MPowerChange

How Muslim Civic Activism Helped Pass California’s Prop 47

California mostly defied the rightward national trend in this week’s midterm elections. The victory of Proposition 47, for example, makes California the first state in the nation to “de-felonize” drug use.

This sentencing-reduction measure won 60 percent of the vote and united a surprising array of supporters, including a conservative evangelical Christian billionaire whose advocacy for criminal justice reform attracted the attention of “some of his friends on the left.”

Another story-behind-the-story is the galvanizing effect that Prop 47 had on California’s diverse Muslim communities, many of which had previously been divided politically along ethnic lines.

Felicitas Galedary, president of the Los Angeles-based Latino Muslim Association of America (LALMA), described her organization’s efforts in support of Prop 47 as a “tiny step” out of its tightly drawn circle of engagement. Until last June, when Galedary, met with faith-community organizers from LA Voice, she had imagined that LALMA’s stretching its wings would simply involve learning how to provide social services to Latino Muslims.

“LA Voice does more around policy,” she said. “That made us see that we were doing what some other Muslim immigrants had been doing—we were separated from other communities, even our own Latino community. You’re not in a cocoon! “

Galedary said that advocacy for social justice and human dignity, which is the heart of LA Voice’s interfaith organizing efforts, is also fundamental to Islam. What had initially been a meeting about how LALMA could address insular concerns became a conversation about how a relatively small community could serve as a force multiplier for collaborative efforts on behalf of numerous interconnected constituencies.

“Prop 47 affects everybody,” Galedary said. “We have had a dream that African-American and Latino Muslims should work together, especially in South L.A. And we want to build bridges with non-Muslims. Our main objective is to show our Latino brothers and sisters that just by being human, we care.”

By staffing phone banks and canvassing registered voters who didn’t cast ballots in the last election, LALMA did far more than take a “tiny step.” The group’s contribution to the larger interfaith effort to pass Prop 47 represented an important shift toward greater civic engagement in immigrant Muslim communities, several of which have the highest growth rates of all immigrant groups in Southern California. The state’s diverse and growing array of Muslims are thus an integral part of the collaborative movement that has put California at the leading edge of criminal justice reform nationwide.

“Most of what’s been in the news about Muslims lately is not great,” said Sarah Jawaid. “What we’re doing is a counter-narrative to all of that.”

Jawaid, an LA Voice organizer working with African-American Muslims in South Los Angeles, said that she is encouraged by the linkages across differences of race, generation and religion that activism around Prop 47 has forged.

“It’s relatively new for immigrant Muslims to work on issues that aren’t exclusive to their communities,” she said. “This has been a huge multi-faith effort. It’s pretty exciting for me personally to see my community step into this.”

Umar Hakim—executive director of the ILM (Intellect, Love, Mercy) Foundation and a member of the advisory committee for LA Voice—echoed Jawaid’s excitement about the movement that formed around Prop 47.

“It’s like stone soup,” Hakim said. “People are realizing how much they have in common and contributing to the effort because of that.”

Like Galedary and Jawaid, Hakim worked with Muslim congregations to distribute voter pledge cards and enlist volunteers to canvass potential voters and staff phone banks.

He said that the positive responses to his phone pitch for Prop 47 were an unexpected surprise.

“It’s been amazing to see how many people were supporting this,” Hakim said. “There are more people that think about justice than I realized!”

The momentum for collaborative Muslim faith-based activism around Prop 47 began to build earlier this year, when Jawaid and Hakim organized communities in South L.A. to support the Fair Chance Initiative—a motion, currently before the Los Angeles City Council, that would push back the point in the hiring process when private employers can conduct background checks on prospective job candidates.

“We’re definitely seeing greater participation from different Muslim communities,” said Zach Hoover, executive director of LA Voice. “At the press conference for the Fair Chance Initiative, we prayed Jummah on the lawn in front of City Hall. For Prop 47 we had over two hundred Muslims, Jews and Christians gathered at West Angeles Church on the eve of Sukkot. It’s just really beautiful.”

In the broader faith-based activism that is providing energy for California’s leadership in criminal justice reform, Hoover said he sees a collective commitment to “humanizing more people.”

“The heart of the matter is building a more inclusive society,” he said. “Changing the story about people who are incarcerated changes the story about everyone—my neighbor is human, just like me.”

If California is a trendsetter, we should hope that rest of the country catches the cultural wave that made Prop 47 a success.

This post was originally published at Religion Dispatches by Nick Street.

Reflections of an American Muslim Mother on Ferguson

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” — Lilla Watson & the Aboriginal activists collective

I do not come as a preacher. I come to you as a mother of a 16 year old boy. I come to you as a Muslim. As a New Yorker. More importantly I come to you as a human. I also come angry and frustrated. I went to Ferguson. Ferguson taught me that it is OKAY to be angry. That anger is not something we should be ashamed of when we are working against injustice. Injustice, sisters and brothers is supposed to make us angry. It reminds us of our humanity. And that anger can be translated into systemic change. I was PROUD to be angry — which is something we are told not to be. But in Ferguson it felt good to be angry and we were alongside people who were angry but showed us so much LOVE. It was something I never felt before in my life.

Sisters and brothers, I ask of you today to focus on the real injustices. Don’t condemn and chastise those that chose to channel their anger in ways you deem unproductive. Pray for them. Love them. We may not condone their actions but I am not ready to discard them, disassociate with them — society has already done that to them. Ask more questions, what must happen to a human being for them to behave in certain ways?

What examples of Black American non-violent heroes has our country produced for them? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Reverend George Lee, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X in his later years — what do they all have in common — MURDERED.

They called for non-violence, they marched, they organized their people and they were SHOT. Understand history — Black American history is your history. American History is YOUR history and it hasn’t always been a history you can be proud of. Pastor Willie from First Corinthian Baptist Church broke it down. He said America was born with a birth defect. We have never truly dealt with it so it continues to be there. I will add that because we haven’t dealt with it we have exported this birth defect to other lands where we kill innocent people in the thousands through unjust wars or target civilians some of whom are Americans, through our drone policies. WAKEUP

This sisters and brothers is not just about MikeBrown. This is about black men/boys/women/girls across the country including right here in our own backyard. Akai Gurley, Ramarley Graham, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Kimani Gray, Eric Garner, Tim Stansbury, Mohamed Bah, Nicholas Heyward, Jr, and the list goes on and on and on. This is about police officers who walk free as if the people they murdered were cattle in the street. This is not just about police violence. This is about an education system that is set up to fail children of color. An education system that has been called a monopoly. An education system in which it’s quality is based on the neighborhood you live in. It’s about a justice system that takes you in as a young person, follows you around as an adult — stunts your progress. You can’t get away from it. Its about lack of opportunity. Its about a system that doesn’t believe in your potential and operates that way.

Let us come to a place where we recognize that there is structural racism in our country AND that we all do not have to experience it to believe it exists. IT EXISTS. Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, prominent Black American Imam and a mentor said yesterday that immigrant Muslims generally speaking had it good in America benefitting from artificial white privilege prior to 9/11, but on 9/11 and the subsequent years after they realized they were just another n*gger. This may be a hard statement for folks to swallow. Reflect. Breathe.

We have Muslim brothers and sisters withering away in Communication Management Units in places like Indiana — many of whom convicted on “secret evidence” (no one knows why they were convicted, not them, not their lawyers) or under the ambiguous “material support” laws stripped of every right they have, some have never had trouble with the law up until that dreaded day, never were a harm to our society — no access to family, media, television — they languish in small cells for 23 hours a day. Muslims make up over 85% of the CMUs and we are less than 1% of the population. Who marches for them? Is the system working for them and their families?

Don’t tell me about a justice system that doesn’t work in the same way for everyone. A justice system that protects celebrities and law enforcement and too often turns its back on the ordinary person.

Racism is REAL. It doesn’t have to be REAL for you for it to be REAL.

Don’t treat everything as an isolated incident or case. Use your intellect. Analyze. Ask questions. The justice system isn’t a robot or a calculator that always gives the right answers. The justice system is made up of people. People sometimes make mistakes. Humans make mistakes. We all make mistakes.

For some of you its a story of one unarmed Black boy shot on the streets of Ferguson. For others its one small drop in an ocean of dehumanization, discrimination, demoralization that has been passed on from one generation to the next. For some — this is what it is. Some have given up.

I am exhausted hearing people say we are all playing the race card sisters and brothers these are the cards the system has dealt. Trust me, deal a new set, a set with equality, justice, liberty and pursuit for happiness FOR ALL, a set that values all human life the same, a set that sees the potential in ALL of our children and we’ll gladly accept it and play those cards.

I am not asking you to feel sympathy for Black and brown people, they definitely don’t want your sympathy, I just want you to believe in your hearts that #‎BlackLivesMatter and stop expecting for Black and brown people to prove their humanity to you. They are EXHAUSTED. Reverend Chloe Breyer, a White Episcopalian priest said what makes her aware of her white privilege is that she doesn’t feel exhausted, she sleeps well at night. That sisters and brothers is courage and honesty. Acknowledge your privilege and use it to help uplift others.

By no means should anyone feel guilty about their privilege — I have plenty but I can not in good conscience walk around in this world with the fallacy that we live in an equitable and just world just because that’s how its working out for me. I ask for some selflessness for a moment. Just imagine for ONE MINUTE that #MikeBrown was your son in all his complexities yet all his simplicities and the SYSTEM didn’t think your child was worth a trial. It was never about guilty or innocent for Darren Wilson — it was about his day in court. The system didn’t think it was worth their time. Would you have sat back with the memory of your slain child and took it? Unless you experience the murder of your child in this same vain — you again are speaking from a place of privilege and I will continue to say CHECK IT.

If we do not see ourselves in each other — if we do not believe that we each deserve freedom, equality — if we do not believe that we are brothers and sisters and ALL the children of GOD — then it is we that are failing our children, our future, humanity.

I have been saddened by the responses I have been seeing from “friends”. Diverting from the true injustices once again. This is not about Black and White. This is not about us vs. law enforcement. I am not anti-law enforcement, I am anti-law enforcement misconduct and so should everyone else. We should be against misconduct where ever it is happening.

What’s interesting is that people will support the plight of Palestinians or Syrians or Egyptians to resist by any means necessary but won’t afford that right to others. Not taking a side either way just asking for some consistency for your own credibility.

For me, I recommit to working for justice for ALL. I am keeping my eyes on Ferguson, my heart in the movement and my feet on the streets of New York City because Ferguson is everywhere. I hope you join me.

These remarks are adapted from a speech Linda Sarsour gave at an interfaith gathering on November 25, 2014 at the First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem.

Let’s Not Normalize This Thing Called ‘Terrorism’: A Conversation With Sohail Daulatzai

Aura Bogado (The Nation): Can you talk about the climate that essentially demands that some of us modify our behavior—which is really another way of demanding we modify our politics? How do think that this will play out for communities of color in the short run and in the long run?

Sohail Daulatzai: For communities of color, in terms of how we imagine ourselves, I think some of us fail to see ourselves in relationship to racist state practices. For many communities of color in the mainstream, in the left-of-center and even also in the far-left, we can’t pretend to be immune to these racist state practices, and think that by buying into the logic of “antiterrorism” or “anticrime,” that we’re part of the solution. We can’t fool ourselves, because by doing that we become part of the problem, and ultimately mouthpieces and ventriloquists for white supremacy, imperial war and the crackdown on communities of color.

I feel like there’s a fundamental misunderstanding about race at this point—race as a social construct, and the way that Muslims have been assigned this new racial category. It’s certainly been easier to spot in the media this past week, but how has it existed in everyday life before the Boston bombings?

This anxiety over the presence of Islam or Muslims in the West goes back centuries; it’s nothing new. Just think about Edward Said’s book Orientalism. The modern concept of race emerges out of the expulsion of Moors from Spain in 1492, when whiteness and Christianity were defined in opposition to the Moor. So this anxiety here in the West around Islam and Muslims is not new—it’s been present, and it endures.

Specific to how the United States understands race, the Muslim has almost become a racial category unto itself, and you can see that with the Boston bombings. For these white immigrants coming from Eastern Europe, the narrative around them is that they didn’t assimilate, as they would expect all white immigrants to do, and the reason why is because they were Muslim. In other words, being Muslim excludes one from whiteness, trumps all other categories of difference and marks one as a fundamental threat to humanity. So it’s no surprise that he hasn’t been Mirandized and that many are pushing for him to be tried as an “enemy combatant” and subject to more draconian legal frameworks.

This is part and parcel of a whole way of thinking particularly after 9/11, when the fear of the Muslim was reinvigorated. Being Muslim became not only a way of defining those who are from the so-called Muslim world, or who practice, or who are believers, but also those who even look the part. So you have Sikhs who were attacked in their temple in Wisconsin. You have other non-Muslim South Asians and Arabs who have been attacked. You even have Latinos who potentially look the part and have come under further suspicion. You have Texas Representative Louie Gohmert arguing that “radical Islamists,” as he called them, are crossing through the US-Mexico border and “trained to act Hispanic.” So you can see how the figure of the Muslim and “terrorism” has been expanded to include any threat to the state, as the ruling paradigm of security now dominates US statecraft.

There’s a history here that your last book Black Star, Crescent Moon focuses on, in terms of solidarity politics, and the narrative of assimilation, right?

Absolutely. As I mentioned, this fear of Islam and Muslims goes back centuries. But more recently in the US, for me, it emerges out of the presence of a figure like Malcolm X. As I talk about in my book, a Pew poll conducted in August 2010, two years after he was first elected, found that 61 percent of Americans thought Obama was Muslim or that he might be. And for me, this was indicative of a national anxiety over the legacy of Malcolm, the relationship between blackness and Islam, and black internationalism. As my book illustrates, there is a deep influence of Islam and also the politics of the Muslim Third World in shaping black politics and culture. It helped black communities to define themselves not as national minorities, but as part of a global majority as they struggled against white supremacy, and US militarism. The relationship and solidarity between blackness and the Muslim Third World here is deep, and I reveal this prehistory to 9/11. Unlike how it’s presented today, Islam and the Muslim Third World have been a vital part of social justice movements in this country historically, and that’s what I try to recover in my book.

I think that a lot of us have largely been at a point of paralysis, of debilitated action against really clear Islamophobia in both mass media and social media. So what’s next? How do move forward, out of that fear and towards decisive solidarity?

For me, I think there’s a lot of work that needs to be done on multiple fronts, and I think it starts with understanding the root of the problem, and not dealing with its symptoms. I’m really wary of normalizing this idea of terrorism, because I think that becomes a dangerous thing. But that’s been the typical response that many have had to what happened in Boston and other incidents, which is “don’t judge all Muslims by the actions of a few radicals.” What this really does is names something as terrorism, and when you can name something as terrorism, what it ultimately does is sanctions the state to crack down and to narrow the scope of dissent, to violate civil liberties, to torture, to detain, to deport, to invade, to bomb, to kill and to do a whole host of things because there’s a thing called terrorism that everyone accepts as threatening.

But also, by normalizing this thing as terrorism, it creates these divides between good Muslims and bad Muslims, citizens and terrorists. And because white supremacy doesn’t deal with communities of color as individuals, once we claim that not all Muslims are terrorists—only a few are—we’ve just opened the floodgates for the state to be suspicious of, and profile, an entire group of people. And so we ultimately reinvigorate the very forces that we think we’re challenging. We see the poverty in this thinking when the perpetrator is white, for example, like Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma, or Adam Lanza in Connecticut, or Wade Michael Page, who attacked the Gurdwara in Wisconsin. The responses varied, but many Muslims and their allies came out and said, “See? They’re terrorists too!” But this not only misses the point, it creates a false equivalence, because when the attacker is white, white folks in general aren’t profiled, their countries of origin aren’t bombed or invaded, their suburbs or rural areas—as Tim Wise argued—aren’t bombed and overtaken. They’re dealt with as troubled individuals, exceptions to a white norm.

So we have to be aware of these forces, and recognize that in taking this limited approach we’re actually complicit in the very process that we think we’re challenging. And in creating that awareness, we need to understand the roots of violence. This is what many, including Malcolm X, Angela Davis and Dr. King late in his life have borne witness to, as they understood that the systemic sources of violence are white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy and empire. If this recognition doesn’t happen, the country will continue to deal with the symptoms and not the problem, like a dog chasing its own tail.

This post was originally published at The Nation by Aura Bogado.

#WeAreBetterThanThis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Thursday, December 10, 2015

CONTACT: Brian Stewart | 319.936.3901 | press@moveon.org

*** SEE THE FULL-PAGE TIMES AD HERE: http://bit.ly/1SPayMb *** *** SEE THE CAMPAIGN WEBSITE HERE: WeAreBetterThanThis.com ***

More than 700 groups and individuals are backing the campaign, including MoveOn.org, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, United We Dream, Center for Community Change, Demos, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Arab-American Association of New York, MPower Change, SEIU, and Color of Change.

NEW YORK, NY – A full-page ad running in this Thursday’s New York Times calls on elected officials, leading public voices, and the media to “stop the spread of hate and division” as the United States faces a rising tide of Islamophobia, racism, and fear-baiting alongside a spate of violent attacks that seem fueled and at times directly inspired by such dangerous rhetoric. The ad was initiated by nine national organizations representing a broad range of communities and perspectives—and hundreds of national and regional organizations have subsequently signed on.

“When has hate ever led to progress? Is this really what we want America to be?” the ad asks. “We Are Better Than This. We call upon our politicians, leaders and the media to stop the spread of hate and division. And we pledge to stand with any community that is targeted by hateful rhetoric and violence.” The effort also features a website, WeAreBetterThanThis.com, where organizations and individuals can pledge to stand against hate and in defense of targeted communities.*** See a high-res copy of the ad here: http://bit.ly/1SPayMb 

*** See the campaign website and a full list of signees here: WeAreBetterThanThis.com

The organizations initiating the ad are: MoveOn.org, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, United We Dream, Center for Community Change, Demos, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Arab-American Association of New York, MPower Change, SEIU, and Color of Change.

Other leading groups and individuals who have signed on include Planned Parenthood, the Center for American Progress, the NAACP, the ACLU, the American Federation of Teachers, the Working Families Party, AFSCME, the Islamic Society of North America, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the National Congress of American Indians, Voto Latino, People For the American Way, and many more.

“In response to the rise of violent vitriol aimed at vulnerable communities, increasing numbers of Americans are standing visibly together and against fear, division, and xenophobia,” said Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action. “Throughout our history, hate has never led to progress. We stand together around our common values of compassion, self-determination, justice, equality, and human rights and against the vigilante violence and hatred that’s surging especially on the American right. Dangerous rhetoric from politicians, media outlets, and cultural figures is fueling acts of devastating violence. We won’t tolerate it.”

The ad comes just days after the leading Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump, said he would ban Muslims from entering the United States. In recent weeks, Trump and other political candidates and media figures and outlets have engaged in hateful rhetoric and have proposed discriminatory policy proposals that send a dangerous signal making violence against vulnerable communities more likely.

“In a week where Donald Trump says Muslims must be barred from America, and within weeks of horrific attacks, it’s a real ray of hope to see such a diverse array of Americans standing together to say clearly that we are better than this,” said Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director of National Domestic Workers Alliance. In full, the ad reads:

Is this America? 

We grieve the many lives that have been lost or painfully transformed in recent weeks through extreme acts of violence. And we are appalled by the surge of divisive rhetoric that sows the seeds of more violence to come.  A dangerous tide of hatred, violence, and suspicion is rising in America — whether aimed at Arab and Muslim Americans, women and the places we seek health care, Black people, immigrants and refugees, or people just going about their daily lives. This tide is made more dangerous by easy access to guns.

When has hate ever led to progress? Is this really what we want America to be?

We Are Better Than This.

We call upon our politicians, leaders and the media to stop the spread of hate and division. And we pledge to stand with any community that is targeted by hateful rhetoric and violence. This campaign is supported by the undersigned, and others listed at www.wearebetterthanthis.com. Please sign on to pledge your support. 

“When public figures demonize whole swaths of people for their own political gain, they are complicit in the escalation from words to deeds that follow,” said Heather McGhee, president of Demos. “Now is the time for all Americans of good conscience to declare their side, and affirm that we are made strong by our diversity, and made strongest by our unity. #WeAreBetterThanThis.”

“This feels like a tipping point for our nation,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “Are we going to allow hateful rhetoric and the exploitation of fear to be our response or are we going to rise up and declare that we are better than this? We have seen that dangerous and divisive words can lead to unspeakable tragedies. We have seen that the intentional misrepresentation of facts can inspire hate. And we have seen that dividing the nation makes us less safe not more safe. Now we must decide if this is the path we want to continue down or if we’re finally ready to say enough is enough, hold leaders accountable and demand that they represent the best of America, not the worst.”

“The 14 people shot and killed in San Bernardino — including 10 SEIU members — were full of life,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of SEIU. “They had families and friends. They had dreams that were coming true in America — an America that we know is better than the hate and division we are seeing. We need real leadership, not hateful rhetoric that turns neighbor against neighbor and incites more violence.”

MPower Change Outraged by Non-Indictment of Cleveland Officers

MPower Change members are outraged and devastated by the non-indictment of Cleveland police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback for the murder of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

On the heels of non-indictments and hung juries in the cases of Sandra Bland in Waller County, Texas, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore, this demonstrates once again that Black Americans can be killed by law enforcement in this country with impunity. And furthermore, that those murders will then be justified and rationalized by the so-called “justice” system.

The loss of Tamir Rice’s life must not have been in vain. We vow to continue using our online platform to mobilize American Muslim communities to demand justice for Tamir Rice and the countless families who have lost loved ones at the hands of state violence. Standing against oppression is a faith—and human—imperative for us.

While violence against communities of color has been our country’s collective past and, unfortunately, remains our present, we are organizing to ensure it is not our future.

MPower Change Disappointed by Wheaton College Settlement

MPower Change members are disappointed by the reported resolution between Wheaton College and Dr. Larycia Hawkins. While we are glad that Dr. Hawkins has finally gained closure on this matter, and know that her honesty and bravery make her a prime candidate for any academic position, the administration’s decision not to reinstate her is a loss for the entire Wheaton community.

The decision resulting in Dr. Hawkins’s departure stands in stark contrast to the widespread support that she garnered: dozens of letters from fellow faculty members, rallies organized by students, and widespread support from community members, including nearly 85,000 signatures collected by MPower Change. The loss of her powerful voice is compounded by the fact that Dr. Hawkins was Wheaton’s only full-time Black woman professor, and the first tenured at the College since 1860.

We look forward to the College’s Board of Trustees conducting a thorough investigation of the circumstances leading to this settlement, including questions surrounding gender and racial discrimination and violations of due process.

For our members, Wheaton’s punitive behavior towards Doctor Hawkins sends a chilling message to those that would stand with their Muslim neighbors against a rising tide of bigotry and Islamophobia. Here at MPower Change, we will continue to support and uplift voices that call for community, unity, and mutual respect.

Contact: Mohammad Khan mohammad@mpowerchange.org

Congressman Crowley Responds to #Deported2Death Campaign

After facing pressure from community groups DRUM and #Not1More, and MPower Change members across the country, Congressman Joseph Crowley, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus and co-chair of the Congressional Bangladesh Caucus, has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security urging the agencies to stop the deportations of migrants being held in detention until there can be a thorough assessment of their asylum claims.

The State Department continues to be silent on the issue. Groups are calling on Secretary John Kerry to halt the deportations.

You can read the full text of the letter here.

MPower Change and 40+ Organizations Issue Open Letter to Southwest Airlines CEO

Following a recent trend of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab incidents on Southwest Airlines flights, today, MPower Change and 40 organizations – representing nonprofits, civil society, advocacy groups, and netroots organizations, alongside Muslim and Arab communities across the United States – issued a letter to Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly calling for formal apologies, a review of policies and procedures, and anti-bias training for front-line employees.

The letter outlines how, in several instances, Southwest Airlines employees have accepted accusations and feelings of discomfort by passengers and staff as sufficient cause to delay, bar, or remove Arab and Muslim customers from flights. It also raises questions as to whether the airline’s policies and practices apply differently depending on a passenger’s religion or background.

The letter follows an MPower Change petition that has gathered over 20,000 signatures since being launched two weeks ago.

“Southwest’s unsatisfactory responses to recent incidents on flights have today created an environment where passengers who are Arab, Muslim, or perceived to be Muslim are wary about traveling with the airline. CEO Gary Kelly needs to assess the culture and policies of the organization in light of these incidents. No one should be made to feel unsafe on a flight or denied service because of their race, religion, or the language they speak,” said MPower Change Director Linda Sarsour.

Southwest Airlines is called on to take the following actions:

1. Issue public apologies to Khairuldeen Makhzoomi and Hakima Abdulle;
2. Review policies and procedures around how allegations from passengers and staff are elevated to become actionable and standards used for removing passengers or barring them from flights; and
3. Develop and implement anti-bias training for all staff that interact directly with customers.

MPower Change is urging its members to contact Gary Kelly directly to reiterate the concerns outlined in the petition and letter.

MPower Change also supported a letter issued to Gary Kelly last week by NCAPA and 25 additional Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations, which provided detailed recommendations for Southwest Airlines to reform practices, protocols, and policies.

MPower Change is a grassroots movement rooted in diverse Muslim communities throughout the United States who are working together to build social, spiritual, racial, and economic justice for all people.

Contact:
Mohammad Khan
(646) 883-8091
mohammad@mpowerchange.org

Signees include (updated 5/20/2016):

  • 18 Million Rising
  • ACCESS of WNY, Inc.
  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  • Arab American Association of New York
  • Asian American Psychological Association
  • Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance AFL-CIO (APALA)
  • Auburn Seminary
  • CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities
  • CAIR – Maryland Outreach Dept.
  • Center for Constitutional Rights
  • ColorOfChange
  • Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR)
  • Courage Campaign
  • Evolutionary Leadership, LLC
  • ICNA Council for Social Justice
  • Iraq Veterans Against the War
  • Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)
  • ISNA (Islamic Society of North America)
  • Michigan Muslim Community Council
  • Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates
  • Mizna
  • MoveOn.Org
  • Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC)
  • Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA)
  • Muslims for Ferguson
  • NAPAFASA
  • National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD)
  • National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA)
  • National Network for Arab American Communities
  • Network of Arab-American Professionals (NAAP)
  • Presente.org
  • South Asian Americans Leading Together
  • South Asian Bar Association of North American (SABANA)
  • Systems for Human Empowerment
  • Take On Hate
  • The Arab American Family Support Center
  • The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago
  • The Dream Defenders
  • The Gathering for Justice
  • The Markaz
  • UltraViolet
  • Veterans Challenge Islamophobia
  • Veterans For Peace National

The full text of the original letter is available below or via this link.

Open Letter to Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly by MPower Change

We’re Hiring! Part-time Civic Engagement Coordinator

Position: Civic Engagement Coordinator for MPower Change
Type: Part Time (20 hours/week)
Start Date: May 27, 2016

About the organization:

MPower Change is a grassroots movement rooted in diverse Muslim communities throughout the U.S., who are working together to build social, spiritual, racial, and economic justice for all people. Combining cutting-edge digital tools with years of field experience, organizing know-how, and an extensive network of supporters, MPower Change is redefining the ways that our communities build, maintain, and exercise power.

About the position:

MPower Change is seeking a Civic Engagement Coordinator to oversee an unprecedented program to register, engage, and mobilize thousands of Muslim voters across the country in one day. The Coordinator will be tasked with working closely with MPower Change staff and partner organizations to develop and implement a non-partisan voter registration drive during the month of Ramadan and GOTV plan through the end of election season. The Coordinator will be responsible for coordinating activities and logistics for the program. The position can be remote, though preference will be given to applicants in the New York City metro area.

Responsibilities:

  • Coordinate event logistics, planning and execution
  • Oversee administrative aspects of the civic engagement program
  • Develop relationships with local partners to ensure success of program
  • Ensure that outreach and engagement is tracked and reported

Qualifications:

  • Candidate must have enthusiasm and an interest in civic engagement
  • 1-3 years in civic engagement, community, issue, labor, or political organizing
  • Must possess strong logistical and coordination skills
  • Must possess strong written and oral communication skills
  • Ability to prioritize and effectively manage multiple tasks in a fast paced work environment
  • Ability to self-start and be accountable with minimal supervision
  • Ability to occasionally respond to situations outside of normal working hours
  • Familiarity with online organizing tools a plus
  • Familiarity and experience working with Muslim communities a plus

MPower Change is an equal opportunity employer. People of color and women are strongly encouraged to apply.

Please email cover letter and resume to Campaign Manager Mohammad Khan at mohammad@mpowerchange.org with the subject line “Civic Engagement Coordinator.”

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