Editorial: When Wallet Concerns Overrides Human Concerns

By Omer Bin Abdullah

January/February 2022

Under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA; 1998), the U.S. President is required to annually review the status of religious freedom in every country and designate those whose governments have engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe violations of religious freedom” as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC). 

Secretary of State Blinken, who announced the CPC and Special Watch List on Nov. 15, 2021, choose to disregard the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) recommendation, covering the calendar year 2020 (released in April 2021), that India should be added to it. This independent, bipartisan federal government commission was created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) to monitor the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad. Also last year, Freedom House downgraded India from “free” to “partly free,” slamming Modi’s government for everything from harassing journalists to attacking non-Hindus.

Such actions point to an unmissable reality — wallet-concerns overrides human concerns and little somethings like ethics and morality. Corporate America knows that apart from China, no other country can dangle the 1.5 billion market spread. President Biden is trying to elevate India, one of the “Quad” (the U.S., Australia and Japan), to stand up to China. However, an anonymous U.S. official told Politico on Sept. 23, 2021: “We are repeating the Obama and Trump mistake of cosying up to India and Modi without demanding [that] Modi end his tilt towards authoritarianism and start protecting human rights and religious freedom.”

In fact, nearly a decade earlier Modi, at that time Gujarat’s chief minister, had been denied a U.S. visa on religious freedom grounds after being accused of tacitly supporting extremist Hindu attacks – leading to mass killings — on the state’s Muslims. In 2016, however, his star had risen [via Obama] so much in Washington that he was allowed to address the U.S. Congress.

While the U.S. and especially its allies show righteous concern for China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, similar candles of morality don’t light over India and Israel.

Luke Peterson alerts us to fascist Hindutva’s impact on the American academy, and Monia Mazigh asks if compromising with old corrupt rivals negatively impacted Ennahda’s efforts to govern Tunisia.

Prof. Jimmy Jones contends that the many examples of born Muslims mistreating African American Muslims don’t rise to the level of an organized institutional effort to make them “second-class citizens.” He invites Muslims to “reform” not Islam, but ourselves, and to learn from the spiritual, intellectual and political acumen of our beloved Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alyhi wa sallam), who brilliantly recalibrated Islam’s religious and social practice as he built an inclusive Islam-based community in Yathrib (renamed Makka after his hijra).

Late last year, ISNA took a major step toward continuing past president Dr Sayyid M. Syeed’s legacy of interfaith understanding and cooperation by passing the baton to Imam Saffet Catovic. Bringing a rich MSA/ISNA inheritance from his parents, in addition to being a scholar in his own right, he not only promotes interfaith relations, but also environmental issues and youth activities such as running Boy Scout programs. ISNA remains committed to promoting understanding among Americans of all modes.

In this issue, we reach Bosnians in New York who sought refuge in the U.S. from the Serb-enforced holocaust and recalibrated their lives as practising Muslims. They did so when they realized that losing their faith and Muslim ways didn’t matter when their tormentors thirsted for Muslim blood. We wish them success.

This issue also introduces Robert D. Salim, whose “Omar and Malik Adventures” series presents a Muslim African American family living Islam in their daily lives and celebrates the life of the late Dr Mahmoud Ayoub.