Category Archives: Religion

7 Unexpected Things I Learned During My First Ramadan Dinner

Iftar Ramadan dinner TucsonBeing a product of Iowa, the corn state, I had never been to a Muslim Iftar dinner — the feast celebrated at the end of the of a month of fasting by Muslims worldwide — including Tucson.

To be sure, I’ve been to many Christmas Eves, Seders, Thanksgiving dinners, Fourth of July picnics and Easter sunrise services. But my first Iftar dinner was last Friday night, June 16 at the Sema Foundation in Tucson, where 150 faithful Turkish Muslims gathered in the community event.

The invitation said, “With love & gratitude, we request the pleasure of your company for our traditional Ramadan dinner. Let’s all celebrate friendship together.” My friends and I were honored to go.

Here are 7 unexpected things I learned during my Ramadan dinner.

1. It is a beautiful family event with mothers, fathers and little ones running around. It reminded me of my own family. The signs in the community hall said, “Welcome. Welcome.”

Unsure of where to sit, I decided not to barge into a table of women or all men talking. We saw three seats at a family table and immediately felt at home. I wore a clean white shirt out of respect and felt embarrassed that I had worn shorts.

How could Trump think to impose a travel ban on these wonderful people? Thank God for the Federal Courts that have stymied his evil plan.

I talked with Oğuz, a soft-spoken, stocky man visiting from Los Angeles. I followed his cues and did not touch the delicious spread of dates, hummus, pita bread, dolmades that were clearly tempting everyone. We all waited until the sun went down at 7:38 pm.

2. The meal begins with a sip of cold water. Oğuz said Iftar literally means “break-fast. Anyone from an Orthodox family (Russian Orthodox in my case) knows that healthy adults fast during spiritually significant times, including abstaining from drinking, eating, immoral acts and anger. Muslims also encourage other acts of worship such as prayer, reading the Quran and charity.

3. Fasting for a month makes people appreciate the richness of their daily lives, by denying themselves sweets, earthly pleasures, and even water. We know how precious water is in Arizona.

What insanity possesses the White House to ban these warm, spiritual, welcoming people?

Meanwhile, plates of delicious salad, potatoes, lamb, and rice were served by young women who had covered their heads. There were two beautiful calls to prayer, sung by men with trained, expressive voices.

4. Rather than build mosques which would upset some Tucsonans, the Muslim community blends in and shares their culture at festivals like Tucson Meet Yourself in October. Who hasn’t ordered a baklava with a strong Turkish coffee?

5. They do not build multi-million-dollar garish, marble clad, Trump Tower-like edifices. Islam is a major worldwide faith, not a cult. There are 1.8 billion Muslims in the world as of 2015 – roughly 24% of the global population – according to a Pew Research Center estimate.

Kurdish fighters from the People"s Protection Units (YPG) chat with members of US Special Forces.

Kurdish fighters confer with members of US Special Forces.

6. Oğuz explained that he is a Turkish Kurd, a people who are the fierce fighters working with American forces to wipe out ISIS terrorists. The Kurds have surrounded Raqqa, Syria, and are within two miles of the ISIS headquarters. Things would be going better but Syria’s dictator Assad is bombing them.

Oğuz’s mother is in Turkey, but he says he cannot visit her. Oğuz is part of a resistance movement against monstrous dictator Erdogan, who put his name on an arrest list. The tyrant has detained 150,000 teachers, journalists, police officers, judges, and civilians.

7. The Turkish people did not bargain for this and most informed Americans do not blame them for the takeover by a murderous dictator. This is just as the rest of the world does not blame the majority of ordinary Americans for the would-be dictator who occupies the White House. They understand.

Oğuz is supporting Democrat Steve Farley for Governor, who on June 5 kicked off his campaign to rebuild education in Arizona. As the elected Precinct Committeeman in #238, I too support Farley. Neither of us had name cards, so we wrote down our contact info on pieces of paper.

On the way out I talked with a man holding a tiny baby. I told him I was a senior citizen and looked forward to talking with my son in Chicago on Father’s Day. He said he was 35, was working hard to support his family and his 5-month old child.

I told the father that his son would carry him in his heart as he made his way through life, just as I hold my own father in my heart. My 33-year-old son is a productive citizen of Chicago, with his own apartment and a beautiful long-time girlfriend. I can’t wait to talk with him.

9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously rejects Trump’s revised Muslim travel ban

Donald Trump continues to go “oh for” in the federal courts with his discriminatory Muslim travel bans.

Today a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Trump’s revised Muslim travel ban, joining the en banc Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in rejecting the revised Muslim travel ban because of unconstitutional discrimination. Read the ruling HERE (.pdf).

The San Franciso Chronicle reports, Federal appeals court in SF deals Trump another travel ban defeat:

President Trump’s second attempt to ban U.S. entry by anyone from a group of nations with overwhelmingly Muslim populations was rejected Monday by a San Francisco-based federal appeals court, which said Trump had exceeded his authority and violated a ban on discrimination based on national origin.

The 3-0 ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco follows a May 24 decision by [the Fourth Circuit] appeals court in Richmond, Va., that reached the same conclusion. The Trump administration has appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Note: “The justices have asked the challengers to file responses to the petition for review and the requests for stays of the lower courts’ rulings. Those responses are due on or before 3 p.m. on Monday, June 12. This is likely why the Ninth Circuit issued its ruling today.  Stay tuned.

Continue reading

Demagogue Trump goes completely bonkers over his Muslim ‘travel ban’

Donald Trump is completely bonkers, but then you already knew that. What is happening with his Muslim “travel ban” over the weekend only confirms this.

First some background on the status of the Muslim “travel ban.” Trump’s original executive order in January was blocked by the federal district court for the state of Washington as unconstitutional religious discrimination, and that court order was affirmed by a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

This elicited this response from Trump:

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 6.48.18 AM

That didn’t happen. Instead, the Trump Justice Department dismissed the appeal and reissued a “revised travel ban” in March. The original executive order and lawsuit no longer exist for any purposes (something Trump does not seem to comprehend, as I will explain below).

The “revised travel ban” was also challenged in court, where it has advanced to two courts of appeal. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the federal district court for Maryland in an en banc decision blocking the “revised travel ban” as unconstitutional religious discrimination. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on May 15 in an appeal from the federal district court for Hawaii, and appparenty took additional arguments last week. 9th Circuit hears travel ban appeal, again. That decision is pending.

The Trump Justice Department filed for review before the U.S. Supreme Court late Thursday. Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog explains the posture of this case before the Supreme Court. Trump administration asks justices to weigh in on travel ban:

[T]he federal government asked the Supreme Court to step into the legal dispute over the constitutionality of the executive order [the “revised travel ban”] that the president signed on March 6. The government also asked the court to put on hold two lower-court rulings blocking the implementation of the executive order, telling the justices that those rulings undermine “the President’s constitutional and statutory power to protect” the United States.

Last night’s filings came in two separate challenges to the March 6 order, popularly known as the “travel ban.” One challenge originated in Maryland, where a federal district judge blocked the implementation of the order on March 16; last week the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit largely upheld the Maryland judge’s order. Another challenge came from Hawaii: A district judge there also ruled for the challengers, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit heard oral argument in the government’s appeal on May 15, but the appeals court has not yet issued its decision. Yesterday the government urged the Supreme Court to review the 4th Circuit’s ruling on the merits and to freeze the district court’s order barring the implementation of the travel ban. The government also asked the justices to freeze the Hawaii court’s ruling blocking the travel ban until the 9th Circuit appeal is resolved – and, if necessary, while the government seeks review of that decision in the Supreme Court.

Amy Howe notes that “The justices have asked the challengers to file responses to the petition for review and the requests for stays of the lower courts’ rulings. Those responses are due on or before 3 p.m. on Monday, June 12.

Continue reading

4th Circuit Court of Appeals will not reinstate Trump Muslim travel ban

In a continuing series of defeats before the courts for President Trump’s ill-considered Muslim travel ban, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday refused to reinstate President Trump’s revised Muslim travel ban, saying it discriminated on the basis of religion. Federal appeals court largely maintains freeze of Trump’s travel ban:

The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit means the Trump administration still cannot enforce its travel order that the government says is urgently needed for national security.

In its 10 to 3 en banc decision, the Richmond-based court said the president’s broad immigration power to deny entry into the U.S. is not absolute.

“It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the president wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation,” according to the majority opinion written by Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory, and joined in part by nine other judges.

The 4th Circuit declined to lift an order from a Maryland federal judge, who ruled against the travel ban in March and sided with opponents who said the ban violates the Constitution by intentionally discriminating against Muslims. The ruling leaves the injunction in place and means citizens from Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Libya can continue entering the United States.

Continue reading

Rev. William Barber Is reviving Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘Poor People’s Campaign’

The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the Moral Mondays movement that opposed North Carolina’s “most restrictive voting law in the nation,” recently scored a major victory against this TeaPublican tyranny. Strict North Carolina Voter ID Law Thwarted After Supreme Court Rejects Case:

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to revive a restrictive North Carolina voting law that a federal appeals court had struck down as an unconstitutional effort to “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”

The court’s decision not to hear an appeal in the case effectively overturned one of the most far-reaching attempts by Republicans to counter what they contended, without evidence, was widespread voter fraud in North Carolina. The law rejected the forms of identification used disproportionately by blacks, including IDs issued to government employees, students and people receiving public assistance.

Fresh off this victory, Rev. Barber announced last week that he will step down as president of the North Carolina NAACP and lead a new national initiative that aims to end poverty and begin what Rev. Barber calls “a national moral revival.” The Nation reports, The Rev. William Barber Is Bringing MLK’s Poor People’s Campaign Back to Life:

This new Poor People’s Campaign will pick up where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. left off 50 years ago when he turned his focus to uniting poor people across lines of race and geography and pushing their priorities onto the federal agenda.

The campaign, which launches in partnership the Kairos Center at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, will bring together organizations with a longstanding commitment to confronting poverty and inequality—local and national groups such as Picture the Homeless in New York and the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. Barber said a task force made up of poor people and economists, theologians, and other experts will in September release a report called “The Souls of Poor Folks” that will lay out the campaign’s agenda.

Continue reading

Arizona’s lawless Tea-Publican legislature and public education

I have made these constitutional arguments about public education in Arizona for years, but it’s nice to see The Republic’s Linda Valdez write an opinion that contextualizes the constitutional arguments in the current debate over public education in Arizona.

Well done,  Linda! Who cares what Arizona’s Constitution says about education? Not Republicans:

There must have been a vote to change the state Constitution. Right?

Why else would Arizona’s schools be so poorly funded? Why else would our state be barreling down the road to a two-tier, have-and-have-not school system?

How else could the conservative officeholders of Arizona – who vow to uphold the state Constitution – so blithely flout the spirit and text of that document?

So there must have been a vote. And we all missed it.

Continue reading