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.


Saudi tourism sees 50% surge in Indian visitors as promotion intensifies

Saudi tourism sees 50% surge in Indian visitors as promotion intensifies
Updated 4 sec ago
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Saudi tourism sees 50% surge in Indian visitors as promotion intensifies

Saudi tourism sees 50% surge in Indian visitors as promotion intensifies
  • India expected to become Saudi Arabia’s top tourism source market by 2030
  • Promotional strategy bears fruit with Indian tourists seeking out Kingdom’s heritage sites

NEW DELHI: The number of Indians traveling to Saudi Arabia has grown by 50 percent following a series of strategic initiatives in 2023, the Kingdom’s tourism authority said, as it participated in India’s main international travel show over the weekend.

The 2024 edition of the South Asian Travel and Tourism Exchange — Asia’s leading platform for the tourism and hospitality industry — took place in Noida in the Indian capital region on Feb. 22-24.

The Saudi Tourism Authority established a huge pavilion at the venue, promoting the Kingdom’s ancient heritage sites and new tourism destinations.

“This marks Saudi Tourism Authority’s third year participating in one of the most prominent tourism trade shows in South Asia,” Alhasan Al-Dabbagh, STA president for Asia-Pacific markets, told Arab News.

“SATTE has been successful as it gave us the opportunity to strengthen our partnerships, share insights and grow together with our trade partners with one unified goal, which is to bring Saudi to life and make its experiences and packages bookable.”

The Saudi exhibition this year was bigger than in the fair’s previous editions, also reflecting the increasing success of its promotional strategy in India.

“We hosted over 1.5 million Indian inbound travelers in 2023, making a substantial 50 percent increase in visitation from 2022. This surge is attributed to strategic initiatives, including a successful partnership with the Indian Premier League, (and) enhanced air connectivity,” Al-Dabbagh said.

Alhasan Al-Dabbagh, STA president for Asia-Pacific markets, speaks at the South Asian Travel and Tourism Exchange on Feb. 22, 2024. (SATTE)

In February last year, the STA signed a partnership agreement with the IPL — the men’s T20 franchise that is the world’s most-watched cricket league — becoming its official sponsor and tapping into a strong sports fanbase in both countries.

Saudi and Indian airlines have also added new flights in 2023, connecting Indian cities directly to the Kingdom, while immigration procedures have been streamlined with additional visa-processing centers.

“Last year, we opened 10 VFS Tasheel offices across India, with plans to expand into tier-two cities. We launched our first-ever free 96-hour stopover visa early last year in collaboration with SAUDIA and flynas, our national carriers,” Al-Dabbagh said, adding that it is now “easier than ever” for Indians to visit the Kingdom.

Indians have been drawn mainly to the growing number of cultural attractions, with archaeological works in full swing and the development of leisure infrastructure.

The top destinations are currently Madinah, Riyadh, Jeddah, and AlUla — one of the Kingdom’s six UNESCO World Heritage sites.

“Saudi has been promoting its rich cultural and historical heritage through key initiatives like the restoration and preservation of heritage sites such as AlUla and Diriyah and the development of cultural festivals and events,” Al-Dabbagh said.

“To offer Indian travelers a plethora of accommodation options and recreational activities tailored to their preferences, we have invested heavily in developing tourism infrastructure, including hotels, resorts, and entertainment facilities, to accommodate the growing number of visitors.”

Tourism is a booming sector in Saudi Arabia under the Vision 2030 diversification plan. A key part of the vision is to position the Kingdom as a dynamic, diverse, year-round tourism destination and market that will contribute 10 percent of the gross domestic product by 2030.

In the three two years, India has emerged as a key tourism source market, and the STA expects it to become its largest in the next few years.

“By 2030, India is anticipated to become the number one inbound market for Saudi, underlining the growing importance of Indian tourists,” Al-Dabbagh said.

“Our aim is to welcome 7.5 million Indian visitors by 2030, aligning with our ambitious goals to enhance and diversify the tourism sector while fostering stronger connections between the two nations.”


India’s Assam scraps colonial-era Muslim marriage law

India’s Assam scraps colonial-era Muslim marriage law
Updated 35 min 16 sec ago
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India’s Assam scraps colonial-era Muslim marriage law

India’s Assam scraps colonial-era Muslim marriage law
  • Eighty-nine year law allowed marriage involving underage Muslims 
  • Leaders of India’s Muslim community decry move as discriminatory

GUWAHATI, India: India’s Assam state has scrapped an 89-year-old law that allowed marriage involving underage Muslims, against opposition from leaders of the minority community who called the plan an attempt to polarize voters on religious lines ahead of elections.

Assam, which has the highest percentage of Muslims among Indian states at 34 percent, has previously said it wants to implement uniform civil laws for marriage, divorce, adoption and inheritance, as the state of Uttarakhand did earlier this month.

Nationwide, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and other groups follow their own laws and customs or a secular code for such matters. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has promised a Uniform Civil Code, opposed by Muslims.

Assam repealed the Assam Muslim Marriages and Divorces Registration Act, 1935, effective from Feb. 24, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma wrote on X on Saturday.

“This act contained provisions allowing marriage registration even if the bride and groom had not reached the legal ages of 18 and 21... This move marks another significant step toward prohibiting child marriages in Assam.”

Asked by Reuters on Sunday whether the northeastern state would implement a Uniform Civil Code before general elections due by May, Sarma said: “Not immediately.”

Many Muslims in Assam trace their roots to the neighboring Bengali-speaking and Muslim-majority country of Bangladesh. Tension often flares between the Muslims and ethnic Assamese, who are mostly Hindu.

The BJP, the governing party in Assam — and Uttarakhand — calls itself the champion of ethnic communities.

Muslim opposition leaders said repealing the colonial-era law was discriminatory.
“They want to polarize their voters by provoking Muslims, which Muslims will not let happen,” Badruddin Ajmal, a lawmaker from Assam who heads the All India United Democratic Front that mainly fights for Muslim causes, told reporters on Saturday.

“It’s a first step toward bringing a Uniform Civil Code, but this is how the BJP government will come to an end in Assam.”


Republican seeks to bar party from paying Trump’s legal bills

Republican seeks to bar party from paying Trump’s legal bills
Updated 25 February 2024
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Republican seeks to bar party from paying Trump’s legal bills

Republican seeks to bar party from paying Trump’s legal bills
  • The former president faces four criminal trials and was recently ordered to pay about $540 million in judgments in two civil cases
  • “The RNC’s job is to win elections. It’s not to pay the legal bills for any leading candidate,” says the Republican National Committee member

NEW YORK: A Republican National Committee member has submitted resolutions that would prohibit the party from paying presidential candidate Donald Trump’s legal bills, according to a draft, but the measures must get more backers soon to move forward.

Mississippi RNC committeeman Henry Barbor drafted the resolution on Trump’s legal expenses and another requiring the party committee to stay neutral in the presidential race until he receives enough delegates to secure the nomination.
“The RNC’s job is to win elections. It’s not to pay the legal bills for any leading candidate. He’s got to fight his own legal fight,” Barbor told Reuters on Saturday.
Barbor needs to get two cosponsors from 10 states to join the effort by Tuesday for the resolutions to proceed to a full vote by the RNC’s 168 committee members. That vote could come in March and would require a simple majority to pass. But Barbor predicted they would be defeated if they reach that point.
Former President Trump, who denies all wrongdoing, faces four criminal trials and was recently ordered to pay about $540 million in judgments in two civil cases.
A Trump super PAC reported paying more than $47 million in legal expenses for him in 2023.
Trump is seeking to cement his status as Republican presidential nominee and gain more control over the RNC, including by nominating daughter-in-law Lara Trump as co-chair.
Lara Trump has said it is “a big interest to people” to pay fees for her father-in-law’s criminal and civil cases.
Barbor said pro-Trump forces were “jumping the gun” by seeking to declare Trump the party’s presidential nominee while longshot challenger Nikki Haley remains in the race for the Republican nomination to face Democratic President Joe Biden in the November election. Trump is on course for another easy win in South Carolina’s primary on Saturday.
The resolutions were first reported by The Dispatch. Trump campaign co-manager Chris LaCivita, who Trump has proposed serve as the RNC’s chief operating officer, on Saturday said in a statement that it is “the RNC’s sole responsibility to defeat Joe Biden and win back the White House.”
On Friday, he said the RNC would not use raised funds to pay for Trump’s legal bills.


British PM Sunak says West should be bolder about seizing Russian assets

British PM Sunak says West should be bolder about seizing Russian assets
Updated 25 February 2024
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British PM Sunak says West should be bolder about seizing Russian assets

British PM Sunak says West should be bolder about seizing Russian assets
  • The European Union, US, Japan and Canada froze some $300 billion of Russian central bank assets in 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine
  • Sunak also urged the US to continue to provide financial and military support for Ukraine

LONDON: Western nations should be bolder about confiscating Russian assets which they froze after the country’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said.
Sunak, in an article in an early edition of the Sunday Times to mark two years since the start of the conflict, said Ukraine continued to need more long-range weapons, drones and munitions, as well as other assistance.
“We must be bolder in hitting the Russian war economy .... And we must be bolder in seizing the hundreds of billions of frozen Russian assets,” he said .
Last month British Investment Minister Dominic Johnson met US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo to discuss the seizure of frozen Russian assets, but stressed this needed to be done in accordance with international law.
The European Union, US, Japan and Canada froze some $300 billion of Russian central bank assets in 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine.
Group of Seven countries have been studying a possible seizure of the assets as a way to have Russia pay for the damage its invasion caused in Ukraine.
Sunak also urged the US to continue to provide financial and military support for Ukraine.
“We should never underestimate what America has done for Ukraine and for Euro-Atlantic security. I urge them to continue that support, and I am confident they will,” he wrote in the article.
Britain’s defense ministry announced 245 million pounds ($311 million) of aid to fund Ukrainian artillery ammunition on Saturday.


Trump notches easy win over Haley in march to Republican nomination

Trump notches easy win over Haley in march to Republican nomination
Updated 25 February 2024
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Trump notches easy win over Haley in march to Republican nomination

Trump notches easy win over Haley in march to Republican nomination
  • Haley vows ‘not giving up,’ saying while Trump is strong within the party, he cannot win a general election
  • Poll says 32 percent of voters in South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary contest think Trump would not be fit for the presidency if he were convicted of a crime

CHARLESTON, United States: Donald Trump cruised to a decisive victory Saturday in the South Carolina Republican primary, blitzing rival Nikki Haley in her home state and continuing his march to the nomination and a White House rematch with Joe Biden.

Nonetheless, Haley vowed to fight on Trump may have strong support for the Republican nomination, she has better chances of winning in the presidential race than Trump.

“I said earlier this week that no matter what happens in South Carolina, I would continue to run... I’m a woman of my word. I’m not giving up this fight when a majority of Americans disapprove of both Donald Trump and Joe Biden,” she said.

Trump completed a sweep of the first four major nominating contests, converting a year of blockbuster polls into a likely insurmountable lead going into the “Super Tuesday” 15-state voting bonanza in 10 days.

While Haley repeatedly questioned the 77-year-old former president’s mental fitness and warned another Trump presidency would bring “chaos,” her efforts appeared to do little to damage his standing among Republicans.

The margin of victory was not immediately clear but it was expected to be significant, with major US networks calling the race within seconds of the polls closing.

Haley, a popular governor of South Carolina in the 2010s and the only woman to have entered the Republican contest, was looking to outperform expectations in her own backyard and ride into Super Tuesday with wind her sails.

But she was never able to compete in a battleground that preferred Trump’s brand of right-wing “America first” populism and personal grievance over the four indictments and multiple civil lawsuits he faces.

Meanwhile, some 32 percent of voters in South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary contest think Trump would not be fit for the presidency if he were convicted of a crime, according to the preliminary results of an exit poll conducted on Saturday by Edison Research.
The poll gathered responses from 1,508 voters in the Republican contest. Updated results will be available as more responses are gathered.

Trump had already won Iowa by 30 points and New Hampshire by 10, while a dispute in Nevada led to the real estate tycoon running unopposed in the official contest.

The margin of Trump’s victory was always the main question in South Carolina, with analysts arguing that Haley managing to whittle the gap to 15 points or less would have counted as a good night.
Trump aides have been clear however that they want to see off Haley long before the Republican National Convention in July — and are expecting the party to coalesce around the front-runner ahead of the first of his criminal trials on March 25.

Trump made clear Saturday that he is looking beyond Haley to a likely November contest against Biden.
Speaking ahead of voting booths closing to the Conservative Political Action Committee conference — a must-stop for Republican politicians — Trump spent much of his time bashing Biden, not Haley.
Haley — a traditional conservative who espouses limited government and a muscular foreign policy — has argued that a Trump presidency would be mired in scandal from day one.
The 52-year-old former UN ambassador underscored the point Saturday by describing as “disgusting” comments Trump had made to Black conservatives on the campaign trail.

“It’s disgusting. But that’s what happens when he goes off the teleprompter. That’s the chaos that comes with Donald Trump,” Haley said at a polling station in her home state.
“That’s the offensiveness that’s going to happen every day between now and the general election, which is why I continue to say Donald Trump cannot win a general election,” she added.
Trump made the comments Friday evening in a speech to Black conservatives.
Nodding to his multiple indictments, Trump said that “Black people like me because they have been hurt so badly and discriminated against, and they actually viewed me as I’m being discriminated against.”
Haley has also blasted Trump’s reaction to the death of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny — he avoided criticizing President Vladimir Putin — and his threat to encourage Moscow to attack NATO nations not meeting their financial obligations.
Her central argument — that polling shows her performing better than Trump in hypothetical matchups with Biden — may have fallen on deaf ears but she has vowed to stay in the race through Super Tuesday.
Analysts say she is building her profile for a potential 2028 run — and is poised to step in should legal or health problems knock Trump out of the race.
“Nikki Haley’s an incredible role model,” said one Republican voter, Julie Taylor. “She’s not giving up, she’s showing strength and grace and courage.”

One third of South Carolina Republicans would spurn Trump if he were convicted-exit poll
Some 32 percent of voters in South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary contest think Donald Trump would not be fit for the presidency if he were convicted of a crime, according to the preliminary results of an exit poll conducted on Saturday by Edison Research.
The poll gathered responses from 1,508 voters in the Republican contest. Updated results will be available as more responses are gathered.