Posts Tagged ‘ Muslim Public Affairs Council ’

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.

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‘Islam in a Nutshell’ Explained at Episcopal Church

By Mitchell Landsberg for The Los Angeles Times

The Rev. J. Edwin Bacon, rector of All Saints Church in Pasadena, had just returned from vacation when he heard about a Florida pastor who was threatening to burn copies of the Koran, Islam’s holy book.

“I was disgusted,” said Bacon, whose Episcopal church is known for its progressive stance on many issues, interfaith relations among them. He said he thought: “Rather than burning Korans, we should be studying them.”

The Koran burning never took place. But from Bacon’s reaction was born “Islam 101,” a speaker series that ended Saturday with a lecture by Dr. Maher Hathout, senior advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council and a leading voice of Muslims in Southern California.

About 75 people went to the church to hear Hathout give a brief overview of “Islam in a nutshell,” then answer questions from a friendly audience that seemed concerned about both Muslim extremism and American hostility toward Islam.

Hathout told the audience that as the “new kid on the block” among the three Abrahamic faiths, which include Judaism and Christianity, Islam has had two options: “to be accepted by other religions or to fight with them.”

He continued: “We are now discovering … that we can be different without fighting, or it will be a miserable life. And it is a miserable life right now, if you ask me.”

Hathout expressed horror at the discovery of explosives bound from Yemen to the United States, part of a suspected Al Qaeda terrorist plot. He said terrorism violates Islamic theology and could ultimately destroy Islam. By using it “to defend Islam, you sacrifice Islam,” he said.

At the same time, Hathout complained about the use of the term “Muslim terrorist.” No one ever says a “Christian terrorist” bombed an abortion clinic, he said, adding, “They will not give the religious adjective to that person.”

And he said he is angered by people who say that moderate Muslims have been too reluctant to denounce extremism.

“If I shout and you don’t hear me, it means you are deaf,” he said. “It doesn’t mean I didn’t shout.”

All Saints is not alone in reaching out to the Muslim community in an attempt to better understand Islam. In the years since Sept. 11, 2001, numerous churches and synagogues, generally those associated with the progressive or liberal wings of their faiths, have invited Muslim speakers or partnered with Islamic organizations on interfaith events.

During the question-and-answer session, one member of the audience observed that if Hathout were to attend a “Christianity 101” lecture at All Saints, it would be different than a similar lecture at an evangelical church. She wondered if the same were true of Islam. Hathout said there is diversity within Islam, but also boundaries that cannot be crossed.

The question also spoke to another point: To a large degree, Saturday’s event was a meeting of like-minded sensibilities. There probably weren’t any prospective Koran burners in the audience. Hathout wasn’t changing minds so much as informing them.

Bacon acknowledged as much afterward. “I’ve always thought that preaching to the choir is a very important thing,” he said, “because the choir needs to be radicalized. On one level, you want to get the message taught. But on another level, you want them to be equipped and empowered to go out and courageously act.”

Those who attended the three-lecture series, he said, will be better able to explain to others that “most of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world view their religion as a religion of peace, not as a religion of terrorism.”

“This is the real Islam,” he said.

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