Nov 21, 2015 by


In the first episode, Laila Lalami on Islamic extremism, Amy Wilentz on bad Bernie Sanders coverage, Charles Blow on growing up poor and black, and Terry Gross on Hillary Clinton.
Start Making Sense

vigil in Place de la Republique

A candle is placed during a vigil in Place de la République following the series of deadly attacks in Paris, November 15, 2015. (Reuters / Benoit Tessier)

The world is a complicated place, and media outlets obsessed with quick takes and beating their competition sometimes do more harm than good. That’s why today we’re launching Start Making Sense, a new podcast from The Nation hosted by longtime contributor Jon Wiener. We’ll be taking a step back from the daily media maelstrom to provide you with some much-needed, well-thought-out perspective on the news of the week. Subscribe on iTunes and check in each Thursday for timely, in-depth interviews with some of the most fascinating progressive voices of our time. We’ll have writers, artists, politicians, activists, and more on the show to talk about the week’s most pressing issues.
In our first episode, Laila Lalami talks about the origins of ISIS, and what to do about it now. Laila grew up in Morocco; her novel The Moor’s Account was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.


Muslims Have Been Living in America Since Before the Revolutionary War
Donald Trump’s proposals to shutter mosques and surveil Muslims are not about public safety—they’re about heinous stereotyping rooted in ignorance and cruelty.
John NicholsTwitter
Yesterday 3:42 pm

Samr Ebrahim with his granddaughter Zrahaa Mohammed at a park in Dearborn, Michigan, April 9, 2003. (Reuters / Rebecca Cook)

Followers of Islam have lived in what is now the United States since before the American Revolution. Like Christians and Jews, Muslims worshiped initially in their homes. But as communities grew, they began to construct mosques. Because so many Muslim immigrants came as farmers, some of the earliest mosques were built in rural communities like Ross, North Dakota.

Historians record that the first structure purposely built as a mosque in the United States was located in Ross, a crossroads town in the northwest corner of the state. In the late 1930s, when a Works Progress Administration field worker arrived in remote Mountrail County, he interviewed Mike Abdullah, a native of Syria, who recalled, “I belonged to the Moslem church in the Old Country the same as I do in this country.”

The original mosque in Ross fell into disrepair and was torn down in the 1970s. A new mosque—built a decade ago at the urging of Sarah Allie Omar Shupe, a member of the community—stands next to the Muslim cemetery, where generations of Syrian-American farmers are buried.

The measures of what is great and good about America are found in the mosques of Ross and Cedar Rapids and Toledo.

As a young journalist, I wrote a good deal about the rural Muslim and Jewish farm communities of the Midwest. I met the children and grandchildren of those Muslim farmers from the Dakotas, and from eastern Iowa, where the Mother Mosque of America was constructed in 1934 in Cedar Rapids. As a reporter for the Toledo Blade, I came to know Yehia “John” Shousher and other Muslims who built a pioneering mosque in the city’s “Little Syria” neighborhood more than six decades ago. Later, they constructed one of the great mosques in North America, the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, at which people from dozens of countries proudly celebrate their community’s “equal and vibrant representation of women and the democratic and constitutional processes that the Center diligently follows.”


It is because I have spent so much time in these mosques, because I have for so long known them as part of the fabric of the communities where I have lived, of the regions I love, of an American experiment I have treasured, that I was shaken by Donald Trump’s crude claim that “there’s absolutely no choice” but to monitor mosques, to consider closing some of them, to begin tracking Muslims using “surveillance, including a watch list.”

What Trump is talking about is not public safety or responsible policing. It is broad-sweep stereotyping rooted in ignorance and cruelty. And he is not alone in abandoning basic premises of the commitment to religious freedom that underpins the American experiment. Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz propose to admit Christian refugees but reject Muslims. Ben Carson objects to the notion of a Muslim president and compares Syrian refugees to rabid dogs.

Trump says he wants to make America great again. But he knows nothing of greatness. The measures of what is great and good about America are not found in the crude comments of politicians. They are found in the mosques of Ross and Cedar Rapids and Toledo, and in the stories of the Muslim immigrants who built and cherish them.

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  1. Kate Sparks

    Back in the day there was not much known about “ethnicity”……whites assumed anyone even a light brown color was enough to discredit them from inclusion… color not talked about in educated white families…we just knew who we could be friends with or have as dating partners….so now we are learning much about the geography of captive countries and history is educating our white,(culturally that is,) buttes…karmic edification for sure and long overdue…balance to all life…..

  2. Bear in mind that the Donald and the other GOP candidates are all worshippers of Big oil. Big oil is closely associated to the extreme islamist petro tyrants in the Middle East. The petro tyrants in cooperation with the Bushes and other carbon barons created ISIL. ISIL will die the day the world stops buying oil from the Middle East.

    The only way to stop wars and terrorism in the Middle East is to put an end to the oil age, The GOP leaders are reluctant to do that, since their allegiance is to Big oil rather than the USA.

    The majority of the refugees flee from the petro tyrants, to whom the GOP leaders have sworn allegiance. They therefore regard anybody hating extreme-islamists – the refugees included – as enemies.

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