California Muslim mayor confronts racism by expanding inclusion for all citizens 

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Updated 05 October 2023
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California Muslim mayor confronts racism by expanding inclusion for all citizens 

California Muslim mayor confronts racism by expanding inclusion for all citizens 

CHICAGO: Farrah Khan, the woman of color and the first Muslim to win the mayoral seat in Irvine, California, was inspired to run for public office while volunteering on a campaign by the remarks of the husband of a candidate she was helping, who told her a Pakistani Muslim could “never win.”  

Provoked by the comments, Khan ran for a city council seat two years later in 2016 but was beaten back by an onslaught of racism that saw Muslims, Arabs and Pakistanis as portrayed as “terrorists.” 

Refusing to allow hate to win, Khan ran again and won a council seat in 2018. Two years later, she challenged and defeated Irvine’s incumbent Mayor Christina Shea, whose campaign resorted to stereotyping to push Khan back. 

 

“Through that (volunteer) work, I got to really be involved in the community, which kind of sparked my interest in politics but always behind-the-scenes. It wasn’t until 2014, I was volunteering on a campaign and after an event we were kind of all sitting around talking and I mentioned that I really would look forward to more diversity when it came to leadership roles and elected officials. And the candidate’s husband at the time said to me, ‘Well, I hope you are not thinking about running.’ And I said, ‘You know, I am not. But why not?’”  

Khan said she was shocked by the casual comment. 

“He said, ‘People like you with names like yours are unelectable.’ That was 2014. No one in the room said anything. No one said that is wrong or that is not true. It was just complete silence. And so, I am driving home, and I am talking to my husband, and I am talking to my sisters, and I am just so enraged, like how are we, even today, hearing comments like this and thinking that it is ok? And it just didn’t settle well with me.” 

Khan said she could not get past the casual racist comment and decided to run for a seat on the Irvine City Council. 

“So, I ran, for the first time, for the city council in 2016. I didn’t win that year. I lost. But I was fourth out of 11 candidates that were running and gained a lot of local attention. And then folks … really encouraged me to run again. And so, in 2018, I ran again and came in first out of 12 candidates for city council,” Khan said, adding she was prompted to run for mayor two years after that. 

“And then of course (in the) 2020 (mayor’s race), we not only had the pandemic but the social injustice issues that we were faced with. And a mayor at the time that just didn’t get the community’s needs and was responding to people with, ‘If you don’t like the city I live in, go find another city to live in.’ And that was in the LA Times. It really bothered me that no one was stepping up to challenge her only because she was not only an incumbent but a 20-year incumbent (mayor and council member) and she had never lost any of her campaigns.” 

After winning a city council seat in 2018, Khan went on to challenge the city’s new mayor, Shea, in 2020. The campaign saw Khan subjected to a barrage of racist attacks. Instead of giving up, however, Khan said she “pivoted” and championed the need to bring diversity to Irvine’s government. 

 

“I think it was all that driving force of all the negativity. In 2016, I will tell you I didn’t want to run again after that campaign because it was just so brutal. There were signs throughout the city that basically said that I was a terrorist, that linked me with the Muslim Brotherhood, that I was supported by all of these (Muslim and Arab and Pakistani) organizations and made me out to be a scary person,” Khan recalled, saying she was stunned by the intensity of the anti-Muslim hate thrown her way by the mayor at the time, Donald P. Wagner, and his supporters. 

“I was just like, my gosh, for people that know me, I am just the shyest person there. It was me fighting against that. (During) most of that campaign, I would come home and just cry my eyes out and just be like, ‘What is this?’ I heard politics was nasty and it was bad but I didn’t know how horrible it got where people that you considered your friends when it comes to politics are not your friends, and there is so much of a struggle.” 

Khan defeated Shea and two other candidates in the November 2020 general election, winning with 56,304 votes or 46.7 percent of the total votes cast. She led Shea by nearly 15,000 votes. 

The racism she faced in politics, Khan said, would change who she was, prompting her to offer voters an alternative environment of inclusion and acceptance. 

“You do have to fight back and stand up for yourself,” she said. “If you don’t, politics eats you up alive.” 

Khan said she did not win because Muslim, Pakistani or Arab voters dominated the election. They were a small minority in a city that was nearly 43 percent Caucasian and 40 percent Asian. Khan estimated that Irvine’s population was only 5 to 8 percent Muslim and 2.5 percent Black. 

 

“I ran (in 2018) on making sure that we were going to make our community more inclusive. Because of the hate that I faced, I wanted to make sure that no one else in our city was pinpointed. Just the xenophobia, the bigotry, all that stuff needed to be dealt with. And so those were some topics that I spoke of. And I think those also resonated with our API (Asian and Pacific Islander) community as well. 

“But when it came to 2020, it was totally different,” Khan said, referencing the COVID-19 pandemic and public anger over police killings of African Americans like George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

“We have about an 11 percent Hispanic American population and probably a 2.5 percent Black population. When they came out, especially the Black community during the Black Lives Matter rallies, I was at the very first rally and several others after that.” 

Khan said that she continued to face racism in each election, adding that the stereotypes were intended to frighten voters and undermine her growing popularity and reputation of embracing diversity for all. 

“And I remember our mayor at the time really pointing me out using my pictures at the rally, saying ‘Oh, she is out there trying to incite violence,’ that I was against the police and I wanted to eliminate safety in the city … (She was) targeting me as one person, but that is how our communities get targeted, day after day,” Khan said. 

“And so, I really made an effort to uplift the community’s voices and make sure that their issues were being heard. So that campaign was all about doing the right thing for the pandemic, and of course, … standing up and speaking out for social injustice issues.” 

After becoming mayor, Khan created the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to “uplift the voices” of diversity and be inclusive of everyone in the community regardless of race or religion. 

 

“Through that committee, we have done so much as far as being able to outreach into our general population and making sure were celebrating each other. For the first time in our city’s history, we celebrated Juneteenth. We celebrated Hispanic Heritage. And we celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival,” Khan said, referring to a festival celebrated in Chinese culture. They had prepared for only 200 attendees, but more than 2,000 came out. 

“And last year, I held a Ramadan event at City Hall, and it brought our Muslim community together … Those are ways we really bring our communities together to understand each other, to learn our cultures and our religions and not to be afraid, and I think that is something that has really sparked an interest in our committee members.” 

“That told us that when you make even the smallest effort to bring people together, they come out because they are craving it. So we just ran with it year after year since then … I will tell you, I get so much hate on social media ... The last time we celebrated Hispanic Heritage, there were so many comments (saying) … they are such a small population, it’s only 11 percent, why are we so focused on them? That’s exactly why we are so focused on them. And I don’t care if you are .5 percent of the population in our city, we are going to celebrate you and we are going to make sure you feel you are a part of this city.” 

Khan grew up in northern California and began her career in the biotech and innovation industry as a regulatory manager focusing on streamlining complex products and international research. In 2004, she and her family moved to Irvine, where her two sons have attended schools since kindergarten. She and her husband also serve as legacy partners with the Irvine Public School Foundation. 

Khan said she is planning to run for Orange County California supervisor in 2024 by spreading her message of inclusion and promising to build upon her record of addressing the environment and issues involving essential services for residents including housing, jobs, education, and transportation. 

In her short time as mayor, she has launched several new strategies leading to Irvine becoming the first city in Orange County to spearhead COVID-19 vaccination campaigns in local neighborhoods and senior centers. She passed HERO pay, which provides bonuses of up to $1,000 for frontline grocery workers who were employed during the pandemic, created a new committee focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, and adopted a resolution with strategies to support achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. 

Khan made her comments during an appearance on “The Ray Hanania Radio Show,” broadcast Wednesday Oct. 4, 2023 on the US Arab Radio network on WNZK AM 690 radio in Detroit and WDMV AM 700 Radio in Washington D.C. 

You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.


Many Democrats back Harris in 2024 race, but Pelosi, others silent

Many Democrats back Harris in 2024 race, but Pelosi, others silent
Updated 22 July 2024
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Many Democrats back Harris in 2024 race, but Pelosi, others silent

Many Democrats back Harris in 2024 race, but Pelosi, others silent

Many Democrats on Sunday quickly backed Vice President Kamala Harris to run as the party’s presidential nominee against Donald Trump after incumbent President Joe Biden’s abrupt departure from the race, but some powerful party members, including former House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi, stayed quiet.

After weeks of in-party fighting between Democrats on whether Biden, 81, should stay in the race, a rush of support coalescing behind Harris is crucial just over 100 days before November’s election.

However, there are plenty of doubts inside the Democratic Party about whether Harris can beat Trump in November.

Biden himself endorsed Harris on Sunday, not in his initial letter stepping down, but in a separate statement. He was quickly followed by the powerful Congressional Black Caucus, several key donors, lawmakers including US Senator Patty Murray, and super PACs including Priorities USA and Unite the Country.

“Today I want to offer my full support and endorsement for Kamala to be the nominee of our party this year,” Biden said on social media platform X. “Democrats — it’s time to come together and beat Trump. Let’s do this.”

Dmitri Mehlhorn, an adviser to Reid Hoffman, the LinkedIn founder and a major Democratic donor, called Harris “the American dream personified,” noting she was the daughter of immigrants. “She is also toughness personified, rising from my home town of Oakland California to become the top prosecutor of the state. With Scranton Joe stepping back, I cannot wait to help elect President Harris.”

Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, both Democrats, also endorsed Harris in a statement.

Still, others including Pelosi and former President Barack Obama thanked Biden for his patriotism but did not yet throw their support behind Harris or any other candidate.

“We will be navigating uncharted waters in the days ahead,” Obama said in a statement. “But I have extraordinary confidence that the leaders of our party will be able to create a process from which an outstanding nominee emerges.”

US Senator Peter Welch, the first Democratic senator to call on Biden to drop his reelection run, called for an open process to nominate Harris.

The Democrats should have “an open process so that whoever our nominee is, including Kamala, has the strength of having a process that shows the consensus position of the party,” he said. “The debate in the Democratic Party is who can carry on the legacy of President Biden and defeat Trump.”

One Democratic donor told Reuters they would support a ticket for Kamala Harris as the presidential candidate and Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro as her vice president, as a way to gain votes in Pennsylvania. It is not clear yet whom Harris would pick as her vice president if she were to become the nominee.

Though Shapiro said on Sunday he was grateful for Biden’s leadership, he did not endorse Harris.


World leaders pay tribute to Biden as he ends re-election bid

World leaders pay tribute to Biden as he ends re-election bid
Updated 22 July 2024
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World leaders pay tribute to Biden as he ends re-election bid

World leaders pay tribute to Biden as he ends re-election bid

PARIS: World leaders lined up to pay tribute to US President Joe Biden Sunday after he announced he was dropping out of the US presidential race, even as Republicans called on him to step down from the job before the end of his term.

Biden announced his decision in a letter released on Sunday, a stunning move that upends the 2024 race for the White House. He endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris as the Democratic Party’s new nominee.

One senior Republican argued that if he was not fit to run for re-election then he was not fit to serve out his term. But world leaders lined up to pay tribute to the Biden’s achievements as US president.

“You’ve taken many difficult decisions thanks to which Poland, America and the world are safer, and democracy stronger,” said Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

“I know you were driven by the same motivations when announcing your final decision. Probably the most difficult one in your life,” added Tusk, who served as the European Council president between 2014 and 2019.

UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer said he respected Biden’s decision, adding: “I look forward to us working together during the remainder of his presidency.

“I know that, as he has done throughout his remarkable career, he will have made his decision based on what he believes is best for the American people,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also paid tribute to Biden’s legacy.

“My friend @POTUS Joe Biden has achieved a lot: for his country, for Europe, for the world,” he wrote on X. “His decision not to run again deserves respect.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog thanked him for his decades of support.

“I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to @POTUS Joe Biden for his friendship and steadfast support for the Israeli people over his decades long career,” Herzog, whose role is largely ceremonial, wrote on social media.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also thanked Biden for his years of service.

“I’ve known President Biden for years,” he wrote on X.

“He’s a great man, and everything he does is guided by his love for his country. As President, he is a partner to Canadians — and a true friend. To President Biden and the First Lady: thank you.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese wrote on X: “Thank you for your leadership and ongoing service President Biden.”

“The Australia-US Alliance has never been stronger with our shared commitment to democratic values, international security, economic prosperity and climate action for this and future generations.”

Former president Barack Obama, with whom Biden served two terms as vice president, praised his record in office as president.

“Internationally, he restored America’s standing in the world, revitalized NATO, and mobilized the world to stand up against Russian aggression in Ukraine,” he said.

While he had every right to run for reelection, Biden’s decision to drop out of the race was testament to his “love of country,” Obama added.

The Kremlin said it was monitoring developments.

“The election is still four months away. And it’s a long time, during which a lot can change. We need to pay attention, follow what will happen and go about our business,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Life.ru news outlet.

Even as world leaders paid tribute to his performance on the world stage, leading Republicans were insisting he was unfit to remain president.

“If Joe Biden is not fit to run for president, he is not fit to serve as president,” said a statement from House Speaker Mike Johnson, the top Republican in Congress.

“He must resign the office immediately. November 5 cannot arrive soon enough,” he added.

Former president Donald Trump, who is running for the presidency again, wrote on his Truth Social network: “Crooked Joe Biden was not fit to run for President, and is certainly not fit to serve.”


’Give me his body’: Relatives grieve victims of Bangladesh unrest

’Give me his body’: Relatives grieve victims of Bangladesh unrest
Updated 22 July 2024
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’Give me his body’: Relatives grieve victims of Bangladesh unrest

’Give me his body’: Relatives grieve victims of Bangladesh unrest
  • Faith’s customs dictate that anyone who dies must be given a prompt burial

DHAKA: Grief-stricken widow Fatema Begum wept when hospital staff said her husband had been killed in the unrest that has roiled Bangladesh for nearly a week. She wept again when they refused to hand over his body.
Islam is the majority religion in the south Asian country, where 155 people have died since Tuesday in clashes between student protesters and police over contentious civil service hiring rules.
The faith’s customs dictate that anyone who dies must be given a prompt burial.
But staff at one of the biggest hospitals in the capital Dhaka has a longstanding requirement to only release bodies to relatives with police permission, and that is no longer easily forthcoming.
“Where is my husband?” Begum, 40, shouted at staffers outside the hospital’s morgue, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Give me his body.”
Begum’s husband Kamal Mia, 45, eked out a tough living as a pedal-rickshaw driver, transporting people around the sprawling megacity of 20 million people for the equivalent of a dollar per fare.
The family says he was not taking part in any of the clashes that have wrought widespread destruction around the city, but was killed by stray police fire.
Begum and her two daughters were told to go to a nearby police station for clearance. When her eldest daughter Anika went there, it was barricaded shut.
Officers had closed the station after arson attacks on dozens of police posts by protesters.
Anika was then sent to another police station farther away — a 10-kilometer (six-mile) round trip from the hospital — despite a nationwide government-imposed curfew.
Police there refused to give the necessary permission for the release of the body.
“My father was not a protester,” Anika said. “Why did my father have to die?“


Mia was among more than 60 people whose deaths in the unrest were recorded at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, the country’s largest health care facility in the heart of the capital.
The relentless influx of patients since the start of the police crackdown on protesters has stretched the hospital to its limits.
Ambulances, private cars and rickshaws carrying the wounded were at one point arriving an average of once per minute, an AFP correspondent at the scene saw.
The entry gate of the emergency department, guarded by paramilitary Ansar forces, was blood-stained.
As soon as casualties arrive, staff rush with stretchers and trolleys. Some wounded people were given first aid for a rubber bullet, while others who were hit by injuries had to wait — sometimes for hours — for the doctors on duty.
Some are brought in already dead. Loved ones burst into tears as soon as a doctor or nurse makes it official.
A group of volunteers stood by the emergency department using loudhailers to call for blood donors after the hospital’s stocks were depleted.
Among the dozens of grieving relatives at the hospital, the steps the police took to quell the student demonstrations have prompted untempered fury against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government.
“Hasina’s police have killed my son to keep her in power,” the father of a 30-year-old mobile phone shop owner shot dead in the capital, who asked not to be identified, told AFP.
“God will punish her for this unjust torture.”


Civilians killed and wounded as Russia and Ukraine trade attacks, Russia claims gains in the east

Civilians killed and wounded as Russia and Ukraine trade attacks, Russia claims gains in the east
Updated 21 July 2024
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Civilians killed and wounded as Russia and Ukraine trade attacks, Russia claims gains in the east

Civilians killed and wounded as Russia and Ukraine trade attacks, Russia claims gains in the east
  • Overnight into Sunday, Ukraine’s air defenses intercepted 35 of the 39 drones launched by Russia

KYIV: Russia and Ukraine exchanged drone, missile and shelling attacks on Sunday. At least two people were killed in Ukrainian strikes on the partly Russian-occupied Donetsk region, Russian state media said, while Ukrainian officials said Russian strikes wounded at least five people.
Along the front line in the east, Russia said it had taken control of two villages, one in the Kharkiv region and one in the Luhansk region.
Ukrainian shelling of Russia-held areas of the Donetsk region killed two people in the village of Horlivka, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said.
Three people were wounded by Russian drone strikes in southern Ukraine’s partly occupied Kherson region, local officials said Sunday morning. In the country’s northeast, officials in the Kharkiv region said two people were wounded when a village was hit by Russian shells.
Overnight into Sunday, Ukraine’s air defenses intercepted 35 of the 39 drones launched by Russia, according to air force commander Mykola Oleschuk. In addition, Russia launched three ballistic missiles and two guided air missiles, which did not reach their targets, he said.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense said Sunday that its troops had taken control of two villages: Pishchane Nizhne in the Kharkiv region and Andriivka, sometimes referred to as Rozivka, in the Luhansk region. Kyiv did not immediately comment.
Officials in the northern Sumy region said Sunday that Russia launched a missile strike on “critical infrastructure facilities” in the city of Shostka. City mayor Mykola Noha specified that “two heating facilities” had been destroyed and called on residents to use electricity sparingly and stock up on water.
With few changes reported along the 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) front line, where a recent push by the Kremlin’s forces in eastern and northeastern Ukraine has made only incremental gains, both sides in the war have taken aim at infrastructure targets — seeking to curb each other’s ability to fight in a war that is now in its third year.
Russian air defense systems overnight destroyed eight drones over the country’s Belgorod region and over the Black Sea, the Russian Ministry of Defense said.
Russian air defense also shot down two long-range ballistic ATACMS missiles in the sky over the Kherson region heading for Russia-annexed Crimea, Russia-installed Kherson governor Vladimir Saldo said.
Nine people were wounded over the previous day in shelling in the town of Shebekino in Russia’s Belgorod region, bordering Ukraine, Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Sunday morning.


What happens next? Joe Biden wants to pass the baton to Kamala Harris, here’s how that might work

What happens next? Joe Biden wants to pass the baton to Kamala Harris, here’s how that might work
Updated 21 July 2024
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What happens next? Joe Biden wants to pass the baton to Kamala Harris, here’s how that might work

What happens next? Joe Biden wants to pass the baton to Kamala Harris, here’s how that might work
  • Democrats are set to hold their convention in Chicago on Aug. 19-22 - now an open contest

ATLANTA: With President Joe Biden ending his reelection bid and endorsing Vice President Kamala Harris, Democrats now must navigate a shift that is unprecedented this late in an election year.

Democrats are set to hold their convention in Chicago on Aug. 19-22. What was supposed to be a coronation for Biden now becomes an open contest in which nearly 4,700 delegates will be responsible for picking a new standard-bearer to challenge Republican Donald Trump in the fall.

The path ahead is neither easy nor obvious, even with Biden endorsing Harris. There are unanswered questions about logistics, money and political fallout.
Can Biden redirect his delegates?
Biden won every state primary and caucus earlier this year and only lost the territory of American Samoa. At least 3,896 delegates had been pledged to support him.
Current party rules do not permit Biden to pass them to another candidate. Politically, though, his endorsement is likely to be influential.
What could happen at the convention?
With Biden stepping aside, Democrats technically start with an open convention. But realistically, his endorsement pushes Democrats into murky territory.
The immediate burden is on Harris to solidify support across almost 4,000 delegates from the states, territories and District of Columbia, plus more than 700 so-called superdelegates that include party leaders, certain elected officials and former presidents and vice presidents.
Will anyone challenge Harris?
Even before Biden announced his decision, Democrats floated California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as potential contenders in addition to Harris. Yet some Democrats argued publicly, and many privately, that it would be a no-brainer to elevate the first woman, first Black woman and first person of south Asian descent to hold national office.
Given how important Black voters -– and Black women especially -– were to Biden’s nomination and his choice of Harris as running mate, it would be risky, to say the least, for Democrats to pass her over for a white nominee. Democrats already faced historical headwinds before Biden’s withdrawal. Newsom and Whitmer, both of whom are white, and any other Democrat would also have to weigh the short-term and long-term benefits of challenging Harris now versus preserving goodwill for a future presidential primary.
Yet, fair or not, Harris also has not been viewed as an especially beloved or empowered vice president. The best scenario for her and Democrats is to quickly shore up support and project a united front. Democrats could even go forward with their plans for an early virtual vote – a move they’d planned to make sure Biden was selected ahead of Ohio’s general election ballot deadline.
What happens to Biden’s campaign money?
Biden’s campaign recently reported $91 million cash on hand. Allied Democratic campaign committees brought the total at his disposal to more than $240 million. Campaign finance experts agree generally that Harris could control all those funds since the campaign was set up in her name as well as Biden’s. If Democrats do nominate someone other than Harris, party accounts could still benefit the nominee, but the Biden-Harris account would have more restrictions. For example, legal experts say it could become an independent expenditure political action committee but not simply transfer its balance to a different nominee.
How will a vice presidential nomination work?
The vice presidential nomination is always a separate convention vote. In routine years, the convention ratifies the choice of the nominee. If Harris closes ranks quickly, she could name her choice and have the delegates ratify it. In an extended fight, though, the vice presidency could become part of horse-trading — again, a return to conventions of an earlier era.
Can Republicans keep Harris off state ballots?
Any curveball during a US presidential campaign is certain to produce a flurry of state and federal lawsuits in this hyper-partisan era, and some conservatives have threatened just that.
State laws, though, typically do not prescribe how parties choose their nominees for president. And some GOP figures – Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey – have worked already this year to ensure their party did not deny Democrats’ routine ballot access.