Linda Lorelle: [00:00:00]Im Linda Lorelle creater and host of Our Voices Matter. Why t his podcast and Why now. Because its time for us all to take a deep breath…and listen. Im a journalist, business owner, keynote speaker, co founder of an education non-profitwife mother daughter sister and lover of life. And my country. And like so many of you I am deeply distressed at the deteriorating level of discourse in our democracy. This podcast is my humble attempt to do something about it. One story at a time. It is my hope that as you listen to the stories of someone you might consider to be “the other”, that you will somehow see a glimpse of yourself and be reminded of our common humanity. So what do you say? Lets take this journey…together.
Linda Lorelle: [00:01:05]Welcome to Our Voiceas Matter. A podcast dedicated to empowering us all to better understand each other. Our goal? To replace fear with knowledge, disdain with respect, and hate with love – one story at a time. So let’s get to it.
Linda Lorelle: [00:01:23]Thank you everyone for tuning in today. And big thanks to you Mustafa Tameez for taking the time to talk to us about so many different things that are going on in the country. Full disclosure Mustafa and I do business together. Through your firm outreach strategist. Why don’t you start by telling our listeners and our viewers a little bit about what you do.
Mustafa Tameez: [00:01:48]I’m a recovering campaign consultant… But a lot of political work. I used to work for Mayor White as his campaign manager, political director for many years when he was mayor. Now our firm does a lor of public affairs and media relations works so we represent companies like Uber. But we do a lot of public engagement and community oriented work.
Linda Lorelle: [00:02:08]OK so now I want to turn more to the personal side of Mustafa. So as you know the reason that I’m doing this podcast is because I’m trying to foster conversations where people can in effect at some point try to put themselves in someone else’s shoes to understand what that perspective is like because we are so far apart at this point. I’d like for you to share you’re a Muslim man living in America to share a little bit about your background where you were bornetc. how you got here and what it’s like for you to be living in this environment today.
Mustafa Tameez: [00:02:49]Well my family moved to Queens New York in 1978 and I was eight years old. So I grew up in Queens New York. And you know one of my early memories is that when I when we moved here and I started the fourth grade I didn’t speak English.
Linda Lorelle: [00:03:06]Your family moved from…..?
Mustafa Tameez: [00:03:07]Karachi Pakistan.
Linda Lorelle: [00:03:08]Pakistan. OK.
Mustafa Tameez: [00:03:10]So when we moved here you know enrolled in fourth grade, I didn’t speak English. I have memories of being in school. And all the kids are so much bigger than you are. And you didn’t know what they were saying and that feeling of not understanding and feeling just frightened probably were for the first six months of school were like that. And so I always have a soft spot for people that struggle with language because when you don’t understand or it’s someone with a hearing impairment or someone can’t see they’re living in a very different reality than the rest of us. And so you’re talking about walking in somebody else’s shoes. It’s always been easy for me to walk in somebody else’s shoes that is somewhat misfit in a particular environment. So you know growing up in Queens you know we, it was five of us. We grew up in a one bedroom apartment and we lived there for five years slept on the floor for the better part of those early early years in my life. And I was talking somebody the other day who did everything selling them I didn’t have a room of myself to live as a sophomore in high school. I actually did have a bed for myself to live as a sophomore in high school. So you know we grew up in a working class family.
Linda Lorelle: [00:04:39]What did your parents do.
[00:04:40] My father worked for The New York City Police Department. He retired as part of the NYPD. He was part of the civilian staff there and then he also had a job at night. So you know he worked at a store that was inside of a hotel. So he worked very hard 18 hours a day for the better part of my life. I’ve always seen him have two jobs like you would go morning very every morning come back very late at night didn’t have a lot of time in the middle but it was through hard work that we got to the United States and was through his hard work that you know I’m sitting here today with you. And so it’s it’s there’s a lot of grace in that.
Linda Lorelle: [00:05:27]Why did your family decide to move from Pakistan to the United States.
Mustafa Tameez: [00:05:32]Like most many families that come to United States you come seeking opportunity. And my father came seeking opportunity for his kids. He actually was fairly comfortable in focus. He had a upper middle income life. He was a kind of middle management. He had a a nice home that we had built so he didn’t really need to come for himself. And when he came to the United States he was really coming for his kids and he knew that the opportunity for myself and my brother and sister the three kids he had would be greater in this country than it was back where we were. And his sister lived here and she through the immigration process filed for immigration for him and took many years to get that immigration and when it came we sold our house and sold pretty much everything we had. And in his mid 40s moved from Karachi Pakistan to the United States. I remember when he first moved here. You sell everything you have to convert your rupees into dollars which doesn’t amount as much. And so you come in thinking that this is the land of milk and honey and you’ll find employment and things will be great. But it was hard it was this is in the 1978 late 70s and I’d say the economy wasn’t all that all that going all that well. It’s hard for him to find a job. And one of the first jobs he ended up finding was in Nathan’s hot dog. And here’s here’s somebody who comes from a generation where we’re fairly comfortable know always had worked in an office environment know upper middle management. And for him to do hard labor type of work. And so I remember him coming home one day talking to my mom about this that you know there was a 16 year old teaching him how to stuff a garbage bag. And he didn’t know whether he should laugh or cry. He was like the 60 year old was my boss. He was telling me had to feel like garbage bag And that was is was one of his first jobs. And for him you know this was a difficult thing. So someone in their 40s to go back to working for a 16 year old stuffing garbage in and mopping floors when he just had never done that before his family. He did it. And it was it was a true sacrifice. It was a sacrifice on his part and my mother’s heart to come to a place to learn new language to start all over again to give you know a better future to to their kids. And so for me you know part of being here is not just doing well but but contributing. Finding a way that that opportunity that my father created for me and my children that that opportunity is for everyone. And that just doesn’t mean just for immigrants. Just means for everybody around you because if if I’m not able to deliver on that then my father’s sacrifice really didn’t mean a lot because we were quite we were doing OK where we were. It’s not that we came that we were poor or we didn’t have enough means you know we came we had a fairly comfortable life where we were. So this is a so for me giving back and being involved in the community and being involved in the civic capacity making the city the state this country better is a driving force.
Linda Lorelle: [00:09:07]As you pay attention to the dialogue that’s going on. If you could call it dialogue in our nation right now as it relates to immigration as it relates to religion as it relates to everything that you have a unique perspective on that on those two issues especially. So we’re going to talk a little bit about what the misconceptions are about Muslims and what if any personal experiences can you share with us to help people understand what your perspective is and why those who might be watching you or looking at you or any Muslim person and have a sense of fear because they don’t necessarily know or understand. What would you say to enlighten us all.
Mustafa Tameez: [00:10:05]Well look I mean I think it’s it’s not it’s not all that of a unique perspective. I think that we are a nation of immigrants that was founded on religious freedom at the heart of the American experiment is that that made that a group of people can come together from around the world and be Americans. You know we’re not indigenous people all of us at one point and some part of our heritage that’s come here unless you’re Native American. So we’re a nation of immigrants and we were founded for the specific purpose of religious freedom so this is if you ask me where do you want to be where do you sit in the world. It’s here. I don’t have that sense anywhere else in a kid growing up in Queens. This Houston has become home to me and so far of all the places where I could go and live and to be honest we do. We’re blessed in a sense that we do have opportunities. We can go live in lots of other places. This is the place where I choose to be because this is my home. And you know the best way for me to explain how Muslim Americans feel during the last election cycle I was taking my son to school who at that time was in fourth grade and we’re driving and there was this conversation of Muslim ban that was taking place. And my my youngest son said I’m glad grandpa’s dead and you’re driving your car you’re like oh Im glad Grandpas dead and that just jarred me a little bit I said Why do you say that. reluctantly because I don’t know where that’s coming.
Linda Lorelle: [00:11:55]Wheres thia coming from?
Mustafa Tameez: [00:11:58]And he was like well cause you know he had a beard I don’t think they would let him be in the country and I don’t know where he would go if he couldn’t be at home with us. So we’ll see.
Linda Lorelle: [00:12:08]How old was he at the time?
Mustafa Tameez: [00:12:08]He Was in his in fourth grade.
Linda Lorelle: [00:12:09]Nine?
Mustafa Tameez: [00:12:09]You know.
Linda Lorelle: [00:12:10]Yeah.
Mustafa Tameez: [00:12:11]So think about like at a young age a young boy being grateful that Grandpa’s not alive because you know what would happen to grandpa just because he had a beard that he might not be able to live in this country. So those are the kind of difficult conversations that.
Linda Lorelle: [00:12:30]What did you say to them.
Mustafa Tameez: [00:12:32]You know I’ll have to be honest with you I and I write talking points for four people for a living. And I was speechless. I didn’t know how to engage in that conversation. And I think that that’s not uncommon I think that this last election cycle not just the Muslim community but all whether you or you’re a woman whether you’re Hispanic whether you’re a Muslim American really. There’s a whole strata of many of us that have a hard time talking to our kids. There have been times where you walk in and that uses playing and you put it on mute because you’re afraid what your kids might hear. And I don’t think in my adult life I don’t remember a time where you just felt that way that we had to mute the television while the news hour was happening because we were afraid of what our kids might hear. And that’s the I think that’s not an uncommon experience for a lot of Americans. It’s no longer just hey this is about the Muslim community. You it’s no longer just about the Muslim community it’s no longer just about the Hispanic community. It’s no longer just about women. It seems to be that that list of the other continues to grow. And so we have to come together as Americans and start stitching back the fabric of this nation because it’s being tethered and it’s being pulled. It’s not just happening in this country as a nation around the world. We’re seeing this that the extremes are not just ruling the airwaves with vile rhetoric but now that vile rhetoric is taking political force and is starting to implement policy that that not just divide us but actually put us in danger.
Linda Lorelle: [00:14:36]And I should also let our audience know you probably have figured out. Many of you if you watch cable news regularly that you see Mustafa many times on Fox News on CNBC and CNN et cetera as a pundit if you will that really could see that really aspired to. But you are often called upon to weigh in on some of the issues that we’re discussing right now. What kind of changes have you been doing that that part of your your work for the last couple of years is even very very visible just in the last year or so. Have you seen a change at all in terms of of I guess just the the level of vitriol. What do you. What are you hearing and seeing and talking about among the folks who are in cable news on the inside. Can you give us a little bit of an insight?
Mustafa Tameez: [00:15:42]If you look at..those that are listening or watching… If you look at your calendar we have all become very busy and the fight to get our attention it’s become fundamentally the most important thing, from an advertising standpoint, so as as the as the traditional way of life which was you know you went to work at 9:00 you got up you were done at 5:00 o’clock you came home by 6:00 you had dinner by 7:00 you watch a little bit of television then you went to bed that’s no longer the cas, those days are gone.
Linda Lorelle: [00:16:20]Those days are gone.
Mustafa Tameez: [00:16:20]Right. The amount of productivity that we are. Squeezing out of ourselves is an all time high. We incredibly productive with what we do. So from an advertising standpoint if you’re marketing something that you have to get our attention. And so those platforms have become a way too. So you’re seeing a lot of click bait stuff. So newspapers are struggling to sell advertising and so they’re going more towards a click bait environment. Cable news is quite an environment where something that has to be really almost like a car crash to get your attention to see. And so while that’s happening on the one hand with the advertising need to get our attention is heightened and required for business models. On the other side what you’re really seeing is this into this connectivity we have with social media iPhones and in 2007 I had some top 2010 so it’s not that long ago social media really took off after that part because now you have a phone and you’re connected to people all the time so something happens around the world you know immediately. And you know it not from Walter Cronkite or Linda Lorelle. You hear it from people that think like you. Right. So it’s framed in a way that’s already prepackaged in how you already think. So if you believe in something as soon as you see that you believe it more so our hearts are hardening our opinions are getting stronger and our emotions are you know just more raw.
Linda Lorelle: [00:18:00]Because the information that we’re getting is reinforcing what we already think and believe inn real time.
Mustafa Tameez: [00:18:06]In real time. Right. So so if you got to put those two things together from an advertising standpoint you need to get people’s attention on the other side. You know we’re interconnected so anything that happens we get the real raw emotion to come pull our attention. So those two things are happening constantly in any given night on cable television primetime Fox News MSNBC and CNN combined. The combined audience is around 5 billion people. So in a country of 320 million people that’s not a lot. Right. So where that’s really moving is those clips are being tweeted which are being put on Facebook and people are talking about it. And so it is really at the palm of our hands that we’re having conversations with people that think and believe the way we do.
Linda Lorelle: [00:18:58]So let’s talk a little bit about the media’s role in all this. Obviously I’m a journalist. I was a news anchor at the NBC station here in Houston for almost 17 years and a reporter for a couple of years before that. And then you’ve got your experience in the media. So I want to know what you take yours on. How much would you say the media are responsible for the division that we have in the country. Because there are people who think that the media bear quite a lot of responsibility for that.
Mustafa Tameez: [00:19:35]Yes. Look I think I have a contrarian viewpoint of this I think that it’s very often that we point the finger at Washington and say Washington is a problem for the media and the media is the problem. And in reality those are mirrors and a reflection of us. We elect people that are in Washington. So we elect. Look that is a function of what we put there and in the media. It’s what we watch is what people produce. Nobody watch it. Nobody would produce it. So you know I would say that public opinion drives public policy and public opinion is shaped by the media. And so sometimes people think also the media is shaping public opinion. The sad truth it’s what people see on the media is what shaped public opinion and what people see is basically what’s happening. So if the president says something vile the media has to report it. Opinion journalism has increased significantly. So now you’re seeing opinion journalists of a more significant way. Just because also it’s it’s it’s what is because you have so many outlets that you get that opinions have to be out there meaning that as human beings we always do want to know what others think. Right. So this is the modern day version of that at one point you used to be just an op ed that you wrote and now it’s that you get up on television to say you point and somebody wants to hear the other side. So I don’t think the media is to blame for this because there’s we don’t want certainly somebody to be a police of that. I think it’s segmented. So we are watching the things that you know we agree with. And then it’s being served to us in a platform where not only that message is what we appear agree with but people that we know our friends our colleagues are commenting on and telling us they agree with it too. So it just hardens our positions. And that is something that we personally individually have to take responsibility and say I want to understand your side. I want to walk in somebody else’s shoes to see how they would feel about this. And until we’re willing to do that ourselves it becomes very easy to say it’s Washington, It’s Austin, itsthe president. It’s the media that’s at fault. That’s scary enough.
Linda Lorelle: [00:22:07]I agree with with that to a point. I do think I do think that it’s going to take people at the grassroots level to really make a difference which is again which is why I decided to do this podcast and and to talk to to all type all kinds of people from from all different walks of life. I do think that the media media outlets need to need to really think in a little bit of a different way in terms of how they’re covering certain things either one of the one of the raps that especially CNN got during the election especially early in the election is that they were playing towards rallies you know beginning to end nonstop multiple for multiple months because they didn’t believe he had a chance of winning. That was the reality. And then when it became well guess who won it all of a sudden you know if there was a there was a switch. So I just I find that really interesting and and I know that media outlets are struggling with how to deal with social media and the immediacy the immediacy of it and with a business model that was created 40 or 50 years ago and how to you know connect those dots and yet still serve the people in the way that they they need to know.
Mustafa Tameez: [00:23:42]Well I mean at the end of the day the news used to be a small component of the entire day’s broadcast it half hour an hour. Now there’s channels that are devoted to that and in it they have news and they have opinion journalism it’s very hard people to distinguish between what’s opinion versus what’s actual news. And if you look at the ratings you know like that CNN rating we less than a million people watching. But it’s how is that being clipped and pushed out on other distribution that those on social media and other places where the bulk of it is being watched. So I think that we have to kind of start putting that in context right because in a way it’s a it’s a generational thing. If you ask Baby Boomers and Generation X like like my generation who new to social media that this is not native to us we’ve learned it. We use it but it’s not as intuitive because it’s still new. We can’t discern between what is opinion versus what’s news what’s legitimate and real versus what’s just hype right. If you look at the generation after mine they can actually tell what is credible and what is not. Because they this is a native environment for that. So there they are far more discerning on what’s what’s on the Internet and what they are reading and what is the source versus if you look at the baby boomer generation. And in my generation every day that you know sometimes we can be more manipulated because this is not a native environment for us. This is new it’s interesting where we can easily be manipulated because this is not our home turf. So I think those issues will resolve themselves. I think the I think the advertising click models will resolve themselves right now in advertising a lot of it is based on you know how many clicks you got. Pretty soon advertising will realize that although you’re getting a click they’re not actually buying it.
Mustafa Tameez: [00:25:48]So why based a metric of a click for payment. Because it’s not generating revenue. And so they haven’t figured out what’s a better way. Right. So over time those things will begin to resolve and content will win out. And so substantive things things that actually have an authentic voice that speak to people. I mean we’re doing a podcast right now and podcast and become incredibly popular because people are able to discern and say I want to listen to this. Because this is something that speaks to me in particular a particular way. And you’re seeing more and more of that that the overall media market Netflix not just stocks but in viewership is going up because people are able to say I want to watch what I want to watch.
Linda Lorelle: [00:26:41]When I want to watch it. Right.
Mustafa Tameez: [00:26:43]So as consumers were starting to kind of be very selective so that I think is very strong and in it the better content over time is going to win out rather than the click bait. The hard part for me is that while that’s happening there is a lot of positive to it things like Pandora that you if you like a particular type of music that music is served to that we’re not getting to to be in other shoes. We’re not getting to explore new things and different things and different viewpoints.
Linda Lorelle: [00:27:18]Because unless you seek it out. And that’s the that’s the whole crux of it because you have to want to seek it out in order to get the other person’s point of view.
Mustafa Tameez: [00:27:31]It will have to be like it. I think that as we move forward in the next several decades not just as one but several decades as you see a development of artificial intelligence that people will have to actually take a decision to say I want to hear the other viewpoint because the where we’re headed know whether it’s a simple example of Pandora or your Facebook feed which gives you what you want to hear. Right.
Linda Lorelle: [00:28:05]Right.
[00:28:06] Based on your past selections. Right. It narrows your choices for you.
Linda Lorelle: [00:28:13]And yiuy become silohed.
Mustafa Tameez: [00:28:14]You become silohed. So in essence you know we have so many choices. Part of us wants somebody to make some of these decisions and give us the things that we like. But over time we’re going to if we’re going to reach our individual potential we will have to make a conscious decision and say that I want to understand the other side. I want to walk in somebody else’s shoes. I want to experience something that I’ve not experienced before. I want to try something that I know intuitively I might not like but I want to try anyway.
Linda Lorelle: [00:28:50]And it’s okay. That’s the whole the whole point is that it’s OK it’s OK if we don’t agree politically. I think you know it gets down to for me it gets down to human connection. And one of the downsides of technology is that it has led to people communicating by text and sitting right next to each other and texting and not actually taking time to look in someone’s eyes and see how they are affected by whatever it is you might be say. And so in order for us to to have that connection I think you know again that’s that’s why I wanted to do this show because I think it’s important for people to be able to see a Muslim American man who was born in Pakistan and it came you know his family gave up so much to be here and to understand what your perspective is with words of encouragement. Do you have for us as we navigate these very tricky times.
Mustafa Tameez: [00:30:07]Look I think that there is a general feeling more than anything this doom and gloom we just see things around us and it just makes us cringe and a lot of it is not proportional to where we are in the world now. For me the world is more at peace today than ever in history. Twenty five years ago when in the Vietnam War. Fifty thousand Americans were killed came in body bags. Twenty five years before that we were in World War 2. Twenty five years before that we were in World War 1. Very you know human carnage is just incredible when you think about that. The world is actually more at peace today. In the last 15 20 years than any time in history we’re more prosperous today as a world than any time in human history. I mean you can credibly say that the next 15 20 years we might eradicate hunger in the world. And we’re actually at a point where there is enough food as a matter of how do we get it to people right. How do we fix our distribution methods. So we’re not only more at peace today but we’re more prosperous today. China alone took ten million people out of poverty in the last decade. So we’re at more peace and more prosperous than ever before. And you know you look at climate change and you go like this. Climate change is in and people have to come accept that this is human made the upside to it is that if it’s manmade then we can actually do something about it and we can both take personal action in our personal life. We can take communal action and government policies and global policies. But there’s also innovation that can come in and take place on fixing some of these things whether it’s the ozone layer or anything else. So the way I look at it that the glass is more than half full that we actually live in a better time than any time in human history. And the opportunity for the world is phenomenal but it requires just like my dad some level of sacrifice it requires effort. It requires to walk in somebody else’s shoes. It will not happen if we leave back and say it will fix itself or that somebody else will fix it for us. So this is a time where people have to be more engaged and if you look at the election what’s going on now I mean in our state we’ve had as many people vote by the end of yesterday as the entire Midterm Election 2014.
Linda Lorelle: [00:33:04]Thats phenomenal.
Mustafa Tameez: [00:33:04]That’s just thats phenomenal really. So when people are pushed and when it becomes important as Americans as Texans that Houstonians we respond whether it’s a to a hurricane or it’s to a hotel or to a corrupt and brazen type of politics. We do respond sometimes not as quickly as we should. Sometimes we got a little bit. But that’s that’s just that’s just part of being a human being right. We’re not necessarily rational being very rational being but we are coming together. And so I’m very optimistic that this is the time to be alive and this is the time to be in a place like Houston the most diverse city in the nation. And this is a time where the opportunities for our kids and our grandkids are incredible. We just have to make the sacrifices.
Mustafa Tameez: [00:34:02]we do we do. And as the title chair is all of our voices matter. Yours mine. Everyone’s out there our voices matter and we have to be able to raise them and speak out about what’s important to us but also to listen with respect and we think that’s that’s the main thing AND that I’ve said one thing and I and I think you’ve asked me a few times as a Muslim that I think that that element of respect I serve ADL is coalition of mutual respect which is different faith leaders coming together and I find that faith is an important part. Of our nation’s history as well as our nation’s future. And I don’t mean that just in the organized the Abrahamic faiths or any kind of organized faith because some people are just spiritual and not necessarily adhere to any particular one religion but that sense of belonging and taking care of your neighbor is intrinsic part of all of that fear that is a common threat. You know the golden rule is common yet. Do unto others as you would have done to you said no matter what scripture you look at. That is a consistent thing. And I would argue that that is the one thing that gives us a sense of internal satisfaction and peace as human beings that when we do something for someone without wanting something in return that is the one thing that always gives us that sense of joy and peace. So we are wired that way. We are wired to be there for each other. So I think that that sense for me is that the future is bright because we will not. We might let each other might let ourselves down. We’re not going to let our neighbors down.
Linda Lorelle: [00:36:01]I love that thought. I really do. Thank you so much Mustafa. Thank you. We’ve known each other for quite some time but I learned a lot about you today because we’ve never had this kind of conversation so I really appreciate your perspective. Thanks so much for taking time. Thank you for watching and listening.
Linda Lorelle: [00:36:24]If the mission of our voices matter resonates with you please like subscribe download and share and then join the conversation because it really is going to take all of us to make a difference.