Who will end the anti-Muslim discrimination: The White House or the “Right” House?

Published: July 27, 2013

US President Barack Obama speaks at an Iftar meal, the breaking of the Ramadan fast, at the White House in Washington. PHOTO: AFP

This is the story of two Washington Iftar dinners.

First, the Israeli Ambassador, Michael Oren, invited Muslim leaders to a diplomatic Iftar dinner last week and Imam Antepli of Duke University wondered aloud if the event was meaningful. Then the Obama administration invited Muslim leaders to the White House Iftar dinner and Omid Saifi, the Islamic studies professor from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, called to boycott it.

It’s obvious that we, the American Muslims, are struggling to identify the right posture: Boycott, and you sever a diplomatic tie; attend, and you are seen as the “enemy’s” ally.

While I empathise with the demands laid out by Professor Saifi – the Obama administration should abandon overseas drone attacks, halt nationwide racial and religious profiling, and release select Guantanamo Bay prisoners – I knew the boycott will fail to achieve anything beyond creating a social media ripple – because that’s the history of our boycotts.

A Danish newspaper published offensive cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and what was the response? Boycott Danish products. Iran’s largest mobile phone company, Irancell, sent a religiously offensive text message and what was the response? Boycott Irancell. Israeli dates were sold at American Muslim stores during this Ramazan and what was the response? You guessed it. (Yet Muslims consume Danish cookies, Irancell is still in business and the “Jewish dates” – if there is such a thing – are selling like hot cakes at my local ethnic store.)

Internal Muslim discord is part of the reason these boycotts fizzle out. We all know the sectarian rifts that lurk beneath the diplomatic smiles. No surprise, both Muslim Congressmen and over four dozen diplomats attended the event on July 25th.

But our misplaced reliance is the larger reason; we are barking up the wrong tree. Want to change anti-Muslim discrimination? Then also go to the “right” house, not just the White House. The ‘right’ house of God who warned us in the Holy Quran, that Allah (SWT) does not change the condition of people until they change the condition of their hearts.

Just like Professor Saifi, the Quran also made a “call to conscience”. But who wants to hear about that? Boycotts are glitzy; introspection is dull; it makes us get out of our comfort zone and ask hard questions.

Yes, drone attacks are immoral and should be stopped but where is the call for the boycott of the Saudi sponsored madrassahs fuelling terror attacks that have claimed over tenfold Muslim lives as compared to the drones?

Yes, we should stand up against the forced-feeding of some Guantanamo Bay prisoners but let’s also stand up for the well documented and sustained extrajudicial killings of prisoners in Pakistan.

Yes, the pockets of racial and religious profiling by the US authorities should be protested but who is going to wail against the institutionalised racial and religious oppression (and in some cases, killings) of the Shias in Pakistan, Ahmadis in Indonesia, Bahai’s in Iran and Copts in Egypt?

Demanding the same rights in the US, which we so blatantly trample upon in the Muslim countries takes away the strength of our moral arguments. It equates us with the very mindset we resent. It enables the White House to fill up the sought after Iftar dinner to its brink despite our calls for a boycott.

For us Muslims, Ramazan is a time for reflection and prayer. Let’s reflect upon the teachings of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), introspect and be charitable to those who are discriminated against in our own backyards – both Muslims and non-Muslims and spend the remaining fasts in heart melting prayers.

Even if the White House ignores our demands, the ‘right’ house might accept them.

This piece was originally published here.

Faheem Younus

Faheem Younus

The writer is clinical associate professor at University of Maryland School of Medicine, USA. The author can be followed @Faheem twitter.com/#!/FaheemYounus

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Asif Khan

    What about islamofascism?Don’t see any one condemning the misogyny,extreme homophobia present in Muslim socities?We whine about anti-muslim bigotry all the time but why is it we never see any one writing about the horrific discrimination,mistreatment of gays in Muslim majority countries?I’ve seen this in Pakistan,even the supposedly ‘well educated’ are hatefilled and persecute gays in Pakistan.Why no outcry over that?Recommend

  • Tania aziz

    Yes,another piece about anti muslim discrimination.Will this muslim victimhood mongering help anyone?Finding great comfort in playing the victim while keeping silent on the vile bigotry towards ex-muslims,athiests reeks of double standards.The majority of Muslims around the world support the death penalty for anyone daring to leave the fold of islam,the amount and degree of hate directed towards atheists by muslims is shocking,but one never gets to see any article condemning that.Where are the muslim writers,columnists who condemn the oppression of atheists in islamic countries?Recommend

  • Fahad khattak

    Dear Mr.Faheem,
    Would love to see a blog by you on muslim attitudes towards apostates,gays and lesbians.For how long will playing the victim card help Muslims.All it does is sweep Muslim homophobia and atheophobia under the carpet.Isn’t it time Muslim bloggers,intellectuals confronted the problems within and challenged the heinous attitudes towards apostates,LGBT?Recommend

  • Sidra

    There’s no introspection amongst muslim intellectuals these days.The entire emphasis is on blaming the West for all our problems.Anyone not towing the line is immediately sidelined as anti muslim.No discussion of the human rights abuses in our own countries,no mention of how we treat gays and lesbians,women,atheists and agnostics.No,the entire focus seems to be on showing to the world how muslims are always the poor victims.
    We need to confront the devil within us,we need to publicly confront the evils of homophobia,misogyny,atheophobia within the muslim community first and then blame the West for our state of affairs.Recommend

  • Ali Raza

    @Fahad khattak
    Brother,which world are you living in?The overwhelming majority of Muslim in the world demand the killing of atheists,apostates.Why would any muslim writer talk about not killing atheists?
    They claim that there’s no compulsion in religion but force atheists to stay in the closet,to continue pretending that they’re still muslims.Is it good to keep people muslim by force?The atheophobia in Muslim majority countries is a part of mainstream discourse.No one in Muslim majority countries has the courage to say that ex-muslims must not be murdered.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    @ALL who oppose beheading of apostates, punishment of homosexuals

    Please do your research as to why GOD tells us to do all these things. Go read the Quran and Hadith. There’s where Islam is and use your “Logic” and you’ll get the reasons. Don’t just see one side of the story. Please THINK. You’l get why all Islam tells us is right.

    @ALL who think that this is an Anti-Muslim, Anti-Islam World

    Well according to a Hadith this was already told to us that this would happen. Search “War Against Islam” on wikipedia and you can read the Hadith. The reason for this is “love of dunya” and “Fear of Death”.Recommend

  • http://gujrat Zalim singh

    Its Ramadan.Recommend

  • Abdul Qudoos

    @Asif Khan
    Has any legislation,public campaign been started for getting gay marriage legalised in Pakistan?Gay rights are being recognised around the world but sadly our society lives in the dark ages and denies gays and lesbians equal rights.It’s time for gay marriage in Pakistan.Laws must be made legalising gay marriage in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Muhammad Usman

    @Ali Raza
    My Muslim friends keep on telling me that there’s no compulsion in religion yet in the same breath proudly declare that anyone leaving islam is an apostate who must be killed.They don’t see the hypocrisy in what they say.Atheophobia is rampant amongst Pakistani Muslims.They feel no hesitation in publicly calling for the murders of atheists.So sadly,atheists are forced to hide who they areRecommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com Anoop

    Are there any anti-Muslim laws in America?

    Are Muslims stopped from preaching their Religion?

    Does its Police stop you for wearing a Burqa?

    What discrimination?

    You are asking the State to end discrimination, but there is none.

    If you want the people to stop it, then you have to approach them, not the state.

    If you come back and say Muslims are checked more vigourously in Airports, I will point out that for security all pretensions of Policital Correctness takes a back seat and there are Muslim countries which screen Pakistanis, so its not the US alone.

    Your worldview doesn’t seem to appreciate such finer points. For you and many Pakistanis, things seem easier when seen in black and white.

    Talking about laws and the state, US is miles ahead of Pakistan. Recommend

  • Mj

    Why don’t you tell the reasons yourself? You forsake any claim to be considered a peaceful person if you advocate murder of a person for changing or discarding religion.Recommend

  • csmann

    Only political engagement will help change perceptions;also the truth is most muslims killed are by muslims themselves for petty reasons,and bending the message of Quran to one’s whims,and interpreting god’s message out of context as Mr. Ahmed above.Recommend

  • Parvez

    In a way I agree with what you say, but you have made your choice. For you to keep one foot in one boat and the other in another boat will, and is, tearing you apart.
    Yes Muslims are killing other Muslims with the help of powerful Muslim countries ( in the land of deserts and oil )………. and it is no secret which BIG country openly supports them.Recommend

  • Nowsherwan Riaz

    stupid people believe that not giving gay their rights is living in dark ages…… legalizing gay and lesbian will be a step towards dark ages…. we are better off without them…. There is a reason that these things are banned in religion…

    Secondly there is no room for atheism in the world…… and pretty much every atheist i know is open about it…….Recommend

  • Nowsherwan Riaz

    And this is an extremly idiotic comparison….. Does shia-sunni discord mean muslims shoudl be droned………… does shia-sunni discord mean muslim countries be attacked without any justifications???………. Does internal muslim discord give the right to any country to kill muslims in cold blood….??????Recommend

  • http://www.milk-n-cookies.blogspot.com Cookie

    The logic is simple and clear cut. If someone was killing, torturing and illegally imprisoning your brothers, sisters (or any other family member for the matter) would you accept that person’s invitation to dine with him? It’s absolutely ludicrous. Attending iftaars or dinners just because you think it will help bridge the gap and allow for peaceful negotiations and settlements? They are murdering people openly in the guise of ‘national security’ and people still want to have a merry time with these mercenaries.Recommend

  • Eddied

    There are many more people killed in one day by violence against muslims in Pakistan than there has been in the last ten years in America…Muslim on Muslim violence is common in Muslim countries but very rare in the west…why is it that Muslims consider violent TTP terrorists as “brothers” and hate the west for fighting these apostate murders?…anti Muslim discrimination in America is mostly media hype…true Americans will fight for the right of Muslims to practice their religion openly in our free country…Recommend

  • Raj Kafir

    Barrack Hussein Obama, BLACK and MUSLIM in White HouseRecommend

  • Jahangir Khan

    @Cookie :

    If someone was killing, torturing and illegally imprisoning your brothers, sisters (or any other family member for the matter) would you accept that person’s invitation to dine with him? It’s absolutely ludicrous.

    In that case why stay in their house too? Why not leave the house or their land go back to where you came from?Recommend

  • http://tribune.com whitesky

    @Cookie: By your logic is it not ludicrous to stay/ adopt the country which is enemy of your brothers and sisters in your eyes.Recommend

  • Eddied

    If anyone wants to know what Muslim harassment looks like in America they should watch this video…it says it all…


  • F Khan

    The article was very well written but addressed the wrong country. America has laws against discrimination. You should have named Pakistan. Where the government and the Supreme Court are blinded so afraid of the radicals do not say a word. People have become so senseless that they shower flowers on the person who killed the governor. Hindu and Christian girls are being forced into marrying Muslims. Jails are full of people charged under false charges of blasphemy. Muslims are killing one another. No national spirit in the politicians, Pakistan is a vast butchery. And you dare to criticize America. People of thought and conscience as so frightened to speak. You are enjoying the freedom of America while living here criticizing it try doing it in Palistan. Wake up Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Author “Yes, drone attacks are immoral and should be stopped but where is the call for the boycott of the Saudi sponsored madrassahs fuelling terror attacks that have claimed over tenfold Muslim lives as compared to the drones?

    How much Pakistanis have made as bounty money from drone attacks? Who is helping US find targets on the ground and how much money they make?Recommend

  • Mehdi


    ET moderators are very biased when it comes to publishing comment which sound very logical and rational because by working in Pakistan they have forgotten what they mean. Having said that you posted a video which is a link to a reality show, how people react when discrimination is perpetrated. Did you see how many white americans stood up for that poor middle eastern store clerk, who by the way was an actor playing the role of a victim. You really need to get your head checked. I wrote a long paragraph explaining my opinion and ET moderators did allow that because I spoke about Israeli innocent citizens killed by Hamas. We muslim really need to introspect about our faith. Are we truly following what is being said in the scripture. Recommend

  • Nowsherwan Riaz

    Israeli INNOCENT citizens killed by hamas…….BUHAHAHAHAHAHHAAH innocent hahahahahahhahahRecommend

  • Mehdi

    @Nowsherwan Riaz

    Are you ok. Do you need medical help ? Your answer is incoherent.Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @Nowsherwan Riaz:

    I would recommend you to move to Saudi Arabia. You can find many well wishers there :)Recommend

  • gp65

    @Raj Kafir: He describes himself as a Christian. IT is on record which Church he went to for 20 years. So calling him a Muslim is simply factually incorrect.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Eddied: Individual acts of bigotry can happen in any country in the world and are highly regrettable. But are there any laws against Muslims in US? Inequality of Ahmadis, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, women is baked into the Pakistani constitution.
    Also let us examine the form hat bigotry takes in Pakistan and compare it with the url you attached. I am pretty sure, no one stops a Greyhound bus or megabus in US , check identities and then kills Muslims in US. I am equally sure 100s of Muslim graves are not desecrated.
    Muslims are not accused falsely of blasphemy and their homes burned by property mafia while the police who are aware step aside and refuse to intervene.Recommend

  • np

    @Nowsherwan Riaz: “@Mehdi:
    Israeli INNOCENT citizens killed by hamas…….BUHAHAHAHAHAHHAAH innocent hahahahahahhahah”

    Are you saying that the very fact that someone is born in Israel means a person is guilty and worthy of being killed? You are sick.Recommend

  • http://pok darbullah

    The author should move to Saudi Arabia where he will be free.Recommend

  • PakMan1

    Most of the commenters didn’t read the article–typical of know-it-alls. The author’s main point is to call on Muslims to do a little introspection on their own lives (that’s what the “right” house is) and not constantly blame others. He clearly calls out the hypocrisy of Muslims in regards to discriminatory laws and attitudes. Next time please read the article before spewing your ill-informed thoughts. Recommend

  • Eddied

    @Mehdi: sorry if I gave the impression that there is anti Muslim bias in USA…my nations ion was the opposite..Recommend

  • http://Portland,OR Hukum Singh

    Hats off to you, Sir.Recommend

  • Insaan

    Author’s: “It’s obvious that we, the American Muslims, are struggling to identify the right posture: Boycott, and you sever a diplomatic tie; attend, and you are seen as the “enemy’s” ally.”

    If American Muslims are naturalized citizens or green card holders, they should protest by leaving USA by going to live in Palestine or Pakistan (land of pure) for ever.


  • Truthbetold

    “While I empathise with the demands laid out by Professor Saifi – the Obama administration should abandon overseas drone attacks, halt nationwide racial and religious profiling, and release select Guantanamo Bay prisoners”

    The best, surest and fastest way to end drone strikes is to end the state support for terrorists by the Pak Establishment. Why did drone strikes and Guantanamo prison camp came into existence in the first place? Recommend

  • gp65

    @Eddied: Sorry. I clearly misread the intent of your post. Apologies.Recommend