Four years ago, Mohamed Ali, a volunteer with the Bernie Sanders campaign, said it was hard getting those in his community to take part in Iowa’s caucuses.
“They just didn’t have the confidence” or they felt uncomfortable, Ali, who is a Palestinian-American real estate agent in the Des Moines area, told Al Jazeera by phone. Others, he said, didn’t want to be involved in politics for fear of being targeted or discriminated against.
But this year participation of the Arab-Muslim community “has been huge … it’s been really amazing”, he said.
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According to Ali, that’s in large part due to the five mosques that will host caucuses on Monday evening – the first time Islamic centres will serve as sites for the party gatherings where Iowans openly discuss and choose their preferred Democratic candidate of the United States’ 2020 presidential candidate.
“It’s historical,” said state Representative Ako Abdul-Samad, the only Muslim state legislator in Iowa.
The mosques will join more than 80 other locations around the world that will act as a “satellite sites”, which were established this year to be more accessible and inclusive of all Iowans.
“Our goal has remained steadfast throughout this process – to make these caucuses the most accessible in our party’s history, and the satellite caucuses do just that,” said Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) Chair Troy Price in a statement announcing the new satellite sites.
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s shadow is cast on Iowa’s state flag as he speaks during a campaign event [Matt Rourke/AP Photo]
There will still be more than 1,600 traditional precinct sites across the state, but anyone can attend a caucus at one of the satellite sites, the IDP said.
For the Muslim community in Iowa, that means “having a safe place that is inclusive and is not going to give them any friction in the process”, said Rummi Khan, the co-chair of the Muslim Caucus of America.
Democratic organisers are expecting a high voter turnout for Monday’s caucuses, with some predicting the night may break the previous participation record when nearly 240,000 people caucused in 2008.
Muslims make up about 1 percent of Iowa’s 3.1 million residents, according to Pew Research Center. But the community could prove to be vital for candidates in a race won in the past by extremely close margins.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders are neck-and-neck, according to recent polling. Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar rounded out the top five. But the most influential poll, traditionally released just days before the caucuses, was scrapped after candidates were left off some of the questions.
Regardless, Khan said that many Muslims across the state are “feeling very motivated to make sure that they’re participating this round”.
‘If we don’t tell our story, no one will’
Their participation comes at a time of heightened discrimination and Islamophobia across the US.
According to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU)’s annual Islamophobia index, Islamophobia is on the rise in the US.
The number of anti-Muslim hate crimes and bias incidents surged after US President Donald Trump took office in 2017. The Council on American-Islamic Relations attributed the spike to Trump’s travel ban, which targets nationals from several Muslim-majority countries, his frequent anti-Muslim comments, and other policies targeting Muslims.
Attendees hold letters that read ‘CAUCUS’ during a campaign event in Coralville, Iowa [Matt Rourke/AP Photo]
This includes the president’s repeated attacks against Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first two Muslim congresswomen.
On Friday, he announced an expanded ban, adding six additional countries – a majority of which were Muslim-majority or had significant Muslim populations.
Those policies have in turn spurred increased political engagement by Muslims across the US. According to Emgage, a US-biased organisation dedicated to increasing civic participation, Muslim Americans turned out for the 2018 midterm elections in historic numbers.
Iowa State House Representative Ako Abdul-Samad listens as Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks during an organising event at Curate event space in Des Moines, Iowa [Matthew Putney/AP Photo]
While Abdul-Samad said rising Islamophobia kept many within Iowa’s Muslim community from participating in the past, the success of Tlaib, Omar and others motivated many to get involved this election season.
“I think now that Muslims are coming out because we are now realising that if we don’t tell our story, nobody else will,” said Abdul-Samad, who is also the longest-serving African American legislator in the state.
Abdul-Samad said that, although many candidates never saw Muslim communities as a “viable entity that candidates wanted to go after”, there’s been a shift in recent years and candidates actively sought his endorsement, both as a Muslim community leader and an African American. He ultimately endorsed Sanders.
There is apprehension. Yes, there is some fear for having four more years of our current administration. But they’re actually seeking to come out of their houses and do something.
Rummi Khan, Muslim Caucus of America
Elvir Klempic, a Democratic party activist who will serve as the Biden precinct captain at the Islamic and Education Center Ezan, agreed that more and more candidates are focusing on engaging with the Muslim American community.
“The caucus has gone to the community verses the community finding the caucus site,” prompting more candidates to engage with the community, Klempic said, adding that Muslim ban, immigration, healthcare and foreign affairs topped the minds of many of the 15,000 Muslims in the Des Moines’s Bosnian community.
That energy combined with the establishment of the satellites sites are helping motivate those within the Muslim community to actively participate in this year’s election, the Muslim Caucus of America’s Khan said.
“There is excitement,” he said.
“There is apprehension. Yes, there is some fear for having four more years of our current administration,” he added. “But they’re actually seeking to come out of their houses and do something.”
And like that, America’s history is scrubbed
ANALYSIS/OPINION: For years, Democrats and those on the left have been trying to suppress America’s true history — the one that tells of American Exceptionalism, the one that speaks of the genius of the Founding Fathers, the one that speaks of freedoms for the individual as coming from God, not government. And now, with George…
For years, Democrats and those on the left have been trying to suppress America’s true history — the one that tells of American Exceptionalism, the one that speaks of the genius of the Founding Fathers, the one that speaks of freedoms for the individual as coming from God, not government.
And now, with George Floyd, they’re having their moment in the sun.
The left is on a rampage right now, busily tearing down any semblance of American history from America’s public eye.
Sadly, they appear to be winning.
“A statue of Christopher Columbus in Byrd Park has been removed by protesters and dragged into the lake,” WTVR CBS 6 in Richmond tweeted.
“Christopher Columbus Statue In Boston Beheaded,” WBZ CBS 4 in Boston reported.
“Lincoln Statue Found Burned on Chicago’s South Side,” NBC 5 in Chicago reported.
From Virginia to Alabama to Tennessee, long-standing statues of the Confederacy have been toppled, destroyed, defaced or otherwise damaged, or targeted for removal by outraged George Floyd activists on social justice crusades.
In Birmingham, Alabama, it was a statue of Confederate Navy Capt. Charles Linn that offended. In Alexandria, Virginia, it was a 131-year-old bronze statue of the Confederate “Appomattox” that was removed — ostensibly, to save it from looming rioters. In Montgomery, Alabama, it was the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee that was toppled. In Tennessee, at the State Capitol, it was a statue of the former lawmaker Edward Carmack that got the crowd’s goat.
Robert E. Lee in Richmond was sprayed with graffiti. Stonewall Jackson in Richmond was defaced with paint. The Confederate Defenders statue in Charleston, South Carolina, was hit by graffiti.
The destroyers are everywhere.
In Washington, D.C., it was the World War II Memorial and fountain that were targeted by vandals who spray-painted, “Do black vets count?” And the Paralyzed Veterans of America’s headquarters. And the Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters. And several spots in the vicinity of the White House.
There are more, there are many more.
The protesters are supposedly angry at police brutality and systemic police racism.
But tearing down national monuments and defacing expressions of American history are acts of ISIS terrorists.
That such defacement is occurring on a widespread scale right now is not only a sad commentary on the tensions currently tearing at America’s fabric. But it’s also a sad, even sadder face-slapping reality show of how our schools are failing our emerging generations.
If true history were still taught in the public schools, angry youth wouldn’t be roaming the streets looking to lash out at some of the very foundations that helped make America so great and free in the first place. If places of higher learning in America hadn’t become breeding grounds for far-leftist professors to implant their propaganda, educated idiots wouldn’t be trampling over the symbols of America Past, trying to blot out the offensive and with it, the truths.
Simply put, a statue of Robert E. Lee doesn’t represent a national worship of Robert E. Lee. It only represents the historical contributions Robert E. Lee made in America — historical contributions that are irrefutably substantial.
Who would Black Lives Matter rather have as the faces of America’s monuments and memorials and statues? Or, to use the statue-destroyers’ standard: Who is perfect enough to be a face of America’s monuments and memorials and statues? Unless the answer is Jesus, it’s a lie.
America is not without sin. America doesn’t have a sinless past.
But what America does have is a Constitution and a set of founding documents and principles that lay the groundwork for all citizens, no matter ethnicity, no matter sex, no matter religion, no matter political leanings — but for all citizens to seek, to pursue, to achieve their hopes, goals and dreams in freedom, absent overburdensome government interference.
What America does offer is a set of governing ideals that guarantee a black man the same rights as a white man; that hold a president of the United States to the same judicial standards as a garbage collector; that secure the freedoms of a woman the same as a man — as coming from God, not government.
Are those standards always upheld? No.
But they’re there.
They’re there for the fighting.
They’re there for the taking.
They’re there for the demanding.
After all these years of warring and bloodshed, of bickering and disputing, of dying through trying: They’re still there. The dream of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is still alive and well in America, for all to grab at, for all to embrace, no matter race, creed, color, sex, etc.
It’s just that it’s much easier to throw paint on a memorial than it is it to study hard, work hard and stay the course to achieve the dream.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.
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Considering history, COVID-19 is hardly a plague
ANALYSIS/OPINION: Great plagues have changed the course of history. Best known is the Black Death (1347-51), introduced to Europe from Asia through trade routes, carried by rats and transmitted by fleas. This bubonic plague killed up to one-third to one-half of the population of Europe, almost literally burying the old social order that was medieval…
Great plagues have changed the course of history.
Best known is the Black Death (1347-51), introduced to Europe from Asia through trade routes, carried by rats and transmitted by fleas.
This bubonic plague killed up to one-third to one-half of the population of Europe, almost literally burying the old social order that was medieval feudalism, wiping the slate clean for the rise of mercantilism, the Age of Exploration and the Renaissance.
Lesser known is the Antonine Plague (165-180 A.D.), introduced to the Roman Empire through trade with Asia, probably the measles or smallpox.
The Antonine Plague, according to contemporary accounts, caused 2,000 deaths daily in Rome, an estimated 5 million deaths throughout the Empire, and devastated the Roman legions, hampering defense of the eastern and northern frontiers.
According to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, for whom the plague is named, writing from his camp on the Rhine: “With their ranks thinned by the epidemic, Roman armies were now unable to push the tribes back.” (Macromannic Wars)
The Plague of Justinian (541-542 A.D.), introduced to the Mediterranean and Europe from Asia, is one of the deadliest plagues in history, possibly the bubonic plague and rehearsal for the later Black Death. An estimated 25 million to 100 million died, perhaps as much as half the population of Europe.
Byzantine historian Procopius, who eyewitnessed the Plague of Justinian, reports that in the capital, Constantinople, 10,000 died daily. He bitterly criticized Emperor Justinian for making matters worse with oppressive taxation, indifferent to the plague’s economic devastation:
“When pestilence swept through the whole known world and notably the Roman Empire, wiping out most of the farming community and of necessity leaving a trail of devastation in its wake, Justinian showed no mercy towards the ruined freeholders. Even then, he did not refrain from demanding the annual tax, not only the amount at which he assessed every individual, but also the amount for which his deceased neighbors were liable.” (Procopius, Anekdota 558 A.D.)
The Plague of Justinian is one of the most consequential in history — preventing resurrection of a reunited Roman Empire:
“The plague’s long-term effects on European and Christian history were enormous … The plague weakened the Byzantine Empire at a critical point, when Justinian’s armies had nearly retaken all of Italy and the western Mediterranean … the evolving conquest would have reunited the core of the Western Roman Empire with the Eastern Roman Empire.” (Cyril Mango, “Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome,” 1980)
The plague buried the last chance for continuity of classical civilization in Western Europe, bringing on the Dark Ages.
Perhaps the deadliest, most consequential, and most tragic plague in history has no name.
In the three centuries (1500-1800) after Columbus discovered America, European diseases, including smallpox and measles, to which Native American populations had no immunity, spread like wildfire through the New World, from Tierra del Fuego in the South to the Arctic Circle, killing 90 percent or more, emptying the continents of their original peoples.
Happily, the coronavirus is proving far less deadly than the great plagues of history, with a mortality rate continually being revised downward, now much less than 1 percent. Coronavirus hardly deserves to be described as a plague at all.
Nonetheless, the unprecedented reaction, many would say overreaction, of U.S. and allied governments — to contain the coronavirus by mass social isolation and suspending all but the most essential economic activity — may well have catastrophic consequences for Western Civilization.
In three months, the U.S. economy has gone from being the most prosperous in history into a deepening New Great Depression from which there may be no quick recovery. More than 39 million Americans are unemployed, some 15 percent of the workforce, eclipsing the worst of the 1930s Great Depression.
$6 trillion in new debt has been added, virtually overnight, by U.S. government spending on so-called “coronavirus recovery” to mitigate the disastrous effects of government-imposed unemployment and small-business closures.
White House hopes for quick recovery sound like socialist fantasies about the miraculous power of government economic planning, not free market realism.
Government can strangle the “golden goose” but not force its corpse to lay eggs, as the Emperor Justinian discovered.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper no longer talks about defense increases, but instead hopes for “flat” future defense budgets. But a New Great Depression means deep defense cuts, sharp decline of U.S. military power and a more dangerous world.
The Pentagon needs to re-focus priorities on defense investments that buy the most security at the least cost.
For example, space-based missile defense can shield America from growing nuclear and hypersonic missile threats in just five years for $20 billion. EMP and cyber-protection of electric grids and life-sustaining critical infrastructures can be achieved without spending defense dollars.
The coronavirus New Great Depression may be our Plague of Justinian.
It happens just when President Trump was rebuilding economic and military strength possibly capable of sustaining the post-1945 world order led by the United States — call it “Pax Americana.”
Now, saving Pax Americana may be as unrealistic as Justinian’s hopes to resurrect the Roman Empire. As Justinian learned, when there is no money to pay the legions, the barbarians win.
• Peter Vincent Pry, director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, served as chief of staff on the Congressional EMP Commission, and on the staffs of the House Armed Service Committee and the CIA. He is author most recently of “The Power And The Light” (Amazon.com).
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