Mohammad Khan

Mohammad Khan is a campaigner and political organizer from Queens, NY. He’s currently the Campaign Director at MPower Change—the U.S.’s first digitally native grassroots Muslim organization—where he campaigns to organize Muslim communities and allies in the fight for justice for all people. His work focuses on transformative movement-based organizing and building the power of marginalized communities. Mohammad has worked across electoral, issue, and civic engagement campaigning and organizing in New York—from gubernatorial and City Council races to efforts including police reform, protecting public education, and exposing political corruption.

#CallingAllMuslims – A National Day of Phonebanking on 11/1

Election Day is just a few days away—on Tuesday, November 6th.

Leading up to this crucial election, we need to make sure Muslim voters around the country are getting out to the polls!

On Thursday, November 1st, folks all across the U.S. are coming together for #CallingAllMuslims phone banks—bringing together people in their community to make phone calls to Muslim voters to get out the vote.

Will you join? Sign up here and we’ll get you information on an event in your area—or help you organize your own!

#CallingAllMuslims National Phonebank Day is brought to you by MPower Change, Emgage, and our local partners (list in formation).

Jeh Johnson at ISNA: A ‘Soiled Antidote’ for Islamophobia

This past weekend, I joined a group of Muslim activists and organizers at the Islamic Society of North America’s (ISNA’s) 53rd annual conference in Chicago, in a rapidly organized protest of the keynote speech by Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The ISNA speaker who opened the program that Saturday evening did so by recounting how the late great Muhammad Ali was defamed for his courage speaking truth to power—a rather ironic prelude to a speech by the head of a government agency that is responsible for Islamophobic and anti-immigrant policies.

To their credit, ISNA’s programming this year included speakers and panels that challenged the status quo. And ISNA security did not intervene in our (mostly) silent protest (though those of us who acted had been willing to risk removal or arrest). But after learning that Secretary Johnson was delivering a keynote speech, we felt it was our moral and religious imperative to protest.

While some Muslims that night voiced appreciation that the White House sent a cabinet-level official to ISNA, and applauded Johnson’s speech, seeking proximity to power without making demands of that power does nothing more than amplify a declaration of weakness. And the need to speak truth to power becomes even more dire when power is in the room, not just when it is convenient and safe to do so from afar.

With myself alongside four Muslim women who led and grounded the action: Mariam Abu Ali, Maha Hilal, Ahlam Jbara, and Darakshan Raja, and supported by others who helped document it, we stood in protest while Secretary Johnson delivered his speech. A few of us lifted shackled wrists in the air, while I held a poster that read “Stop Deporting Families” on one side and “No CVE” on the other.

For us, the reason for making a stand was clear: Johnson and the DHS support, institutionalize, and enforce policies that are anti-Muslim and xenophobic.

Let’s start with deportations. Under the Obama Administration, DHS has deported more than 2.5 million people, more than any other administration in history. And their methods are cruel and dehumanizing. ICE agents raid communities under the cover of night, snatching women and children and tearing apart families. Before deportation, detainees are warehoused in sordid conditions in privately-run prisons. During deportation proceedings, agents use tasers and beatings, sometimes forcing migrants into body bags before tossing them onto airplanes like pieces of luggage. When they arrive back home, some who came to the US seeking asylum are killed by those whom they fled from.

These policies, which Obama and Johnson have stood by publicly and vocally, are inhumane and unjust. We cannot allow them to go unchallenged.

People are worthy of humanity and compassion—regardless of documentation status—whether they are women and children or those facing deportation because of accusations of “criminal activity.” And for Muslims specifically, our faith lays out an imperative for compassion towards migrants.

If you’re still not convinced, here’s a practical consideration: if Donald Trump becomes the next president of the United States, if you’re a Muslim you may very well find yourself declared “illegal,” no matter how meticulous your documentation may be. Who will stand up for you then?

In contrast to his pleasant-sounding words about not drinking the “soiled milk” of bigotry, the actions of Secretary Johnson’s department continue to be responsible for institutionalizing Islamophobia. Setting aside its profiling of Muslims and perceived Muslims at airports and borders, the separate systems of justice for Muslims accused of violence, and the misuse of “national security” to justify surveillance of social justice movements, we can look at DHS’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program as one that is built squarely on Islamophobia.

As explained by Professor Sahar Aziz, for Muslims, CVE continues counterrorism policies that facilitate selective and arbitrary enforcement, while deadly acts of terror attempted or carried out by non-Muslims go undetected. DHS furthers stereotypes of Muslims as terrorists and terrorism as a “Muslims only club,” which has the snowball effect of more policymakers calling for more aggressive scrutiny of our mosques, community organizations, and student groups.

This reduces our communities to being relevant only within the national security paradigm. And that’s exactly what Secretary Johnson’s presence did at ISNA, as it has done in other cities where he has been sent by the administration to promote CVE programs. Out of the myriad government agencies that deal with key issues, the decision to send the DHS Secretary affirmed that Muslims only matter to the State within the framework of national security.

In the end, Secretary Johnson’s speech did offer one kernel of wisdom—about the failure of respectability politics. He told the story of his grandfather, Charles Johnson, who “despite his academic degrees…and his many achievements, in 1949…was called to testify in Congress before the House Un-American Activities Committee.”

Likewise, for Muslims today, no number of degrees, accomplishments, or photo opportunities with prominent officials will be enough to insulate us from our government’s McCarthyist anti-Muslim policies.

Black Americans did not end segregation by inviting George Wallace to speak at their conventions—the civil rights movement, which included Black Muslim leaders, achieved significant victories by organizing, influencing culture, engaging in various forms of advocacy and activism, and building political power. And today, we find the Movement for Black Lives, indigenous communities, those fighting for migrant rights, and other marginalized communities resisting, converging, and building collective power towards collective liberation. Only by following this path can we overcome the institutionalized and mainstreamed Islamophobia that our communities face today.

Photo credit: Iram Ali @iramfali

Bilquis Abdul-Qaadir Responds to Open Letter to FIBA President

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir became a legendary basketball player when she shattered the 20-year high school scoring record in Massachusetts. She then went on to become the first player to wear a hijab in collegiate (NCAA) basketball. But for the last two years, she’s been prevented from playing professionally by an arbitrary yet discriminatory rule banning hijabs, turbans, and other religious headcoverings in the name of “safety.”

Today, 50+ organizations issued a letter to President Horacio Muratore of FIBA (the International Basketball Federation) requesting that the organization lift its ban on religious headcoverings, which continues to have a discriminatory impact on Muslim, Sikh, and Jewish players wishing to pursue careers in professional and international basketball.

“I am very grateful for the organizations who are in support of this movement to ensure that everyone has a shot at their dreams regardless of their faith. I hope that FIBA sees how important it is to remove the ban on hijab and other religious headwear, because it is now bigger than just basketball,” said Bilquis Abdul-Qaadir. “In a time when we see Islamophobia and xenophobia in many areas of public life, sports should remain an arena where one can succeed based on their skill, not their background.”

Learn more about Bilquis by watching the trailer for her upcoming documentary, Life Without Basketball.

The letter follows a petition that has gathered nearly 17,000 signatures.

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

Mohammad Khan
(646) 883-8091

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.

Mohammad Khan
(646) 883-8091

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
  • 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)
  • 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

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.