Posts Tagged ‘ John Boehner ’

Michele Bachmann and Muslim Witch Hunts

By Haris Tarin for The CNN

It is difficult being an American Muslim engaged in civic activities, let alone working in government or politics. We Muslims must always second-guess what we say, guard against people questioning our loyalty and make sure that nobody thinks we are trying to infiltrate the government to sabotage it from within and hand it over to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Most Americans would dismiss these accusations, especially the last one, as outrageous conspiracy theories written by loonies on their blogs. Yet American Muslim public servants are facing these charges from sitting members of Congress. The sad reality is that it has been happening for a decade, and has been met with complete indifference from the media and the public.

Recently, Rep. Michele Bachmann, briefly the front-runner for GOP presidential candidate, sent letters to the State Department, Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security asking them to investigate American Muslim organizations, individuals and government employees to determine if they are infiltrating the government and sabotaging it from within. This week, Newt Gringrich wrote an op-ed defending Bachmann’s request.

Bachmann and her friends — Republican representatives Trent Franks of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Tom Rooney of Florida and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia — pulled out all the stops. They not only hurled these outrageous claims at our organization, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and others like ours, but also accuse Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief-of-staff of being part of the conspiracy.

Huma Abedin, married to former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, has served Clinton since she was the first lady. The slurs against her are beyond malicious. They accuse Abedin’s late father and her family of being a part of an international conspiracy seeking to sabotage the United States.
This latest witch hunt comes as no surprise to those of us in public life. This is a natural next step for hate mongers. First, people who do not have mainstream political backing start the rumors. Next, if we take a page from Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s 1950s playbook, the rumors become accusations leveled by the most politically privileged. It’s simple — the more accusations thrown at American Muslims trying to serve their country, the harder it is for them to be hired and the more politicians shy away from engaging them.

For years, we have watched presidential candidates talking about their discomfort with appointing Muslims to senior positions in government. We have seen them sparring over our ethics and principles. Legislation against Sharia law has been introduced in 20 states, frightening residents into thinking Sharia is an imminent threat. President Obama still faces vicious and pointed accusations of being a Muslim, as though it were a slur.
These attacks are real and hurt people’s lives. Public servants have been forced out of jobs, with suspicion shadowing them. Very few public officials have had the courage to publicly condemn the escalating witch hunt. Will this latest absurdity finally force our politicians and policy-makers to not only defend someone like Huma Abedin, whose public service needs no defense, but also all American Muslims who serve this country every day?

A few Republicans have rallied to Abedin’s side. This week, Ed Rollins, Bachmann’s former campaign chief, denounced her in an op-ed on Fox News. Speaker of the House John Boehner defended Abedin’s character.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain felt compelled to stand on the floor of the Senate and denounce the accusations. “Ultimately, what is at stake in this matter is larger even than the reputation of one person. This is about who we are as a nation, and who we aspire to be,” he said.
The question is whether this incident will serve as a tipping point. Will our political and religious leaders and the media push back against Islamophobes whose clear agenda is to marginalize American Muslims? Will this wave of McCarthyism be exposed, condemned and made politically unacceptable? Will American Muslim public servants be able to serve their country without suspicion?
Every year, my organization brings 25 young American Muslim leaders to Washington to help them better understand policy making. The majority are inspired to develop careers in government and public service.

Yet every year I ask myself: Are these individuals better off in banking, medicine and less high-profile careers? Am I exposing them to a career that will be tarnished by the likes of Michele Bachmann? In the end, I still believe that the sacrifice to serve this nation and make America a better place is worth the headache, and heartache, of dealing with bigots — including those in Congress.

Haris Tarin is the director of the Washington office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Pakistan’s Man in Washington

 By Chris Frates for Politico

 As Pakistan’s top Washington lobbyist, it’s Mark Siegel’s job to convince U.S. officials not to take out their anger on the country despite the fact that Osama bin Laden spent at least five years living in relative comfort outside Islamabad.

It’s not an easy sell.

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum wonder aloud how the world’s No. 1 terrorist could be living in plain sight unbeknownst to the Pakistanis. Siegel has to make the pitch that it’s in America’s national security interests to continue its relationship with Pakistan and to keep the billions of dollars in foreign aid flowing.

It’s a message that Siegel’s firm, Locke Lord, is getting paid good money to sell; the firm brings in almost $1 million a year representing Pakistan.

In addition to Siegel, the firm has about half a dozen lobbyists representing the country including Harriet Miers, an aide to former President George W. Bush and a one-time U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

Siegel is uniquely positioned to make the country’s case to skeptics on the Hill. He’s been friends with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s family for almost three decades and has a direct line to Islamabad.

“The Pakistanis insist to me that they were not aware that Osama bin Laden was at that venue. The president made that very clear to me,” Siegel told POLITICO after speaking with Zardari this week. “I think if they had known, they would have been happy to nab him themselves.”

His connection to Zardari isn’t lost on those he lobbies, like House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, who met with Siegel on Tuesday.

“It wasn’t so much what Mark was saying to me on Tuesday, it was what I was saying to him knowing, or feeling confident that it was going to go directly back to the president,” said King (R-N.Y.). “There is a real question of credibility and trust and faith. You can’t have the No. 1 mass murderer of Americans living in plain view in Pakistan all these years while Pakistan is claiming to be our ally and getting $3 billion a year.”

Pakistan, King said, must investigate and credibly explain how bin Laden was able to go undected and demonstrate that its intelligence services and military have not been penetrated by al Qaeda.

“Mark’s basic job is almost to tread water, to keep everything afloat until something can be done,” King said. “I think he’s trying to prevent something from happening too quickly to have the relationship severed. He wants to make sure that he keeps it together and so you can have extensive talks between the two governments.”

But King’s not the only one critical of Pakistan these days.

The Obama administration – which didn’t give its ally a heads up that Americans would be swooping into their country to take out bin Laden for fear of leaks – has been describing the relationship between the two countries with the ambiguous “it’s complicated” tag usually reserved for Facebook profiles.

And Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin told ABC News Thursday that he thinks high-level Pakistani intelligence knew of bin Laden’s whereabouts and he has “no doubt” the country knows the location of other top-level targets.

“None of the people on the Hill are suggesting to me that anybody in the civilian government knew that Osama was there,” Siegel said, drawing a distinction between Zardari and the country’s military and intelligence branches.

Tony Podesta, a lobbyist who represents Egypt, knows something of representing a vilified client that is nevertheless a U.S. military ally in an unstable part of the world.

“You want to take it back to the long term strategic interests of the U.S. and to facts rather than supposition. It makes no long term strategic sense for any kind of reckless decisions to be made at this moment,” Podesta said. “That’s where he’ll leave it.”

Siegel has been friends with Zardari’s family for almost three decades, having met Zardari’s late wife, Benazir Bhutto, in 1984 when a mutual friend asked him to host a dinner party for her. The two would go on to write a book together and when Bhutto became prime minister, Siegel represented her government.

This week, Siegel said he has been reminding lawmakers that Pakistan has been a strong ally and that President Barack Obama and other administration officials have praised the country’s cooperation in fighting al Qaeda and terrorism. Pakistan itself has been a victim of terrorism – 30,000 civilians have been killed by terrorists in the last decade, he added.

Even before this week’s killing of bin Laden, Locke Lord has been active on the Hill. In February and March, firm lobbyists accompanied the Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani on meetings with House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, and Kay Granger, chairwoman of the House appropriations subcommittee on state-foreign operations.

Last year, the firm successfully lobbied for $1.5 billion in economic and social aid over the next five years — a sum that has to be reauthorized each year. The firm is also lobbying to secure foreign aid and create duty-free “reconstruction opportunity zones” inside Pakistan’s tribal lands and Afghanistan.

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