This week, four Republican members of Congress, Rep. Sue Myrick, Rep. John Shadegg, Rep. Paul Broun, and Rep. Trent Franks, called on the U.S. House of Representatives’ Sergeant-at-Arms to investigate a national Muslim American civil rights organization, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), for encouraging young Muslim Americans to intern in Congressional offices. By encouraging community members to engage in the civic process and engage in advocacy like most other major Washington, DC organizations, CAIR is being accused by these lawmakers of trying to plant "spies" into Congressional offices.
In a bizarre McCarthy-era like press conference, the four lawmakers quoted various excerpts from a yet-to-be released Islamophobic publication entitled, "Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That's Conspiring to Islamize America." The publication is co-authored by Dave Gaubatz, an individual who has repeatedly attacked members of Congress and the President for trying to implement sharia (Islamic law) in the United States.
It is unfortunate that four members of Congress from the party of Abraham Lincoln have used their official government capacity to characterize Muslims’ civic engagement as evidence of espionage and subversion. This accusation goes beyond the work of one organization; it is an affront to the countless number of patriotic Muslim Americans serving at all levels of government and civil society. This type of reckless behavior casts a phony net of suspicion on young Muslim Americans serving in various government offices.
MPAC calls on the House Leadership, specifically the Republican House leadership, to follow in the footsteps of Rep. John Conyers, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Loretta Sanchez to condemn this vicious and unfounded attack, and prevent a climate of Islamophobia from spreading on Capitol Hill. In a clear statement yesterday, Rep. Conyers addressed the issue by saying:
"It shouldn't need to be said in 2009, and after the historic election of our first African-American president, but let me remind all my colleagues that patriotic Americans of all races, religions, and beliefs have the right - and the responsibility - to participate in our political process, including by volunteering to work in Congressional offices, Numerous Muslim-American interns have served the House ably and they deserve our appreciation and respect, not attacks on their character or patriotism."
This type of behavior by four House Republicans will only embolden the extremists. The lawmakers are making a mockery out of our legislative process with empty and hollow conspiracy theories. It is hypocritical of them to accuse Muslim organizations of subversion on America, while they themselves apparently sent a spy to infiltrate the national office of CAIR so they could get a copy of an internal memo.
The four members of Congress should be reminded of the words of President John Adams when he addressed America’s relationship to Islam, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." Muslim Americans will continue to engage in the civic process and serve their country at all levels.
Those who insist on choosing fear as a tool of exclusion will not hinder our country and the sacred involvement of its citizens in the civic process.
[Haris Tarin, Community Development Director, 202.547.7701, firstname.lastname@example.org]