What Won’t She Sell Out?  The Opportunism of Asra Nomani

It seems Asra Nomani has finally, completely, lost the plot. Her latest opinion article in the Washington Post and subsequent media interviews about being a Trump supporter are a delusional misrepresentation of Trump and his campaign, and defy all dignified explanation.

Over a decade ago, Asra Nomani wrote two books exploring her identity as a Muslim, an Indian, and an American.  Having achieved a modest platform, she very publicly asserted her right, as a woman, to worship in the same space as the men in her mosque, in front of, rather than behind a partition.  To be clear, many American Muslim women, including me, were then and are now absolutely in support of gender equality in the mosque.

However, many, also including myself, were dismayed by her tactics: taping 99 precepts, Martin Luther-style, to the mosque door, disrupting the community and the space repeatedly with camera crews, and failing miserably to engage other women in her community.  It all seemed like a show for that sector of Western non-Muslims who were eager to have a Muslim woman confirm their deepest prejudices.  Her precepts and actions seemed to represent only her own interests.  It felt deeply presumptuous for one member of any community to articulate commandments or rules of conduct for everyone else, much less to post them on the door with a film crew present.  That she thought it would be acceptable was not only evidence of her disconnect from the community, but from reality.

Still, Nomani tried to present herself as the face of acceptable, assimilated Islam in the camp of Islamophobic liberals.  She was a convenient spokesperson, brown and ostensibly Muslim enough to denounce Islam as backwards without being seen as just another bigot.

For some reason, Nomani has chosen this moment to stop walking that thin line, unapologetically aligning herself with President-elect Donald Trump.  In this article, she lists her nonsensical reasons for supporting Trump:  Obamacare and the president’s loan modification program, “HOPE NOW,” didn’t help her.  Rural Americans in her hometown of Morgantown, WV are still struggling to make ends meet.

Nomani does not link a single one of these factors to any credible plan or promise Trump has to resolve these issues.  That’s probably because there aren’t any such arguments to be made.  Before Obamacare, private health insurance was even further out of reach, as evidenced by the 16.9 million Americans who are newly insured under the Affordable Care Act.  And President-elect Donald Trump has not articulated any plan to help people modify their home loans.  In fact, one of his first staff selections after securing the Republican nomination was Steve Mnuchin, chairman of OneWest Bank, known for skipping any attempts to keep homeowners in their homes during the foreclosure crisis, and for its “particular talent” for taking the homes of seniors and people of color.  Mnuchin is now being floated as a likely candidate for Trump’s Treasury Secretary.

Trump’s plans to bring coal jobs back to West Virginia, a state that has a staggering 49.1% employment-to-population rate have been dubbed fantasy.  Even if we returned to dangerous, labor heavy methods of mining that have been out of use since the early 20th century, there simply isn’t enough recoverable coal to support the industry as it once existed.   That doesn’t even begin to touch the global consensus that we need to move to clean energy and away from fossil fuels.

Nomani seems to have adopted Trump’s hallmark strategy of denying what is obviously true, gas lighting in the extreme.  Nomani calls Trumps rhetoric “far more than indelicate,” but chalks the allegations of bigotry, racism and misogyny up to media spin, calling it a “convenient distraction” from the real problem, which she calls “extremist Islam.”

The indelicate rhetoric to which she refers has, of course, resulted in a dramatic upsurge of violence against women, and hate crimes against LGBTQ people, Muslims, immigrants and people of color, particularly but not exclusively African Americans.  It has garnered the gleeful support of the KKK, and has been codified in specific plans and proposals to develop a “deportation force,” build a wall, register and surveille Muslims, enforce a “complete ban” on Muslims entering the country, to attack Roe v. Wade and marriage equality.

The parallels between the sexism and intolerance that Nomani rails against in Muslim communities, and the sexism and intolerance she is willing to minimize and embrace in Trump, are astonishing.  Nomani is shameless in her duplicity, dutifully calling Trump’s boastful admissions of repeated sexual assault “locker room talk,” even as she “rejects” it.  Her opinion article reads as if she were already a paid surrogate, bound to follow the party line, obfuscate, deny.  It is clear that if Asra Nomani ever had a glimmer of genuine interest in the plight of women, that interest has been lost in the opportunistic scramble to please whichever powerbroker is at hand.

Sofia Ali-Khan is a Muslim American public interest lawyer and writer. Her recently viral post, “Dear Non-Muslim Allies,” and other writings can be found at sofiaalikhan.com.  Sofia participated in a podcast this week to discuss the election and concrete steps to move forward after this election. 

Image Credit.

6 Comments

  • Chris says:

    WOW, An American citizen who happens to be a woman and a Muslim decides to make her voting record public and you vilify her because she doesn’t believe what you believe . Who is the hypocrite now? You obviously don’t understand what makes this country so unique and special. It doesn’t matter that your a woman or man , Christian or Muslim,.your age , your serial orientation , your beliefs and values cut through those things. It’s been obvious over the past few days since the elections liberals have been the least tolerant. If you don’t vote or belief the way you think , Your will call them a traitor or try to shame them . Your the one who needs to find tolerance and compassion.

  • Tahira Ali says:

    As a woman, I always think twice about critiquing other women in the public sphere. As a Muslim woman, I think a few times more about doing the same with a Muslim woman.

    But something is clearly not right with Asra. I’m talking about up there in her head. She is a talented news reporter with exceptional investigative skills. She is also an engaging writer. Many of the causes the espouses, generally-speaking, are worthwhile. But the typical restraint one would see from a professional or a well-adjusted human being is lost when she plays the role of a commentator and activist. I have refrained from making comments on these lines for a long time. However, I think it’s important that we now call a spade a spade. There is demand in the mainstream press for the positions she takes on Muslim issues. And because she meets that demand, the obvious imbalance up in her head is ignored. This would not be the case were she of another religious background.

    But here we have someone who, having grown up in West Virginia, has longed to be white and has never quite reconciled with the skin in which she was born. Her views on terrorism all blur with her sexual preferences and personal life. The world she sees is Manichean. The Muslim man not only denies her equality in the mosque, but even the non-observant Muslim man is incapable and unwilling to sexually satisfying her. Her knight in shining armor is on more than one occasion a white, southern Christian male who is also a uniformed military personnel. http://www.marieclaire.com/sex-love/news/a3330/muslim-wedding/

    For the past decade, her work has relied on developing a Muslim male straw man that doesn’t resemble the reality of her experience. For example, in her documentary on her mosque, everyone was kind to her. When she prayed amongst the men, they let her be.

    It makes me wonder whether she has been truthful in her writing about her personal life. She conceived a child out of wedlock. But she is the only one who has mentioned it. There is no indication she has been shamed about it. And her Muslim father has been nothing short of supportive.

    I think what we have is an intelligent person who is profoundly unwell. And because there is demand for her inanities, she will continue to be indulged, rather than redirected toward therapy.

  • snb says:

    I mean this most sincerely, without any hatred, when I say Asra Nomani’s political positions make me sick. I will be paying close attention to her comments and opinions as this administration progresses through its term.

  • Asra is, as always, spot on in my opinion. The problems within the Muslim community which stem from an outdated and archaic approach to faith and religion on the part of those teaching and propagating Islam is a greater problem than Mr. Trump. She calls on Muslims to update & adapt their faith and reflect on what so far have been their obvious failings. Yet she will be criticized for doing so…much as a well meaning friend who tries to help a suffering alcoholic or drug addict is vilified by the addict, or a child is angry at daddy or mommy because they can’t do what they want to do any longer. Grow up ummah/Muslim community, this is for your own good. At 1400 + years old, you are no longer a child.

  • Never found anything wrong with Martin Luther. His actions changed the world. Perhaps Sofia has something against that, but until Muslims produce their own Luther…and they themselves do and think like the German peasants who dared to stand against the power of organized religion of the day…they will be seen as inferior and their religion inadequate, unable to adapt to the needs of the 21st century. Just something to consider. Thanks.

  • Mara Sand says:

    So it’s true. If a Muslim dares to hold on to less Islamic views you character assassinate him or her. If not worst. Is she too Westernized?

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