Religion or Politics: Pick One!!!

This is a blog on a topic I never thought I would write about: Religion and Politics.

My name is Nazr Tahiru Mohammed. I am a 1st generation AMERICAN born in Chicago to 2 Muslim Ghanaian immigrants. That means I am an African (no Hyphen) American (born in Chicago) Muslim (practicing Islam with no affiliation with the Nation of Islam but I do consider them brothers and sisters) Black Man (English is the only language I speak). I was told by so many people thru social media the last few days to "Go back to your country" that I feel that I needed to clear things up (smh). Home for me usually means Chicago with Kentucky being my 2nd home. Though visiting Ghana for the second time in my life is also in the plans but it's still hard for me to call that home. Being a part of these different communities has shaped me and molded me into the person I am today. It's made me focus on the similarities of various religions instead of their differences. Islam has taught me the importance of faith, prayer, charity, discipline and diversity. And these pillars can be found in most if not all religions.

Growing up in Chicago I had friends who sold drugs, went to Ivy League colleges, committed robberies, became decorated Police Officers, went to prison, became Judges, practiced different religions, were in gangs, drove cabs, worked in sanitation, were CEO's and everything in between. This has always kept me opened minded to the fact that people are capable of great things or horrible things. Sometimes these individuals show a duality of conflicting qualities at the same time. I have felt as if it is up to me to weigh the good and bad then decide if the relationship was worth having. Basketball has blessed me with the opportunity to meet all types of people with different political views, socioeconomic status' and religions. Islam has taught me that every sin weighs the same in God's eyes. That has conditioned me to not overreact in moments of conflict. I try to understand both sides rather than blindly condemn someone as if I'm "holier than thou". That goes for life choices, religion and politics in my book.

As an American, Christianity is ingrained into our society. Most of my friends are Christians, in America Christian holidays are celebrated nationally and I even attended Catholic school when I was younger. As a Muslim in America I realized at an early age that Islam was misunderstood. Whenever I told someone my faith, they usually commented "You're not like most Muslims". Then they'd proceed to ask me about Minister Louis Farrahkan and the Nation of Islam, which I knew nothing about with the exception of what I'd read. So instead of correcting them, I usually tried to change the conversation as quickly as possible. In their mind and not knowing my Ghanaian heritage, it was no way I was any other type of Muslim. Let me clear up that misconception now... Not all Muslims are from the Middle East. We are from all over the world. We come in all shapes and sizes. In fact, there are over 1.6 Billion Muslims in the world and the majority of them live in India and Pakistan- not just the Middle East.

For years I have sat back and read comments from fans, friends and random people that I follow on various social media networks and have been disappointed by their opinions and lack of knowledge in regards to Muslims. However, considering recent events, I was overcome with sadness and broke one of my personal rules of not commenting publicly on my religious views thru social media. There aren't enough keystrokes to properly convey how I feel or give me enough of a platform to inform the person on the other end reading my 140 character post. I prefer to share things that are truly important to me in an environment where I can speak as long as I want and take my time in gathering my thoughts like here in my blog. But after reading the headline, "Former NBA Player Nazr Mohammed Sounds Off on Trump Ban", from an article that was written totally from two of my last Twitter post, I realized that it was unavoidable not to clarify my position. Especially when I wasn't even contacted to elaborate on my post or didn't feel as if I did "sound off". I simply expressed my disappointment about some of the things I read that were posted about the #MuslimBan from people who needed to know that there negative comments included me. After all "I am a Muslim". They might not view me as one of the "Bad Muslims" (whatever that means) but when you make blanket political statements about a group of people, then it includes the innocent who make up the majority of that group as it is in this case.

There is a reason why conversations about religion and politics have always been taboo. I've spent most of my life avoiding these conversations except in comfortable environments and in the company of intelligent and open-minded people. And even when having these conversations, I've always tried to keep the two separate (we can talk politics or religion but not both). Yet for some reason so many people try to combine them. I understand why people feel that they go hand in hand. Religion shapes your views on how life should be lived and your values on what's most important. These views and values sometimes influence your politics but I believe they should remain separate. Politics has always been a dividing factor that focuses on the differences of our political parties. It groups us mostly into 1 of 3 political parties. Grouping us into one of these parties doesn't fully tell the story of what our beliefs are. Since the beginning of time people have used religion and the interpretations of that religion's holy book (Quran, Bible, Torah, etc..) for their personal political views.

That is why when I hear radical religious factions committing terrorist attacks on the citizens of a country, I view it as a political attack disguised by religion in order to gain support and confuse the misinformed.

As far as politics go, I never paid much attention to it until about 2005. My second child was born and I began to worry about the state of our country and what type of world I would leave behind. Until then I'd always thought that I couldn't make a difference. After 2005 I realized that those I elected or didn't elect were in charge of making and implementing policies that affected myself and those I love most. With each passing year since then I began to understand the power of certain political offices and if their values or policies didn't mirror mine then my needs would not be tended to. For example, if it were not for the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) then a close family member would have died recently. Before the ACA, people with certain types of pre-existing health issues like diabetes were uninsurable. President Obama's persistence in having affordable healthcare for all helped my family member be insured for the first time in their forty plus years of life. For the 1st time, I felt as if my vote really mattered. It helped elect a man who believed in some of the same things I believed in. I don't expect my elected officials to align with me on every issue, but I do expect them to do what's best for the masses regardless of faith, economic status and ethnicity. Even with the political and racial climate over the last few years, I still had faith in the growth of our country. In 2008 I felt that the election of President Barack Obama proved my sentiments were correct. Some may disagree with me as far as how much progress was made for African-Americans during his tenure, but I never expected him to be a president solely to push the agenda of Black people, which only make up 13 percent of the population in the U.S. I expected him to do what's right for all Americans. To be honest, he actually overachieved in my eyes considering all the resistance he encountered by Republicans in the House and Senate. Many of these are the same Republicans now asking us to give President Trump a chance to implement his policies. I remain encouraged by the near election of our first female President, Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote and was close to winning the electoral votes if eligible voters who decided not to vote had participated in this election (I actually blame the eligible voter that didn't participate in the election for the predicament we are in now but that's another argument for another day. They had one job smh. Vote!!). During President Obama's presidency I witnessed the racism and disrespect for a man holding the highest office in our democracy but kept my faith in the system. I kept my faith even after the senseless killings of unarmed African-Americans by a small number of police officers around the nation. Not ALL, a small number. I wish this administration could make that distinction regarding Muslims.

When President Trump decided to run for office, I considered him a ruthless businessman and had no problem with him whatsoever. In my mind there was only one type of really successful business person and he fit the description. But during his campaigning, which I thought was a bad joke during the primaries, I began to feel like I was personally being attacked. I followed the debates to learn more about his political views, noticing and believing that he actually had a shot to win the election once he received the Republican nomination. During the debates I noticed that whenever he spoke on minorities his responses had negative undertones about Mexicans, crime in the inner cities committed by African Americans, implementing "Stop and Frisk" and closing our borders to Muslims and Mexicans to name a few. When he spoke his negative rhetoric at his rallies, I felt as if he was encouraging hatred directly at my family as myself. I felt that way because I am an inner city Black kid, I am Muslim, I am the proud son of immigrants. But what hurt the most was seeing fans and some friends support this man knowing that I was in the large group of people he alienated with his comments. It was beginning to get really hard for me to believe that someone who pretended to support me could support a man whose views gave life to people that hated me, believed that my religion preached terrorism, that I was more likely to commit a crime against them or even worse- I didn't belong in this country. I have contemplated closing my social media accounts (especially Facebook) after reading the posts and comments of people I considered friends who supported President Trump. But the more he spoke, I started to feel even more confident about the greatness of our country and the impossibility of someone with those views being elected by the people of this already great nation. I almost became over confident that he couldn't win. I truly believed there was no way that a country that just elected and re-elected its 1 African American President could switch directions so quickly and elect a man that was the complete opposite when it came to the policies of inclusion. Clearly, I was wrong.

Like many of my friends, after the election I began to hope that the businessman in him was trying to get elected at all costs and his agenda, once in office, would be totally different than what he campaigned on. I was hoping that he tricked his supporters in order to do what's right once he made it into the oval office. So I sat back once again to watch and see what he would do when he was finally inaugurated. And in his first 11 days he proved to me once again that his political views, policies and beliefs are entirely different from mine and the platform he ran on in the election was truly his plan for America. He proved this with his appointments of advisors and cabinet members, his executive order basically banning immigrants from certain Muslim countries and Syrian refugees from entering into the U.S., along with his stance on defunding Planned Parenthood. After all that has been done, I am fearful and hopeful. I am fearful from the backlash that we, as Americans will receive from the international community because of the current administration's policies, but I am hopeful because of how it is bringing people together supporting causes bigger than their own.

Despite the negative tweets, I received an greater outpouring of positive support from people across our nation after my Tweet. It was something I never expected. My tweet was just a message to the people who called themselves fans or friends that were supporting a man with policies that was totally against my family, my beliefs and myself. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". I love the fact that people are starting to realize that once again. Americans are peacefully protesting and rallying in a way that I have never seen in my lifetime about any and all types of injustices.

I'm an optimist by nature and I will keep President Trump and those of you who disagree with my religion and political views in my prayers. I still believe in the power and respect that the Presidential Office deserves, even during this presidency. So I will continue my practice of not publicly insulting it but I do plan to voice my opinions of any unfair- current or future policies. I hate that for the first time in my life I began to understand the sentiments of a person who says "You're either with me or against me" type of person. I have always been a person who could handle people having different points of views than me and I'm trying to get back to that. But I can't sit quietly as I have in the past without expressing my disappointment, sadness or anger.

People have been more open about their hidden prejudices because their ability to hide behind their computer screens under untraceable aliases spewing hatred and waiting for reactions. I still won't be arguing with "Eggs"- people with little to no followers on social media who haven't even taken enough time out of their hateful lives to post a profile pic but troll the internet for virtual confrontations smh.

I will try to be more proactive in advocating for those that need my support when wrongs are being done. I'm not a politician or activist but I'm willing to support those that have the best interest of the unjustly wronged. I hope that one day the no longer silent majority can influence those mislead to do what is right. But to be clear, I am completely against the Refugee/Muslim Ban, paying for a Wall on the Mexican/American border, defunding Planned Parenthood and any form of terrorism internationally or domestically by any group using religion to express their politics. I am baffled that we have elected officials that would try to implement policies that are totally the opposite of what America is suppose to stand for. For those who think this ban will 'Make America Safe Again" are delusional. It is not possible to 'Make America Safe or Great Again" when your only agenda is to incite fear and use faulty criteria to ban innocent refugees from countries simply because they don't have large enough business ties to America. This criteria abandons the principles that America was built on:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”- Emma Lazarus, this is an excerpt from a poem which is mounted on the Statue of Liberty.