Thursday, July 19, 2012

Muslim Rights Group: Bachmann Playing 'Six Degrees of Separation Drinking Game' with National Security

Muslim Rights Group: Bachmann Playing 'Six Degrees of Separation Drinking Game' with National Security

A Muslim human rights group has issued a strong response to the allegations from House Republican members that longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s family, as well as other prominent Muslim-Americans working within the U.S. government, have ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Corey Saylor, a spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also known as CAIR, calls questioning the loyalty of ”patriotic American Muslims” based on what he says are old anti-Muslim conspiracy theories “beyond the pale.”

Five GOP members of Congress, including former presidential candidate Michelle Bachman, sent letters to the Inspector General offices for the State Department, as well as the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Defense and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, questioning whether Abedin and other prominent Muslims are part of a plot by Islamic extremists to infiltrate the U.S. government.

“America wants a serious national security conversation,” says Saylor. “Michelle Bachmann is giving us a six degrees of separation drinking game.”

CAIR, a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group founded in 1994, is not alone in its condemnation. Today veteran Republican Senator John McCain gave a spirited defense of Abedin, calling the allegations against her “ugly” and “sinister.” He chastised his GOP colleagues in the House saying that no one, “not least a member of Congress,” should launch such a “degrading attack against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of that they stand for.”

State Department deputy spokesperson Patrick Ventrell also shot down the accusations, calling them “preposterous.”

Saylor says that Abedin and the other Muslim officials listed in the House letter are American citizens who are “asking what they can do for their nation,” and now Bachmann “seems to be punishing them for the sin of offering that service during a Democratic administration,” he says.

In addition to Abedin, the letters also cite Mohamed Elibiary, an advisor to the Department of Homeland Security named in the letter, as also having possible ties to extremists. Last year Elibiary was given an award by the Society of Former Special Agents for his counter-terrorism work with the FBI.

“Now his contributions have been rewarded by Bachmann questioning his patriotism,” says Saylor.

Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, the only Muslim member of Congress, has sent letters to Bachmann demanding she and her GOP colleagues produce evidence backing up their claims. Ellison told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the allegations are “the worst of guilt by association,” said Ellison. “It is a stark affront to American values.”

Bachmann has issued a statement saying that Ellison has “distorted” the letters by taking certain comments out of context. “The intention of the letters was to outline the serious national security concerns I had and ask for answers to questions regarding the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical group’s access to top Obama administration officials,” said Bachmann.

But those who have spoken out, including McCain, Ellison and CAIR, reiterate that Bachmann and her House GOP colleague’s questions aren’t based on credible evidence. Saylor says it has more in common with the 1950?s political witch hunt spearheaded by former senator Joe McCarthy to take down political opponents by claiming they were communists. That period is generally seen as one of the darkest in American political history.

“You can’t help drawing parallels between this and McCarthyism,” says Saylor. “Half truths? Guilt by association? Overblown accusations? Sounds like Joe McCarthy to me.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Colorado State Sen. Says Banning New Mosques Is Something to Think About « CBS Denver

Colorado State Sen. Says Banning New Mosques Is Something to Think About « CBS Denver

DENVER (CBS4) – In light of Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders recent remarks calling Islam “a totalitarian ideology striving for world dominance,” Colorado State Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, expressed support for considering regulations on the construction of new mosques.

Wilders sparked controversy during a recent appearance at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver by warning audiences of the rising Islamic threat and hailing a stop to the “islamization process.”

“More Islam means more intolerance, more Sharia and less freedom,” said Wilders at the event. “We must stop immigration from Islamic countries, we must expel criminal immigrants, we must forbid the construction of new mosques. There is enough Islam in the West already.”

After Wilders’ speech, Grantham told The Colorado Statesman that he believes the idea to prohibit the construction of mosques warrants some attention.

“You know, we’d have to hear more on that, because, as (Wilders) said, mosques are not churches like we would think of churches,” said Grantham. “They think of mosques more as a foothold into a society, as a foothold into a community, more in the cultural and in the nationalistic sense. Our churches, we don’t feel that way, they’re places of worship, and mosques are simply not that, and we need to take that into account when approving construction of those.”

While Wilders justifies his proposal as an effort to “preserve our nations and our homes,” his plan of action seems to contradict the fundamental liberties established in the Constitution. Muslim-American activists highlight the proposed regulation on building mosques as a violation of the First Amendment’s right to freedom of religion.

“The same kinds of smears were used against Catholics and Jews,” said Corey Saylor, national legislative director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “We have moved past that kind of bigotry and we have the Constitution which prohibits the regulation of religion. In the U.S., we have the First Amendment. They are talking about interfering in the exercise of a minority religion, which is fundamentally against American values.”

However, the First Amendment argument is not a definitive tactic in preventing all attempts to ban new mosques. In May 2011, Wilders gave a speech in Tennessee that bears a striking similarity to his recent comments in Denver where he called upon the audience to “forbid the construction of new hate palaces called mosques.” A little over a year later, Murfreesboro, Tenn. finds itself in the midst of a dispute over whether to allow a new mosque to open.

In May, Chancellor Robert Corlew ruled that construction on the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro must stop because the Rutherford County Planning Commission did not give the public adequate notice of the May 2010 meeting where the site plan was approved. However, planning commissioners are currently appealing Corlew’s decision with the hope of opening the mosque before Ramadan, which begins July 19.

Despite the situation in Murfreesboro and the remarks by Wilders and Grantham, Muslim-Americans are optimistic that the United States will remain tolerant of Islam and unite to combat discriminatory actions.

“Too often what you see after fear mongering speech is fear mongering behavior,” said Saylor. “We just always stick to the greater hope that the bulk of American people will find that speech repugnant and stand up against it.”