Muslim woman in center of New York mayoral controversy

Muslim woman in center of New York mayoral controversy
Saudi Gazette Sunday, August 04, 2013
By Ray Hanania

New York is a rough and tough city, the largest in the United States. It didn’t take long for the city to overcome the horrible terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, and it has always rolled with the punches. Yet in the center of New York’s campaign to elect a new mayor, voters, media pundits and the nation are intensely focused on the role of a Muslim woman who many mistakenly believe is an Arab.

Her name is Huma Abedin and she is married to Anthony Weiner, the former congressman who until this week was the leading contender to win the Democratic nomination in the “Big Apple,” the nickname many give to New York.

Abedin is not Arab, but she is Muslim, of an Indian father and a Pakistani mother. She is Westernized, though proud of her religion. And before most people knew her as Weiner’s wife, she was a top aide to former US Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

I suppose it is Abedin’s relationship to Clinton that has really put her in the hot seat, especially with the rightwing fanatics in America who blame every problem on Muslims, can’t tell the difference between a Pakistani and a Palestinian, and believe that Israel has every right to kill Arab civilians, including those who happen to be Christian Arabs.

Abedin is being assaulted in the American media because she has refused to join in the public humiliation of her husband who has admittedly engaged in conduct that isn’t illegal but clearly is immoral.

Weiner had won a seat in Congress seven times with votes that exceeded 59 percent each time. He was very popular, until he tripped himself up on the Internet. In May, 2011, Weiner used his Twitter account to send a sexually explicit picture of himself to a woman, who is not his wife. Apparently, it wasn’t the only one. When the pictures became public, Weiner immediately told the media that someone “hacked” his Twitter account, meaning that someone else had broken into the account and sent the pictures to embarrass him. But eventually, after weeks of denials, Weiner admitted he sent the pictures and then resigned from Congress.

Hoping that the controversy was behind him, and with his wife, Abedin, at his side, Weiner entered the race for New York Mayor claiming that he had changed. We’re all human beings. Well, most of us. I’m not sure if I can include many of the media pundits from the far right in that description. But it is difficult for any real human being not to forgive someone for doing something so stupid.

After all, Weiner did not kill anyone. He did not steal anyone’s land. Polls for weeks showed that many people had in fact forgiven Weiner, and he was leading. Until it was disclosed that weeks after resigning, and during the period in which he claimed he had repented, it turns out he was engaging in the same behavior.

What was really amazing was that even in the face of the obvious about her husband, Abedin stood firm saying that she was going to fight to keep her marriage together. Many Americans seemed upset about that. They “blamed” her behavior on her Islamic upbringing, and that fueled an ugly campaign from writers who accused her of everything from supporting terrorism, to being behind the Muslim Brotherhood, to aiding Al-Qaeda.

I understand what Abedin is doing. I disliked Weiner because of his public anti-Palestinian policies, not knowing he was married to a Muslim. When I learned that, I was surprised that a Muslim could marry someone who was so fanatically pro-Israel at the expense of ignoring justice and the international rule of law.

But I also recognize that in the Arab world, the family is the most important aspect of our culture. We put more value on our families than many in the West. That’s why so many in America, a nation with one of the highest divorce rates, are so quick to condemn Abedin’s refusal to separate herself from her husband over his inappropriate actions.

The issue quickly expanded from anti-Muslim bias to include political extremism. Abedin represents a way for hardliners to attack Hillary Clinton, who is considered to be the person most likely to succeed Barack Obama as president in the November 2016 elections. Like Abedin, Clinton also refused to abandon her husband, then President Bill Clinton when he faced impeachment for lying about his extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Clearly, the Clintons remain close to Abedin. They are friends. But they also see how her troubles resurrect memories of Bill Clinton’s indiscretions, which could hurt Hillary Clinton in her presidential candidacy.

Weiner so far refuses to withdraw from the New York Mayoral race, but regardless, there is no chance that he can win the election.

When it is all said and done, I think Arabs and Muslims, and Indians and Pakistanis, can look at Huma Abedin and see a person who has strength. She stood up to the criticism and refused to abandon her belief that a marriage is worth fighting for. You have to admire someone like that, even if the people around her have serious flaws.

– Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. He can be reached at or follow him on Twitter @RayHanania

Categories: US & National Politics

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