Op-Ed: Michele Bachmann’s baseless attack on Huma Abedin

TO CONSPIRACY theorists like Rep. ¬Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the Obama administration’s approach to the Arab world is the product not of considered diplomacy but of wicked “influence operations,” traceable to the Muslim Brotherhood and its agents. Exhibit A among those agents with murky “ties” to the Muslim Brotherhood, Ms. Bachmann warns darkly, is Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Ms. Bachmann’s smear of Ms. Abedin, a 37-year-old Muslim American born and educated in this country, was contained in a letter last month to the State Department’s inspector general’s office. It would be simple to ignore the baseless and paranoid assertions of Ms. Bachmann were she not a member of Congress and an also-ran in the recent race for the Republican presidential nomination. Her status doesn’t confer respectability on her views — Americans are inured to all manner of nonsense from Congress — but it does call for a response, if only to restore a dose of rationality to the public discourse.
Today, though, for arguably the first time in her congressional career, the Minnesota GOP congresswoman is finding herself publicly on the outs with some in her own party. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), among others, have publicly criticized Bachmann for her suggestion that State Department officials, including longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, might be part of a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to infiltrate the U.S. government. (Though notably, Newt Gingrich defended her this morning.)

Muslims call new religious freedom appointee a ‘puppet’ for Islam foes

WASHINGTON — One of two new members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has Muslim civil rights groups crying foul.

Zuhdi Jasser, who lauded a controversial New York City police surveillance program that targeted Muslims and helped lead the opposition to an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero, has been appointed to the commission, which advises the president, Congress and State Department on religious rights abuses internationally.

“It would have been better to appoint someone who has some measure of credibility with Muslim Americans,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“He has long been viewed by American Muslims and the colleagues in the civil liberties community as a mere sock puppet for Islam haters and an enabler of Islamophobia.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appointed Jasser and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, appointed Robert P. George, a philosophy professor at Princeton University and top adviser to the U.S. Catholic bishops.

2 Libyan-Americans from Oregon now being allowed to return to US after unexplained delays

PORTLAND, Ore. — Two Libyan-Americans from the Portland, Ore., area who were denied re-entry to the United States from Libya have been granted permission to return home, although one man’s return has been delayed.

The two men — Jamal Tarhuni, 55, and Mustafa Elogbi, 60 — traveled separately to Libya last year after the revolution that ousted Moammar Gadhafi.

The pair has now received assurances from the State Department that they can travel home, said Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer for the Washington-based Council on American Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group that has advocated for both men. Tarhuni has already departed Libya and is expected to arrive in Oregon Tuesday.

Elogbi was told he can leave but was ordered to delay his departure for unexplained reasons. He now plans to depart on Sunday.
Last month, both were barred from boarding return flights to the U.S. The two said they were being subjected to an overzealous and groundless investigation by the FBI.

Canadian Muslim organizations not consulted on new Office of Religious Freedom

The Toronto Star – January 20, 2012

The Canadian Conservative government has launched a new office meant to promote religious freedom worldwide through a foreign policy focus to aid oppressed religious minorities in places such as Egypt, Pakistan, China and Iran. But in the months since the federal election, when the Office of Religious Freedom first appeared on the Tories’ platform, the foreign affairs department has released few details about how the new body will operate or when, exactly, it will come into being.

The new entity — which will cost $5 million, employ five and, Lavoie said, launch in early 2012 — has rankled a number of Canadian religious organizations, human rights groups and academics, who remain unsure of what it hopes to achieve and whose interests it will serve. Muslim groups especially have lamented the lack of information. Wahida Valiante, past president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, said it was self-defeating for the ministry to stand behind a “wall of secrecy,” since religious issues are often racked with controversy. “We know very little,” echoed Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations. “There is concern over how this is going to operate and what its methodology is going to be.”

A closed-door consultation between the minister and roughly 100 religious leaders and politicians, held in Ottawa on Oct. 3, drew criticism over the ministry’s invited speakers list: representatives from major Christian and Jewish organizations participated, while members of Eastern religions, like Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism, were left out.

Also present at the October consultation was Thomas Farr, first director of the U.S. Office of International Religious Freedom, a component of the U.S. State Department since 1998. Farr’s involvement signaled to some that the Canadian office would be heavily modeled on its American counterpart. That body was originally pushed by the evangelical Christian lobby, said University of Toronto law professor Karen Knop.

American Muslim leaders express dismay at Secretary Clinton’s closed door conference with Islamic Bloc countries

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 15, 2011) – A group of American Muslim leaders have expressed disappointment with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the U.S. State Department for giving a platform to the Saudi-Based Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) campaign to suppress freedom of thought, expression and conscience, by hosting a 3 day conference in Washington, D.C. The American Islamic Leadership Coalition (AILC) issued a statement which said:

“This conference was hosted in the name of ‘combating [religious] intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization’, but in fact is likely to encourage the opposite. The U.S. is in danger of becoming a tool in the OIC’s aggressive efforts to suppress freedom of speech for Muslims and non-Muslims alike throughout the world.”

We ask the U.S. State Department to defend the interests of the United States—and of sincere people of faith throughout the world—by vigorously defending the First Amendment values that encouraged our families to come to this country; values that we cherish, and that allow us to study, discuss and practice our faith far more freely than is permitted in most Muslim-majority nations.

We ask the State Department not to provide autocrats with a platform from which to divert attention from the systematic oppression of women, minorities and their citizens in general, which is characteristic of many OIC member states, including those at the forefront of the OIC’s “defamation of religion” campaign.

CAIR: D.C. Hotel Uses ‘National Security’ Defense in Muslim Bias Suit

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/29/11) –- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today termed “unprecedented” a claim by a Washington, D.C., hotel that it had the right to discriminate against a Muslim employee because of a “national security exemption.”

In a motion filed yesterday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel said the Muslim employee’s discrimination lawsuit should be rejected by the court because the hotel “was following a mandate from the federal government regarding a matter of national security.”

The hotel’s motion blames its discriminatory actions on security requirements allegedly imposed by the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security Service (DSS).

“It is chilling to see the Mandarin Hotel — a private company — claim that national security concerns shield its discriminatory conduct from the law,” said CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas. “We are confident the court will reject this unprecedented claim.”

Abbas said CAIR’s suit on behalf of the Muslim employee alleged that in December 2010, the American citizen of Moroccan heritage was forbidden to go to the 8th or 9th floors of the hotel because an Israeli delegation was staying there.

US monitoring mosques in Ireland

Cables published on Wikileaks indicate the regular monitoring of mosques in Ireland by US diplomatic personnel stationed in Ireland following requests of the US State Department. Detailed dossiers on different mosques were compiled containing information on the main mosques in Dublin and their leaders, fundraising activities of suspected extremists, the main mosques’ connections to the Muslim Brotherhood as well as on divisions between Sunnis and Shiis in Ireland.
The cables indicate that attempts to establish links with Sunni mosques were met with suspicion by their leaders while close contacts were established with the Iraqi Shii community. The Shii community in particular provided the Dublin US embassy with information on activities of Muslim extremists in Ireland – though diplomatic staff assessed that the information provided by the Shiis contained “some exaggerations and inaccuracies”. The cables also reveal the interest of the State Department in identifying and establishing links with “moderate Muslims promoting tolerant forms of political Islam”.
Up to 30 alleged al-Qaida sympathisers living in Ireland were under police and military intelligence surveillance, according to the cables. The US embassy after meetings with the then prime minister Bertie Ahern, ministers and senior officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Justice accused the Irish government of “complacency” in addressing the potential threat of terrorists.
Other cables describe the scepticism of some Muslim parents about the full integration of their children into Irish society and an emerging generational conflict between first generation Muslim migrants and their Irish-born children. The US embassy also criticised lacking initiatives of the Irish government to facilitate the integration of Muslims. However, another cable characterised Muslims in Ireland overall as “content and moderate”.

Conference aims to empower U.S. Muslim women

Speakers from community groups, the LAPD and State Department said that by knowing and exercising their rights, American Muslim women could become a force against religious and political extremism.

“The American Muslim woman is empowered because she is an American,” said author, educator and Irvine community activist Anila Ali. From job discrimination and domestic violence to divorce and child-custody laws, “American Muslim women need to be knowledgeable about their rights and who to turn to” for assistance, Ali said.

Radicalism springs from disenfranchisement, said Farah Pandith, a U.S. State Department representative whose job is to reach out to emerging leaders who have grown up in the digital information age in Muslim communities around the world.

“Students, entrepreneurs, hip-hop artists, poets … people who may not have the strongest voice, but interesting ideas,” she said.

US State Department asked Dublin embassy to assess threat of Islamic extremism in Ireland

29 April 2011

A leaked cable of the US embassy in Dublin, sent to the US State Department in July 2006, responds the Department’s request to assess the threat of Islamic extremism in Ireland and “to look at the role of Islamic thinkers across Europe”. The cable, published in WikiLeaks on April 25 2010, provides a survey of the major mosque organisations in Ireland and comes to the conclusion that only few Muslim leaders call for integration of Muslims into Irish society.
The European Council for Fatwa and Research whose secretariat is based in the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Clonskeagh, South Dublin, is depicted as “little more than a paper tiger”. The cable also notes the close connection of the Islamic Cultural Centre with the Muslim Brotherhood and Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
As one of the most pro-American voices among Muslim leaders in Ireland, the cable identifies the leader of the Iraqi Shii community, Dr Ali Al-Saleh, who tries “to provide the Irish public a balanced view of USG [US government] efforts in Iraq…”. The Dublin embassy assisted Al-Saleh in writing an opinion piece in the Irish Times, published March 18, 2006, on the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq which points in particular at the democratic benefits the US invasion has brought to Iraq.
In response to the leaked cable, the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland downplayed its links with the Muslim Brotherhood, emphasising its openness for all Muslim worshippers and its rejection of the promotion of particular political agendas. Ali Al-Saleh, the clerical leader of the Shii community, confirmed the assistance he received from the US embassy in writing the opinion piece stating: “The Shias were supportive of the role the US played in getting rid of Saddam Hussein. We were pro-US in terms of their role in promoting democracy in the region.”

Drawing U.S. Crowds With Anti-Islam Message

Through her books, media appearances and speeches, and her organization, ACT! for America, Ms. Brigitte Gabriel has become one of the most visible personalities on a circuit of self-appointed terrorism detectors who warn that Muslims pose an enormous danger within United States borders.

“America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America,” she said. “They have infiltrated us at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department. They are being radicalized in radical mosques in our cities and communities within the United States.” She insists that she is singling out only “radical Islam” or Muslim “extremists”—and yet her speeches and books leave the opposite impression.

As a child growing up a Maronite Christian in war-torn southern Lebanon in the 1970s, Ms. Gabriel said, she had been left lying injured in rubble after Muslims mercilessly bombed her village. She found refuge in Israel and then moved to the United States, only to find that the Islamic radicals who had terrorized her in Lebanon, she said, were now bent on taking over America.

Ms. Gabriel is only one voice in a growing circuit that includes counter-Islam speakers like Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and Walid Shoebat. What distinguishes Ms. Gabriel from her counterparts is that she has built a national grass-roots organization in the last three years that has already engaged in dozens of battles over the place of Islam in the United States.