The Trump Administration brought with it a ban on travel for Muslims attempting to enter or re-enter the U.S.
This new law ran into many legal challenges, as it seemed to violate the 1st and 14th amendments for their guarantee of the right to worship as one pleases, if at all and the right not to be treated differently for the nature of one’s religious beliefs. This ban rightfully frightened many Muslims and created an unhealthy and uncertain situation for them and their families. It also created an untenable situation for those non-Muslims concerned about inclusion, democracy, an end to profiling, justice for all and more. If the U.S. government could get away with this kind of law directed at any one group, it opened the door for this kind of prejudicial treatment toward any group the U.S. government might decide to target.
Immigration made America great. Refugees welcome. (Jan 28, 2017) Photo: Afşar Arda
Out of the need to protect their human and civil rights, and the human and civil rights of all, a group of American Muslim lawyers founded the American Muslim Bar Association (AMBA) in June 2020. As of December 2020, there were at least 1,000 legal professional and law student members of AMBA.
In late October 2020, AMBA began to publicize a Policy Report developed by surveying the Shi’a Muslim community, a minority within an already marginalized Muslim community, in early September 2020. The purpose of this initiative was to make sure Shia Muslim voices were also being heard in the current robust civic conversations happening among the American Muslim diaspora. A statistically significant percentage of the ~1 million population of American Shia Muslims responded, 532 people aged 18 - 65. The results of this survey were published in a report and distributed to all candidates for president listed on the ballot in all 50 states.
The top three policy priorities identified from the national survey were:
Yemen and Saudi Arabia
This policy priority has several components. On the one hand, the paper calls for the U.S. to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia so that Saudi Arabia will end its war on Yemen, a war that has pushed millions to the brink of starvation, including millions of children. The U.S. public has also expressed its opposition to this war and to U.S. support for it, so it is about time that the U.S. government listens. January 25th is the International Day of Solidarity with the people of Yemen.
Additionally, according to the policy paper, the Saudi government discriminates against Shi’ia Muslims. The policy paper calls for this practice to stop by protecting the religious freedom of Shia Muslims, the restoration of the Al Baqi Cemetery, a sacred site for Shi’ia Muslims, as well as an end to the Saudi government’s efforts to block Shi’a Muslims from visiting this important historical site.
It is no secret that many in the U.S. are critical of the way the U.S. government has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. This policy paper is no different. It calls for a robust national plan to make sure all hospitals have adequate amounts of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), widespread, easily accessible testing and more. In addition, the policy paper calls for genuine universal health care, as would be made available in a single-payer system, like Medicare for All.
US Policy on Palestine/Israel
Many in the U.S. have only heard about this situation through the eyes of the Israeli government. This policy paper calls upon the U.S. government to start prioritizing the rights and needs of the Palestinian people in this conflict and holding the Israeli government accountable for violations of international law and prosecute individuals and corporate actors suspected of war crimes under this apartheid regime. It also calls on local, state and federal governments to stop trying to block and criminalize support for the Boycott, Divest and Sanction Movement (BDS).
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once asserted that civil rights are human rights. That principle holds true for the civil rights of all people -- a noble goal that the U.S. Constitution attempts to protect and champion. We must make it a reality with the help of our American Muslim neighbors.
The American Muslim Bar Association (AMBA) is a representative body of U.S. lawyers, legal professionals, and aspiring attorneys committed to the practice of law and the pursuit of justice in both the public and private spheres. AMBA’s work is motivated by the principles of the Ahlul Bayt, the family of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them). These principles include love, justice, compassion, and mercy. Our legal activism is also inspired by the joy and beauty of the Ahlul Bayt, despite the pain and persecution they suffered. Accordingly, our vision is driven by emulating their selflessness to community and their courage to speak truth to power at any cost. To join the AMBA network and/or if you need help connecting to resources, please write to us at email@example.com.
Editor's Note: Madelyn Hoffman, a seasoned activist, was director of the Grass-Roots Environmental Organization and director of New Jersey Peace Action. She was Ralph Nader’s vice-presidential running mate in New Jersey in 1996. The following year she ran for New Jersey governor as a Green. She also ran as a Green for U.S. Senate in 2018, receiving 25,150 votes, and ran for the same seat again in 2020, receiving 38,288 votes. You can read more about Madelyn's achievements here.