Muslim Advocates: On Jan. 6, Listen to Marginalized Communities

Washington, DC — One year ago today, a mob of supporters of former President Trump violently stormed the U.S. Capitol, causing five deaths and dozens of injuries. Also that day, a man parked a vehicle near the Capitol that contained an arsenal of bombs, multiple guns, a crossbow and a handwritten hit list that specifically singled out Rep. Carson as a Muslim.

The following is a statement from Muslim Advocates’ founding board members and Interim Co-Executive Directors Farah Brelvi and Asifa Quraishi-Landes:

“One year ago, we as a nation watched in horror as a violent mob inspired by hate stormed the U.S. Capitol—a symbol of our democracy. As Americans, we were heartbroken and ashamed; as American Muslims, we were not surprised. We knew that the instincts driving that violent mob also drove people to attack American Muslims after 9/11. The blinders that caused law enforcement to miss the clear warning signs leading to Jan. 6 are the same blinders that have caused multiple White Houses to de-prioritize the threat of white nationalism. And the same anti-democratic ideology that drove a sitting president and members of Congress to try and reverse an election also drove lawmakers to enact policies that labeled Muslim Americans as foreign threats and trampled on our civil liberties. The media, as well as local and federal governments, spent millions of dollars and time on this supposed foreign threat, despite decades of reporting by the FBI and other authorities that white nationalism is actually the greatest domestic terrorist threat. In short, we are all living on the distorted side of an Alice-in-Wonderland looking glass, where it is considered appropriate to trample on the civil liberties of Muslims in the name of safety while Jan. 6 rioters run for office.

How did we get here? We think a big part of the problem is the lack of attention to the canary in the coal mine. In a democracy, the canaries are marginalized communities. We believe that when a democratic society regularly tolerates the mistreatment of its own people, it is only a matter of time before that society begins to lose its grip on democracy altogether. For us, that time has come: last year, for the first time in history, the U.S. was added to a list of the world’s “backsliding democracies.”

For over two decades, Muslim Advocates and other groups have sounded the alarm about the danger that anti-Muslim hate poses to all Americans. Our colleagues working in Black, Asian, LGBTQ+, Latinx, Jewish and other marginalized communities have been doing the same for their communities.  

Why should non-marginalized Americans care about this work? Because we are all connected. When we allow the powerful to ignore the marginalized, we validate the use of power to gain more power. When we fail to check the powers that have trampled on the rights of our marginalized communities, we pave the way for the Jan. 6 mob to violently storm the U.S. Capitol to try and reverse an election result that they did not like. American Muslims were among the many communities around the country who could clearly see how the events of Jan. 6 were, and are, intertwined with how we treat minorities. As a Muslim House staffer told us, ‘the first thing that came to mind when I saw it was “what the hell does this mean for Muslims, for minority groups in general? If they are willing to do this, what are they going to do to us?”’

And, although Donald Trump is currently out of office and we’re a year past the insurrection, the threat to democracy and the safety of all Americans persists. Staunch allies of the former president like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert are currently serving in Congress and using their megaphones to encourage anti-Muslim hate and threats against. As another American Muslim House staffer told us, ‘As a hijabi, I can feel the hate. I feel people giving me dirty looks as I walk the halls of Congress. Why are they doing that? We still have to work together!’

So how do we get on the right side of history? We think the answer is simple: listen to Muslims and other communities that have been sounding the alarm for decades about white nationalist hate and violence in our politics.

Years ago, we and other concerned American Muslims founded Muslim Advocates following the passage on the PATRIOT Act. We knew it could happen again. Though our communities have won many victories, many of the same problems persist. However, we are encouraged by the greater awareness of the dangers of anti-Muslim hate, and we are grateful for all the many allies with whom we rise in solidarity against all forms of hate. By listening to each other and actually holding people accountable when hate turns into violence, we can root out future threats to our democracy. On this painful anniversary, we hope that all Americans take a moment today to think about how we can collectively do better.”