In a year in which Muslim political candidates are breaking new ground or falling just short, it’s not surprising to see politics dominate the country’s largest annual gathering of Muslim Americans.
But the political sessions at the annual Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) convention in Houston were far from celebrations. Rather, they cast a dire picture for Muslims of life in America.
Speakers cast “Islamophobia” as a dire threat lurking just outside their doors. And while a travel ban upheld by U.S. courts targets people from five Muslim-majority countries among dozens, the policy was repeatedly described as a “Muslim ban” in full effect.
Leading the charge was Linda Sarsour, a co-chair of the national Women’s March and founder of a political activist group called MPower Change. Sarsour spoke to at least four separate sessions during the weekend, with ISNA President Azhar Azeez introducing her as “the most famous, known activist in America today.”
Her tone often was not aimed at inspiring Muslims to be more politically active as much as it was to shame them for not doing so. If they aren’t sufficiently engaged in advocating for the Palestinian cause, she said, “you as as an American Muslim are complicit in the occupation of Palestinians, in the murder of Palestinian protesters. So when we start debating in the Muslim community about Palestine, it tells me a lot about you and about the type of faith that you have in your heart.”