Trump Speech to Muslims in Saudi Arabia Misses the Mark

May 27

A version of this editorial appeared in the Florida Times Union, May 27, 2017 President Trump’s uncharacteristically monotonic speech to a gathering of Muslim leaders in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, went off without any gaffes, to the great satisfaction of his advisers. Trump’s speech was similar to that of President Obama in Cairo, eight years ago. Both Trump and...

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The crisis of democracy in Turkey and Egypt

Apr 28

A 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 71 percent of people in Turkey and 67 percent in Egypt prefer a democratic form of government. And yet when it came time to vote, people used the ballot box to favor authoritarian leaders – Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in Egypt and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey. Democracy is not just the will of the majority, it is...

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The Curious Case of India’s Secularism

Apr 28

Growing up in India, I had taken India’s secularism for granted. Not just secularism of the state but also pluralism in society. It was not unusual for my Hindu friends to visit my home during Eids and I looked forward to visiting their homes during Pujas. Several of my family members married Hindus and although it did create moments of awkwardness, in general,...

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America needs a real policy regarding Syria

Apr 17

A version of this was published in the Florida Times Union on April 10, 2017 How do you solve a problem like Syria? First, by being honest. This maybe the greatest humanitarian tragedy of our lifetime. Earlier this month, the number of Syrian refugee crossed 5 million with half of those being children. A conflict that began in March 2011 with ordinary Syrians...

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Turkey’s Unethical Interference in American Civic Society is Dangerous

Apr 10

Patheos, April 6, 2017 I serve on the board of Atlantic Institute of Jacksonville, whose mission is to promote diversity and inclusion through engagement and dialogue. Atlantic Institute was founded by members of the Hizmet (Service) movement led by Fethullah Gulen, who lives a reclusive life in Pennsylvania. Turkey wants Gulen extradited because of his alleged but...

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An Un-Presidential Speech

Apr 10

Huffington Post, March 1, 2017 Moments after Donald Trump’s first speech to Congress, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, and CNN commentator Van Jones, a Democrat, both declared the speech as “presidential.” If the dictionary definition of presidential as “having a bearing or demeanor befitting a president; dignified and confident” is...

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Trump’s “Extreme Vetting” Undermines National Security

Feb 13

A President who received only 46 percent of the votes and currently stands at 36 percent approval ratings, has undone what the past two President’s assiduously avoided – signal to the world that America is at war with Islam, not just radicals who want to do us harm. Trump’s executive order approving “extreme vetting” that blocks visitors from seven...

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Failing to Stand Up for the Vulnerable

Feb 13

Following Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from 7 predominately Muslim countries and issuing a moratorium on most refugees, except for Syrian refugees who are banned indefinitely, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said, “There are terrorists in other countries who want to kill us and have leveraged a weak vetting system to do so.” Such...

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Reconciliation Or Resistance: Post-Election Dilemma

Nov 23

Huffington Post, November 22, 2016 It will be an understatement to say that the world changed in the wee hours of Wednesday, November 9. For some in America, it marked the beginning of a new dawn as the party and ideology they voted for won and won big — not just winning the presidency, but also both houses of Congress and majority of state legislatures. For...

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The Real Reason Trump Scares Me

Sep 08

Florida Times Union, September 8, 2016 Donald Trump’s speech in Arizona about his signature issue of immigration terrified me. Of particular concern was the perception that anyone who is not in Trump’s image, will be objects of his ire. In a Trump presidency, I have three strikes against me – immigrant, Muslim and brown-skinned. Trump’s slogan of making...

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American Islam Must be Rooted in American Pluralism

Jun 17

“The fact that it took place at a club frequented by the LGBT community I think is also relevant,” said President Obama after the unspeakable tragedy in Orlando, when a gunman killed 49 people and injured 53, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. The identity of the victim has been either dimly acknowledged or not acknowledged by two groups – Republican...

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London elects its first Muslim mayor to a sense of hope

May 26

London elects its first Muslim mayor to a sense of hope Florida Times Union, May 16, 2016 Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, being elected Mayor of London, topples a pervading narrative and in its wake leaves behind unparalleled opportunities. The son of Pakistani immigrants rising to run one of the leading cities in the globe is almost as remarkable as the more celebrated story...

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Trump Is the Face of Modern Fascism

Mar 19

I broke the law. While appearing on a local public radio show, I compared Republican Presidential frontrunner Donald J. Trump to Hitler and fascism. Thereby I violated Godwin’s Law (an internet adage), which states that thou shall not invoke Hitler or fascism in a civil conversation. I am loath to invoke such loaded terms. But Trump makes it both easy and...

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Desmond Tutu Award Acceptance Remarks

Feb 18

On Thursday, February 18, 2016 I was humbled and honored to receive the 2016 Desmond Tutu Peace and Reconciliation Award from my university. At the ceremony, I made brief remarks. Several people at the event urged me share my remarks. Here it is: Good afternoon. This is unbelievable. An immigrant from India receiving the Desmond Tutu Peace Award at an Martin Luther...

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Open Letter to Donald Trump

Dec 15

Co-authored by Mark Schlakman* Dear Mr. Trump, It certainly isn’t a revelation that America and its politics are sharply divided. Vilifying the “other” major political party is seemingly more palatable than advancing transformative ideas or reaching across partisan lines to achieve meaningful compromise. Smaller factions within both major parties,...

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