews, Atheists, The Nation of Islam, Sikhs – supporting Muslims. #NotMyAmerica” tweeted Imraan Siddiqi.

Not to be outdone, the Sikh Coalition tweeted “American Muslims are our neighbors, our classmates, our colleagues. Intimidating fellow Americans because of their faith is #NotMyAmerica.”
“Christians, Jews, atheists.. all decent Americans should stand up against the biker bullies descending on the Phoenix mosque #notmyamerica” said Paul B. Raushenbush.

Jeffry R. Halverson tweeted “In my USA families are free to go to prayer w/out being harrassed by gun-toting buffoons wearing obscenities on their chests #NotMyAmerica”

The point is that silence is never an option when it comes to facing hate, intimidation, lies, and bigotry. We all need to be more courageous. We need to fight back with some flavor of the true America (at least the one I dream for my children) that is full of love and respect. Plus it is so much more fun to spread love and peace.

Editor’s note: Rashida Tlaib is the child of Palestinian immigrants. She lives in Detroit. Tlaib made history in 2008 becoming the first female Muslim woman elected to the Michigan House of Representatives and only second in the country. Tlaib currently works at the Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice on the community benefits movement in Michigan. Her views are her own.


CAIR Michigan’s Watershed Annual Banquet

By Adil James, MMNS


CAIR Founder Nihad Awad, Wendell Anthony, Imam and CAIR Michigan Executive Director Dawud Walid, Congressman John Conyers, CAIR Michigan Attorney Lena Masri, Civil Rights Activist Jesse Jackson, Jr., Ron Scott, Raheem Hanifa, and Jukaku Tayeb of CAIR Michigan.

Photo courtesy Nafeh AbuNab, American Elite Studios, 1-800-218-4020.

Dearborn–March 31–This year’s CAIR banquet really was special.  Every year, CAIR Michigan and many other organizations have gala awards and fundraising banquets, but typically in the past Michigan’s Muslim organizations have been less connected to the political landscape than some ethnic organizations which have in the Southeast Michigan region managed over several decades to establish long term ties with all levels of the political landscape, from the local to the federal level.

The Muslim organizations however, from the mosque level up to the level of national organizations, have not opened strong and lasting relations with any political groups (other than coordinated discussion groups and organized means of complaining to politicians and mainstream media about perceived and real injustices), other than an occasional speech by a political celebrity.

Perhaps a stronger movement has been the involvement of individuals in politics, such as for instance Farhan Bhatti, Deputy Campaign Manager at Virg Bernero for Michigan.  There are Muslims who have been elected to individual office, such as Rashida Tlaib in the Michigan legislature, and Keith Ellison in the US congress.

This year’s CAIR gala, with about 1,000 attendees including many powerful audience members from the business, media, and political community, on the other hand, seemed to offer the potential of a long-term conflation of interests between the Muslim community and America’s established civil rights aristocracy.  Present at this year’s fundraiser was Nihad Awad, who founded CAIR and set it up as a not-for-profit franchise operation of sorts, with now branch offices across the country to advocate for Muslims.  Mr. Awad is not always able to attend all of these gala events, but it seemed that he sensed the importance of this particular one. 

But the real jewels in the crown of the 2010 CAIR Michigan fundraiser were the civil rights workers who for sixty years have been deeply involved at their own personal peril with the struggle for civil rights in the USA. 

Jesse Jackson Sr., the keynote speaker, was one of those.  But there was also Rep. John Conyers (D-MI-14), whom Jackson described as “perhaps the only man who was ever endorsed by Martin Luther King.”  There was Rep. John Dingell (D-MI-15).  There were many others, including the strong gubernatorial candidate Virg Bernero (currently Lansing’s mayor). 

But famous people frequently collect together–many famous politicians have given stilted practiced speeches before Muslims, hoping to say what pleases their audience and earns their political support, but rarely does the politician seem to be present in deference to his or her own inner principles–and this is perhaps the characteristic of Sunday afternoon’s banquet that was uncommon.  Famous people with shared bonds of suffering coalescing in defense of a group they perhaps had not previously thought of as being within their shared interests.

The feeling wasn’t just from their presence in the same room; rather the feeling was in the mutual love between those famous people, and their expression of that love in the context of the protection of Muslims against injustice from government interference.  Jackson and Conyers both spoke of the famous people they had met and worked with through the years, including King, and Rosa Parks (who worked for Conyers for many years), and their describing the debts of gratitude they owed one to another–for example Jackson’s mentioning of MLK’s endorsement of Conyers, and Conyers mentioning publicly his gratitude to John Dingell for supporting him in his early days in the US House of Representatives.

What was different this year was that CAIR did not just bring politicians to speak for their own interests, rather CAIR Michigan bought into a movement, a movement that has been intrinsically and vitally important to the American landscape for the better part of a century, carrying with them the ghosts and spirits of men who gave their lives in that journey.

Nihad Awad offered his goal, a vision of a seemingly impossible world, post-911, in which Muslims face no discrimination–he argued that CAIR is working toward that goal from where we are now.

Jesse Jackson is a famous man, and in consideration of his famous personal failings it is sometimes surprising to see him still on the national stage–but in seeing him speak you understand the source of his sway across the American public–his voice carries so strongly and he has a magic in his delivery that is present in person but that is not felt through the television.  He speaks with vivid images and polished phrases and a very powerful and loud delivery, almost more like a musician or conductor than a politician, but he speaks logically and intelligently also, intimately conversant with the big picture of American politics, even if sometimes the details he cites are not precisely accurate (accidentally he cited the total number of coalition KIA in Iraq and Afghanistan together as Americans KIA in Iraq). 

But on the broad points he has very sharp insight. For example he stated that what is vital in the civil rights movement is to “change the frame.  Once you change the frame, you can change the furniture around whenever you want.”

Thus, he argued that after the recent health care legislation, eventually there must be a public option, although the public option was compromised away in the course of the bill being passed.

The theme of his speech was an argument to get Muslims to buy into a broader political agenda.

He argued that Muslims have to engage in issues beyond Muslim issues, offering the analogy that if one is in a burning house, he must try to put out the fire for the entire house–if the house is saved his room will be saved but it is impossible to save his room without saving the house.

He cited as examples labor union issues and health care issues.

Perhaps the most inspiring thing he said was that “we are not the left, we are the moral center,” thus dismissing the arguments from reactionaries who term his agenda a leftist agenda.  And this connected to another powerful theme from his speech, that “we are winning” in this struggle by the grace of God, and it is because God supports us because we are right.  He cited the achievements of abolition and civil rights, labor, and, at length, health care.

He said not to worry about government informants, arguing the view that the solution is to be completely above board and transparent and above reproach.  He said that several informants were intimately connected with the civil rights movement, saying that “our controller who signed all of our checks was a government informant.”

“Yes it does get dark,” he said, “innocent people get hurt, there is pain, but there is joy in the morning.”

“Through it all, keep marching, fighting, pursue excellence, don’t have time to hate.”

The involvement of the civil rights community with Muslims seems to have begun Sunday evening, and the person likely responsible is CAIR Michigan’s Executive Director Dawud Walid, who had the vision to pursue this goal, and who also has worked to bridge gaps between African Americans and other Muslims, and Sunni and Shi’a.

It remains to be seen whether the large-scale involvement of Muslims as players on the political (and not religious) landscape is healthy or potentially dangerous, and it remains to be seen whether non-Muslims from the civil rights community will be good partners in working toward civil rights for Muslims; also it remains to be seen to what extent Muslims can endorse  the agenda of a civil rights community that too often supports for example abortion services and homosexual issues; but perhaps these are the details, the furniture.  What is important is that the frame may have changed–to one where a Muslim organization has built a bridge or harmony and good will to an entire movement that is intrinsic to the American political landscape–this seems to be an important move in a good direction.


Rashida Tlaib Fundraiser

By Adil James, MMNS

West Bloomfield–December 6–As the only Muslim woman ever to have been elected to the Michigan legislature, Rashida Tlaib has a natural base of support outside of her district in Southwest Detroit, the 12th congressional district, and she met with a few of those supporters this past weekend at a house in West Bloomfield.


Citing the need to get her campaign organization in full swing before other Democratic challengers emerge, she kicked off her campaign season at the home of Dr. Safwan Badr, and about 20 well-heeled Muslims from many communities of Michigan were present to show support for the legislator and attorney who rose from humble beginnings to a level of power never before reached by a Muslim woman in Michigan.

Rep. Tlaib has a very quick mind and a clear grasp of the personalities and issues in Lansing, and this was clear from her easy and fluent answers to questions on various issues such as the upcoming governor’s race in Michigan, in which she announced that likely Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon would contest against other likely candidates such as current Michigan secretary of state Terry Lynn Land and Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard.

Rep. Tlaib described her intentions to build a campaign staff, and went into detail about the demographics of her own district, describing it as roughly one third black, one third white, and one third hispanic, with a small percentage of Yemenis. 

Her mere presence in Lansing’s legislature is of benefit to Muslims in Michigan, just by the fact of her example, as a Muslim woman who makes salat and is “not even hiding who I am.” 

Influential people from the community were in attendance, such as for example Ghalib Begg, who has maintained close ties across all of Michigan’s ranks of politicians.  Professor Saeed Khan of Wayne State was also there.

Rep. Tlaib can use your financial support and would welcome volunteers. Contact, 313-297-8800.