Asra Nomani, author of “Woke Army: The Red-Green Alliance That Is Destroying America’s Freedom” and co-founder of Save Merit, is emphasizing the necessity of “winning this war against the woke army.”
“It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of America depends on our winning this war against the woke army,” Nomani says.
And why do I know how serious this is? Because in that first part of my life as a warrior against extremism within my Muslim community, I know you’ve heard the term of madrasas, right? It’s the term for those schools in which the jihadis would indoctrinate children. It’s the public school system in nations like Pakistan and Afghanistan, and they would indoctrinate children from a young age.
Where have we heard that again? The Cultural Revolution, of course. Entire nations’ destinies have been defined by what we teach children, and that is exactly what it is at stake here, and that’s why we have to win this war.
Nomani joins today’s episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” to further discuss the “war on merit,” the potential short-term and long-term consequences of the war on merit, and her advice for any parents who want to get more involved with what is happening at their child’s school.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Samantha Aschieris: Asra, thank you so much for joining us today.
Asra Nomani: Oh my gosh, thank you so much, Sam. I’m so happy to be speaking to you and all your listeners. You guys have been in the trenches for years with us and so I so appreciate speaking to you-all. I’m so happy about this new book. It’s been a labor of love and a lot of pain and suffering, so I’m so happy to share it with you guys.
Aschieris: Yes, absolutely. And you’ve written a lot about the war on merit. And first and foremost, I just want to have you explain to our listeners, what is the war on merit that you write about?
Nomani: Just to pull back just a little bit and explain how I entered into this. For the last 20 years, I have been fighting a very different war. It was a war against Islamic extremism and it was a war for reform within my Muslim community.
So you wonder, “OK, how does that then spill over into this K-12 terrain?” Well, in the summer of 2020, like a lot of other parents, I ended up becoming an accidental activist, speaking at my local school board because this network that I had identified that was undermining our work to bring reform to our Muslim community of establishment Muslims and leftists ironically working together, all of a sudden, Sam, I mean, it just makes your head explode thinking about it. All of a sudden, they turned their eyes on America schools and they ended up launching this war on merit.
It started for me with my son’s high school, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, where they decided that there were too many Asians, it was the wrong kind of minority. And they wanted to change the admissions process, so getting rid of the merit admissions test.
And OK, I thought these were two different wars, you know what I mean? But then, Sam, you cannot believe this. By the end of the summer I identified that this one individual who I knew and who had been part of this machine in my Muslim community, refusing reform and change, he was a Virginia education secretary, a man by the name of Atif Qarni, and he had put his sights on merit.
Why? Because for this network that I call the woke army, they want to dumb kids down, because when they dumb kids down, they can bring in their indoctrination and their ideologies from Islamism, which I had been fighting for 20 years, to wokeism. And so that’s this incredibly crazy and unholy alliance that has ended up, for these last few years, launching this war on merit. Isn’t that crazy?
Aschieris: Yes. And it’s really incredible. Once you bring one story to light, it feels like there’s more and more national attention being brought to it. There’s more reporting on it.
We had this recent story out of California where, as The Wall Street Journal reports, a group of parents spoke out at a school board meeting just last week “in this middle-class Los Angeles-area city, to push back against a racial equity initiative. The high school, they argued, should reinstate honors English classes that were eliminated because they didn’t enroll enough black and Latino students.”
And just for more context, as The Wall Street Journal reports, “the district earlier this school year replaced the honors classes at Culver City High School with uniform courses that officials say will ensure students of all races receive an equal rigorous education.”
What is your reaction to a story like this?
Nomani: Yeah, this is where I want to connect the dots for everyone. So, I know the story in Culver City, I’ve been following this war on merit that the school board has been putting in place there. And the one element that The Wall Street Journal reporter did not include in the narrative that’s really critical is that this has been a long war.
So in the course of my reporting, I found their board plan from the summer of 2020. Just as our education secretary was putting his sights on merit in Virginia, the school board in Culver City had put forward a draft plan and they called it, get this, the Equity, Social Justice, and Inclusion Plan. And it was in there that they had decided that they were going to lay claim to the honors classes and AP classes.
And guess what? This is what’s really important, Sam, to understand how the woke army works. What were they going to put in place? They were literally adding critical race theory workshops for parents, for professional staff, that would then trickle down to the students.
And then there’s this other buzzword that people might have heard or they might not have, but they included in their curriculum plans, this thing that they’re calling ethnic studies. And ethnic studies is the Trojan horse for the woke army to bring in all their wider indoctrination against Israel, against Jews, pushing forward oppression studies. And that is the really insidious plan that has been in place in Culver City for years now.
Aschieris: That is absolutely insane. And I want to talk [about] some of the potential consequences, both short term and long term, with this essential war on merit that we’ve been talking about, that you’ve written about in the past, and that we’re seeing play out right now in the country.
Nomani: Oh, yeah. It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of America depends on our winning this war against the woke army. Sam, I wouldn’t say that lightly except, behind me, your listeners and you can’t see it, but behind me, stacks of books in which I’ve been fighting this extremism within my Muslim community that is a national security threat. We know this. And then after that, I organized my books chronologically. That’s the OCD in me—’70s, ’80s, ’90s, filled with those books.
And then I have my books on critical race theory and all this oppression studies and grievance studies, and then the indoctrination books for the kids. “Woke Baby,” “A is for Activist,” “ABCs” that have now become “GayBCs.” Right? Indoctrination on every level of a child’s identity.
And why do I know how serious this is? Because in that first part of my life as a warrior against extremism within my Muslim community, I know you’ve heard the term of madrasas, right? It’s the term for those schools in which the jihadis would indoctrinate children. It’s the public school system in nations like Pakistan and Afghanistan, and they would indoctrinate children from a young age. Where have we heard that again? The Cultural Revolution, of course. Entire nations’ destinies have been defined by what we teach children and that is exactly what it is at stake here, and that’s why we have to win this war.
Aschieris: And I wanted to also talk about something along the lines—I know you brought up your son’s experience with Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, and just more recently with something you wrote back in January for the Fairfax County Times and 17 area schools in Virginia withholding National Merit awards that mostly impacted Asian students. Just to list some of those schools, we had Edison High School, West Potomac High School, Loudoun County High School, and Patriot High School.
Walk us through how you discovered this story in the first place. Was it related to the experience that you went through with your own son?
Nomani: Oh, yes, absolutely. Everything is interconnected, and we really have to be Nancy Drews in our communities and recognize that every bit of this insidious plan has a strategy and is interconnected.
So, we all know now that the school board and the school system had this war on merit on admissions to the No. 1 high school in America, but it’s part of a grander plan to diminish high-achieving students, not only at the school, but across the country, because as we can now see with the Culver City example—and it is a new racism because what is happening is that Asian students are defying the argument of the critical race theory ideologues that says that America is an inherently racist nation in which minorities cannot advance. We defy that data point. So what do they have to do? They have to diminish our students and they have to do it in every way possible.
And so what happened, there was an incredible mom named Shawnna Yashar. She wondered what this little certificate was that her son had on his desk one day. Well, it turned out it was this award that’s called the Commended Student award put forward by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. They’ve got scholarship in there, so this has a consequence for a child’s life.
Well, she started asking questions and she learned that the principal and the director of student services had intentionally withheld the awards because they didn’t want some kids to “feel bad.” And they also wanted, in this new spirit of equity, to emphasize children as individuals, not for their achievements.
But guess what, Sam? They claimed right away that it was a one-time human error, that it was in a staffing problem. Well, you know us. I filed a Freedom of Information Act request, and I just published a piece yesterday in National Review, and in it we document how it was a willful, intentional plan for years of withholding these certificates from children.
And what does it accomplish? It keeps these kids down because they can’t put it on their applications, they can’t get the scholarships, and they level the playing field, as they love to talk about doing, by bringing the top down.
And why is it a national security issue then? Because these are the kids that are going to be our inventors, our physicians, they’re going to cure cancer. They are going to be great moms and great dads and educate the next generation. We want them to feel as affirmed and positive as possible, but instead, in the most cruel way possible, these school principals and educrats are trying to put kids down. And that’s why I want everybody to really recognize that this is really so cruel.
And so that’s why it’s so critical for us to stand up with moral courage because we have to be the defense between these equity warriors, as they love to call themselves, and America’s children and their hearts and their souls and their spirits and their minds.
Aschieris: Yes. It’s so interesting, and I think with everything going on in the world right now, it’s so important that this topic is really given the attention that it deserves because we’re talking about what’s been happening in Virginia and we are talking about what’s happening in California. So it’s obviously becoming a very, or it is a national issue.
And can you provide some insight into what has happened? I know you mentioned your National Review article that was published on Tuesday. And what has happened since your first article was published with the Fairfax County Times with the 17 area schools withholding the National Merit awards, like the response from Governor [Glenn] Youngkin? And what has been the feel from other parents that you’ve been talking to?
Nomani: Yeah. It’s just been remarkable because what emerged in the summer of 2020 were parents like myself who were just living ordinary lives as parents, going to the PTA meetings. I was the editor of the newsletter, Sam. I was just working my Sundays, making sure that the kid that won the science fair got their paragraph in the newsletter.
Well, then we saw that they were coming for the kids and they were coming for incredible important values that we have to protect of merit and equality under the law. Well, the parents rose up. We elected a governor in the state of Virginia, as many people know, and the governor, Glenn Youngkin, put as one of his top priorities education. And Sam, I don’t know if you know this, but at his campaign rallies, protecting advanced math was literally an applause line. People cheered. It matters to them, it matters. People get it.
So I just could not have ever predicted this because as a mom, as a parent, even as a journalist, I don’t have Gov. Youngkin on speed dial on my phone. We just put this stuff out almost like throwing spaghetti on the wall and you don’t know what will stick. Well, wow, this National Merit story just reverberated, not only in the nation, but in the world, because it was theft from a child’s future.
And the governor spoke out about it. [Virginia Lt. Gov.] Winsome Sears, an immigrant mother herself and a Marine, spoke out about it in just the strongest terms. And our [state] attorney general, Jason Miyares, the son himself of an immigrant from Cuba, he has started an investigation and it is a civil rights investigation. And it just really, it just warms my heart because I do believe that what the parents are doing and what women’s rights activists are doing, we are the civil rights warriors of the 21st century.
And I hope everybody will just let that sink in in their hearts because that is a very, very sacred role to fight for civil rights in the nation, to fight for human rights. And that is what we are doing because when children are denied equal opportunities in education, it’s a civil rights issue, it’s a human rights issue. And that’s so remarkable, Sam.
Jason Miyares is investigating this, not only as a civil rights issue, but under human rights law in the state of Virginia. And the parents are just reporting things in to his tip line and supporting him and feeling seen.
The far Left love to say, “We see you.” Well, they have actually ignored us, diminished us, ridiculed us from school boards and school administrators. And it’s just remarkable to have government actually see you and act on your behalf and also on the behalf of our nation. And so it’s really beautiful.
And these parents in Culver City, I talked to them the other night, Sam, and they have organized, they are the Culver City families for transparency and accountability. Who can fight with that? I just love what’s happening. And all it takes is one account on Canva, the social media graphics package, and you’ve got a logo, and you have a social media campaign, and you can be the change you want to see in the world.
Aschieris: Yes. If you could, just based on your own firsthand experience, provide advice for any parents out there who may be listening to this podcast and want to get more involved with what is happening at their child’s school. Do you have any advice as a starting point for how they can do that?
Nomani: Absolutely. I mean, we have some really great templates and strategy plans out there, but I work with this great organization called Independent Women’s Network. I’m a senior fellow there. And they’re just so great because they just let me go do my Nancy Drew stuff and dig up these injustices that are happening.
And that’s one of the first things you have to do, is realize, it’s actually something, Sam, I learned when I was in my teens, and this feminist activist, Eleanor Smeal, I don’t know if you know her name, but maybe somebody that people do not agree with ideologically, but she came to my campus in West Virginia University and she told us something very simple, that you just need five people for a movement. And back then, remember this is the ’80s, she said somebody to put something on the bulletin board, somebody to staple, somebody to hand out the flyers.
Well, this is all you need now. You need somebody who’s going to do your graphic design and your logo, free account on Canva. Somebody to think up your name. Just something simple. Your community name for what? What are your values? Make them as sweeping as you can. For freedom, for transparency, for accountability. And all you need are those five people to come together.
Get a Google Docs account, even though some people might not trust Google. Share, collaborate there. And then you need that smartphone. Document, document, document. Videotape, make the clip. I’ve become an expert in video editing on my phone. I literally sit across the street from the school where they have our school board meetings to like 2, 3, 4 in the morning, Sam, after the meeting, editing my two-minute video of parents. It takes time, but we all know videos bring it all to life.
And then finally, have that person in your team that will make those connections with everybody else in the community. I’m not the best at that. I’m the investigator, the rabble-rouser. But we had that person in our community, a woman by the name of Sabrena Dacta. She was a mom just like me in June 2020. We had Yu-Yun Zo. She was with the Chinese American Parents Association. Glenn Miller and Helen Miller. They would write the emails. And it was just us, a handful of people.
And can you imagine in June 2020? And now look what has been born. An entire movement of parents coming from a place of authenticity in our hearts.
And every night when you lay your head to rest at night on your pillow, check your intentions, make sure that you’re motivated by values that are important, embedded in you from your parents and your ancestry perhaps, and work with that little team that you’ve got. And you, too, just like revolutionaries through history, will change the world. I just want everybody to have faith and believe that you can do it.
Aschieris: Yes. As I mentioned earlier in the show, you talked a little bit about it, I believe, in your first answer, but your new book “Woke Army: The Red-Green Alliance That Is Destroying America’s Freedom,” I just wanted to give you an opportunity to talk more about your book. I believe it was released on Feb. 14, so a brand new release, and tell us more about this woke army that you write about and how it’s affecting our schools throughout the country.
Nomani: Well, thank you so much, Sam. It’s so true. This was a labor of love and also a lot of pain and suffering. I’m looking at the copy of the book right now and the book cover, and across the top left is the hammer and sickle of socialism and communism, and at the bottom is the star and the crescent of my Muslim faith. And the subtitle is “The Red-Green Alliance That Is Destroying America’s Freedom.”
This book started off as a journey for me as a Muslim reformer, challenging the extremism that had slain this dear colleague and friend of mine from The Wall Street Journal, the amazing human being that was Danny Pearl. It was Danny’s murder in 2002, 21 years ago, that propelled me to become an advocate for issues. I had always been a news reporter, Sam. I never went on the opinion pages, never dared to even sign a petition, but I knew that these men that had killed Danny, they had used an ideology to justify killing him based on his identity.
His last words were, “My father is a Jew. My mother is a Jew. I am a Jew.” They used Danny’s identity as an American, as a Jewish man, and as a descendant of ancestors from Israel to slay him. And that’s when I knew that the sectarianism and this identity politics was lethal.
So for 20 years, that’s the fight that I fought. And then fast-forward, it’s 2020 and all of a sudden I’m seeing a new ideology. I learned the words for it. It’s critical race theory. I do a tutorial with James Lindsay, who had himself become an expert on critical race theory.
And Sam, I rewrote this book then. I’ve been working on it for years. And what I did is I learned how the establishment Muslims had actually used critical race theory to develop a shield, to keep criticism from the extremism within my community so that now people know this, they know how, if you dare to say something about Islamic extremism, you may be called an Islamophobe or a racist. That’s going to seem familiar to people. Because then when you start challenging the school boards and the indoctrination, what did they start doing? They started calling people racist. They used race against folks as a weapon, and this network emerged, and that is what we face today on the national stage.
It is people like [Reps.] Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, Linda Sarsour, who were the faces of this. But I want to let folks know, too, that there is a chasm building, because ultimately, Muslims too are recognizing that these ideologues are coming for their children. And so you see Muslim parents in Dearborn, Michigan, in Minnesota, in Ilhan Omar’s school, in her district, standing up and saying, “No. We, the parents, govern our families.” And that is the power of persistence. This has been a 20-year battle.
And in this book, I also uncover some of the character assassins who were part of the efforts to discredit me as a parent, as a Muslim reformer, as a naysayer to their ideology and indoctrination. And parents will recognize that tactic, too, how we’ve been called domestic terrorists.
And the lesson that I want to just leave with everyone, please, is be unapologetic in your values. Stand up with courage. Don’t let anybody shame you. They will use shame as a weapon and a club against you. And just know that I sit before you strong and clear because I overcame that shame tactic in my own life and everybody else can do that, too, so that we all stand up with pride for the values that we believe. And please consider this book your road map for figuring out their tactics and the strategy that you can use to inoculate yourself. That’s why I wrote this book.
Aschieris: Absolutely. We will definitely make sure that there is a link for our listeners to the book so they can learn more about it. They can take a look at it for themselves, hopefully read it, and get a better idea of what we’ve been talking about throughout this podcast interview. Thank you so much for joining me today and for providing this insight. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Nomani: Oh, thank you, Sam. I appreciate it. And everybody, keep fighting and have courage.
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