Longform

The Chosen One

Page 7 of 7

According to Abboud, the rally was planned before Jasser or anyone from his organization consulted CAIR, for whom Abboud was working at the time.

"We were told that we could attend the rally, that we were wanted at the rally," Abboud says, "and that the imams could speak at the rally -- but nothing beyond simply denouncing terrorism or their microphones would be shut off -- and that no one from CAIR could speak.

"First of all, it's unfortunate there's a group of people rallying around Jasser as the leader of the community in the first place," Abboud continues. "To rally behind a man that is not representative of the community makes no sense to me. And then to keep the imams from speaking? I have never known any imams here to do extremist things."

According to Jasser, the rules were meant as nothing personal. They were a reflection of what he sees as the biggest problem within the Muslim-American community:

Victimization.

"I truly believe that Deedra is well-intended," Jasser says. "But I believe that the continual focus of the organizations she has worked for, being the victimization of Muslims rather than correcting the hypocrisy and correct the belief system of many Muslims, does us no good."

Abboud says she agrees with Jasser as well.

"But what is Jasser doing to change it?" she says. "Nothing."


There are two things Deedra Abboud is unlikely to do any time soon: have kids or run for office. Given her bio, you'd think she'd do both. But unlike devout Catholics and Jews, Muslims are under no obligation to be fruitful and multiply.

Abboud says that she wants children more than Ali does. Her Muslim friends are constantly asking when she and Ali will have kids. But she never has an answer.

"It's not anything the Koran says, that Muslims should have gobs of children," she says. "But almost all of our friends do."

Nevertheless, her career is too important at this point to devote her life to children.

Ali agrees.

"Kids take up too much time. I don't want either of us staying home every day with kids," he says. "I want to travel, I want to be free of all that with my wife, you know?"

Who has time for travel? Deedra is active with several community organizations -- as a board member with the Tempe Community Action Agency and the Arizona Coalition for Migrant Rights, as a member of the Arizona Interfaith Network and the Phoenix Police Advisory Board, as well as the Tempe mosque.

It's no wonder that, with a résumé like hers, Eleanor Eisenberg, the former executive director of the Arizona ACLU, asked Deedra Abboud to run for office a couple of years ago. But Abboud refused.

Instead, she's tried to persuade Ali that he should return to Iraq and seek political office. She would, of course, have to leave MAS behind and go with him. But, she says, the "political game" is not one Ali is suited for.

"The chances of me becoming the first lady of Iraq are slim, to say the least," she says.

However slim those chances are, it's likely she'd still be the lightning rod she is locally, in any capacity -- as the wife of a head of state, or as an activist. And that goes far deeper than the color of her skin or her gender.

"I think that even if I weren't white and weren't a woman, but had the same personality," she says, "I would have the same effect."

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Joe Watson