The debate is heating up over Muslims joining the parental rights movement.
As a former Muslim very involved in the #parentalrightsmovement, I am often asked why Muslims have been noticeably absent from the contentious school board meetings that discuss the overly sexualized material in classrooms. Everyone rightly assumes that observant Muslims have similar values as conservative Christians when it comes to our kids.
So, why are they not more aligned on this issue, and is there a chance that will change?
Since 9-11 and the rise of terrorism in the US from Islamic extremists, conservative politicians and the Muslim community have been at odds over national security, immigration, and homeland security policies. Though most of the hotly contested programs were started under Obama, Muslim advocacy organizations claim that the GOP is most aggressive against their community. It is true that conservative scholars and news commentators are more outspoken about the threat of “creeping sharia” and Islamist violence that are a danger to American society. Fundamentally, there is an irreconcilable tension between the two worldviews on certain principles. As a result, most Muslim activists have aligned themselves with the left, despite their own traditional family values and conservatism.
We see this most prominently with Muslim Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, members of the Squad who are staunch supporters of abortion and the fight for transgender males to compete in women's sports. In fact, Tlaib refused to support the parents in Dearborn, Mich., who were angry at their local school board for not allowing parental oversight over the material taught to their children. She accused conservatives of setting “their ugly, bigoted, and well-funded hate machine on the Dearborn community.” She made it sound like Muslim parents had no personal conviction on the issue but were only being manipulated by the right.
Similar to the uproar in Dearborn, in Montgomery County, Md., Muslim parents are also leading the charge. The Becket Fund for Religious Freedom filed a lawsuit against the school board for not allowing parents to opt out of sexualized content for their elementary school children. Though Maryland has a law protecting parents’ rights to opt out of sex education, this material is deceptively categorized as language arts to prevent them from exercising that right. Protestors pointed out that it was not just problematic books but that kids as young as pre-K would be forced to have classroom discussions and activities related to LGBTQ+ lifestyles. Notably, the Becket Fund supports religious liberty for all faiths but is governed by prominent conservative thinkers like Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society.
Asra Nomani, a well-respected community activist, pointed out the Muslim community's stark shift on this issue. She tweeted, “This was where the #woke army unholy alliance with Muslims came to die.” She wasn't the only one who noticed. Conservative pundits like Laura Ingraham, who historically is no fan of Muslims, also became curious about their participation. She said to her viewers, “People of faith have been waiting for Muslims to step up,” and brought on Kareem Monib, founder of the Coalition of Virtue, to address the issue. They discussed their shared interests in preventing the woke agenda in schools and how both groups are labeled white supremacists. Ingraham and Monib also highlighted the student's testimony, pleading with officials to grant them the personal choice not to participate based on their religious convictions.
However, this burgeoning new partnership between conservatives and Muslims made their left-leaning colleagues unleash a vitriol of hate and condemnation. One commentator angrily claimed that Muslims should remember how cruel and bigoted conservatives can be against them. He characterized the current uproar over sexual content in schools as being a rouse for the right to demonize gay people. He also warned that those same conservatives would quickly turn against them when this issue faded. He insisted that Muslims should instead align with the LGTBQ community and show compassion for their plight. One Montgomery County legislator asked why Muslim parents “were on the same side of an issue as White supremacists and outright bigots.”
In other words, Muslims are being harassed into ignoring the exploitation of their children because the right is leading this effort. It is a condescending and manipulative tactic to intimidate Muslim parents not to stand up for their rights and values.
Having lived and worked in Montgomery County for over a decade, I'm surprised local officials could not reach a more amicable solution. I previously co-chaired the County Executive's official interfaith advisory board, through which we addressed some very controversial subjects facing our community. In 2016, during the rise of homegrown terrorists recruiting for ISIS, together we established the nation's first evidence-based program to prevent violent extremism. There was an open line of communication between government and faith community leaders, including within the school system. In that partnership, we provided much-needed support to minor refugees entering the American classroom for the first time and taught students how to be upstanders against bullying and violence.
It will be fascinating to see how the relationship between Muslims and conservatives develops in light of all the forces trying to pull it apart. Having been on both sides of this divide, I firmly believe Muslims and Christians can work together to protect religious liberty while maintaining dramatically different world views. We do not have to agree on every issue to be on the right side of protecting our children.
Hedieh Mirahmadi was a devout Muslim for two decades working in the field of national security before she experienced the redemptive power of Jesus Christ and has a new passion for sharing the Gospel. She dedicates herself full-time to Resurrect Ministry, an online resource that harnesses the power of the Internet to make salvation through Christ available to people of all nations, and her daily podcast LivingFearlessDevotional.com.