The American Muslim Challenge with Cheating Pastors and Politicians


In recent history, American Muslims have played sideline roles, as we’ve slowly become better understood by other Americans and have been interwoven into the tapestry that makes America great–all while our communities come together to tackle terrorism in our midst.

For the better part of the past few decades, nationwide sexual scandals involving clergy members seemed to only originate from within Christian and Jewish circles. Scandalized politicians had similar religious affiliations.

However, last year all of that started to change and American Muslims began facing the harsh realities of sin, in a very public fashion.

With respect to scandal in the clergy, Muslim Pastor (Imam) Nouman Ali Khan was the first to have the dirty laundry of an affair aired publicly. The scandal broke on Facebook and was the talk of #MuslimTwitter for weeks.

Nouman Ali Khan–or NAK, as he’s known–did recant and make an apology, which after a time was accepted by the American Muslim community. To date, he still does a tremendous job of educating young American Muslims and providing leadership training to thousands. However, there are still many American Muslims who now view him differently — a situation akin to the fall of Christian Televangelist Jerry Fallwell, in the 1980s.

NAK accepted his public fall and its consequences — he returned to preaching and is giving back to the American Muslim community. A more Islamic understanding of forgiveness may be better understood by this commentary:

An analysis of the Scandal with an Islamic theological perspective on forgiveness

(A more in-depth explanation of the NAK scandal can be found here.)

With respect to politicians ,  before Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib  the Muslim congresspeople of note received very little media coverage when in office.

The current firestorm that Omar and Tlaib have ignited–over issues ranging from the US-Mexico Border to Israel to international trade–has made them a key part of the media hype cycle.

That hype cycle turned into a sex scandal when freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar was exposed in divorce papers as the “other woman”. The issue becomes more complicated when FEC documents disclosed that Ilhan had paid her new paramour over $222,000 for services.

That last fact led to some amusing tweets like this:

Now, while NAK addressed his issues and was able to put them in the past , we are currently living in an era where Al Franken can be chased out of congress for sexual misconduct, yet there seems to be no yardstick for adultery or bigamy.

Ilhan’s reticence in addressing the issue and the media’s curious lack of coverage only exacerbates the problem.

American Muslims across the aisle are rather torn over the issue. This includes Omar’s own supporters.

To understand the issue is to understand American Muslims. As a people, we are a diverse tapestry of folks from 77 different countries with over 100 different ethnic and racial divisions. We are also vastly different in our religious sects and practice, as are Christians.

We are, however, largely fiscally and socially conservative , so this raises a number of questions from Ilhan’s conservative Somali Muslim base.

Further, there are questions that the American Muslim Ummah (Diaspora) are asking that need to be answered. This goes beyond previous discussions within the American Muslim community on Ilhan  that have run the gamut–from supporting her because she’s the first public American Muslim congresswoman, to shunning her for taking anti-family abortion and pro-LGBTQ stances.

The latter issues are important  because theologically Islam and Christianity are rather specific on taboo issues.

The Quran states Lakum deenukum waliya deen (لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِيَ دِينِ), which means your religion is yours and theirs is theirs. There is a difference between acceptance and endorsement, though. Many Muslims, like many Christians, tolerate abortion and LGBTQ issues but have no intention to endorse them. This is the same as many other groups including LGBTQ and Abortion rights activists, who tolerate but would never endorse Christian or Muslim systems.

While acceptance and endorsement of controversial political perspectives have had American Muslims questioning where they should stand regarding Ilhan Omar, the adultery/bigamy issues present a new challenge.


The Question of Where to Stand on Ilhan Omar

In Islam, there are minor sins and major sins. Under the eyes of God, most things can be forgiven. Under the eyes of the American Muslim Ummah (Community/Diaspora) that’s not the same case.

We’re not sure if Ilhan was married, separated or divorced when she engaged in unlawful consort with Tim Mynett. She’s been pretty cagey on if and when she had sex with him ,  but court documents would indicate that she was entering the Mynett marital home without the wife present.

The issue American Muslims have is that Ilhan is accused of committing “Zina”, or unlawful sexual intercourse (which will most likely be defined in the Mynett court proceedings). For Religiously Conservative Practicing Muslims (Our term for Orthodox) this would be a big no-no, and a major sin (haram) الأحكام الخمسة.

While this is yet to be confirmed from an Islamic perspective (through four witnesses or her self admission ), which we had in the NAK case,  the evidence from the Mynett divorce proceedings is a grave concern.

For American Muslims who are non-practicing or secular, there’s the issue that she’s our embarrassment. Omar is someone that many may have looked up to who has now violated a lot of religious principles WHILE in office.

Mind you this is the same way that a practicing Christian would question the adultery of a conservative Christian politician.

While the details of this scandal are still unfolding, a few things are clear:

  • Ilhan’s indiscretions , whether adultery or bigamy, have painted shame on American Muslims regardless of ethnic background or sect.
  • We have a Muslim woman, who is presented as Practicing, who appears to have committed a major sin.
  • What’s documented in court proceedings regarding the affair makes her a horrible role modern for American Muslims, regardless of political stance.
  • American Muslims have just as many problems publicly as any other religious group who has elected representatives in office.

America and American Muslims may forgive this  but no one will soon forget. It’s a shameful thing for us to have on our Ummah (community/diaspora) and it’s going to influence how American Muslims, voters, and the Global Ummah (diaspora) perceive her and American Muslims for some time. It’s a big slap in the face.

Separately, for a lot of American Muslims like myself who don’t support her politics ,  it leaves us questioning.

The case has since been updated to include Tim Mynett rebutting the infidelity claims, but more questions being raised by $21,547 Ilhan’s campaign paid to Mynett’s E-Street firm in “travel expenses“.

Originally Published on Medium:


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