Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Blog

Say what you will about her, but Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is no quitter. In the firestorm that has emerged after she and four other members of Congress requested investigations into Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the US government, Bachmann has chosen to double-down on her position. Instead of backtracking, equivocating, or even limiting the debate to the confines of her original accusations, she’s gone on the offensive, issuing statements and making media appearances as an increasing number of public figures – from both parties – have roundly condemned her conduct as “out-of-line,” “dangerous,” and “downright vicious.”

After being challenged by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) to provide his "office with a full accounting of the sources you used to make the serious allegations against the individuals and organizations in your letters,” Bachmann penned a 16-page rebuttal, which she later described as “bulletproof.” She has strongly encouraged everyone to read her letter before jumping to any conclusions.

To save you time, a headache, and an acute bout of depression about the people who run our government, I’ve summarized the arguments made in her response to Rep. Ellison:

 

  1. The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper once referred to the Muslim Brotherhood as “largely secular,” which implies that the intelligence community’s analysis is either “inherently flawed” or compromised by Muslim Brotherhood saboteurs.

In reality, what DNI Clapper was trying to explain was that the Muslim Brotherhood has operated politically in a largely secular fashion, much like its Islamist counterparts in Turkey, Indonesia, and elsewhere. His office stated matter-of-factly that Clapper is of course "well aware that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secular organization." Nevertheless, Bachmann assumes that Congressional criticism of his statements constitutes a sufficient indictment of his credibility to validate her own position, a line of reasoning that is almost perfectly circular.

 

  1. Criticism of Bachmann and her colleagues for attacking the reputation of Huma Abedin, Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Clinton, is unfounded. They were merely “interested in exactly how, given what we know from the international media about Ms. Abedin's documented family connections with the extremist Muslim Brotherhood, she was able to avoid being disqualified for a security clearance.”

This was an assertion that Bachmann reiterated yesterday with radio host Glenn Beck: “Our point was regarding the security clearance… did she have to go through the same sort of process that anyone else has to go to.  Did they check the boxes.” If I had to venture a guess, it would probably be something along the lines of: of course she went through the same process, why on earth wouldn’t she? Isn’t it infinitely more likely that the security clearance process determined that the “immediate family connections” to the Muslim Brotherhood (which in actuality refer to the fact that her father worked for an organization that worked with another organization that occasionally “aligned” with the Muslim Brotherhood) turned out to be baseless? It’s either that, or that Ms. Abedin has managed to perfectly hide her sympathies from a rigorous screening process, everyone she’s ever worked with, and her own husband.

 

  1. Because the Organization of Islamic Cooperation “defines human rights as shariah for the Muslim world and CAIR [the Council of American Islamic Relations] designates itself as a Muslim Civil Rights organization, couldn’t this indicate a common commitment to the implementation of shariah law inside the United States, just as the Muslim Brotherhood’s mission statement attests?”

No, it couldn’t. Just because all three groups profess an interest in “human rights” does not imply collusion, or even a convergence of thought. Evangelicals, Quakers, and 11th-Century Crusaders all share a commitment to the Ten Commandments, but that doesn’t mean they have the same political objectives. Using the same line of reasoning, Bachmann takes an OIC Observatory Report that recommends “accommodation [as] the best strategy for integration” as evidence that “Muslims should be allowed to live in non-Muslim states without having to necessarily obey its laws,” and asserts that the OIC’s anti-Islamophobia agenda is simply a plan to “subordinate free speech to Islamic law.”

 

  1. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is “the largest Muslim Brotherhood front in the United States.”

The evidence of ISNA’s supposed complicity in the global Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy comes from the Investigate Project on Terrorism, a controversially-funded organization run by Steven Emerson, who once accused President Obama of belonging to “the world Hamas lobby,” and has repeatedly claimed that Islam, “which has more than 1.4 billion adherents, somehow sanctions genocide, planned genocide, as part of its religious doctrine.” The reliance on sources like these fundamentally undermines Bachmann’s boasting about the “59 footnotes” used in her analysis. In fairness, the letter also cites the Chicago Tribune, which reports that some individuals affiliated with the Brotherhood “helped form” some Muslim youth organizations affiliated with ISNA, but immediately goes on to say that “their overall influence has been limited.”

 

  1. The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and Muslim Advocates, two civil rights organizations, "exercise influence in ways that align with Muslim Brotherhood agendas."

On top of the same reliance on false equivalence based solely on a professed commitment to “civil rights” (does that make the NAACP a secret Muslim organization too?), this argument, like so many others in the Islamophobic camp, is based on a complete misunderstanding of the concept of shariah, which is “not a collection of laws but a set of diversely interpreted guidelines for religious practice,” similar to codes of ethics found in Judaism and Christianity. It’s also worth noting that “no Muslim American leaders are calling for Sharia to override American laws.” Shariah only ever influences American law through (voluntary) arbitration or religious contracts like marriage and divorce.

In another act of circular reasoning, Bachmann attempts to defame MPAC President Salam al-Marayati, accusing him of “run-ins with the federal government” when in actuality this refers to his forced resignation from the National Commission in Terrorism in response to a similar Congressional smear campaign in 1999.

 

Marayati’s case is a good closing thought, because as ludicrous as these accusations sometimes seem, they nevertheless have a powerful and dangerous effect on our country. It’s immensely damaging to the Arab American and American Muslim public servants who have worked tirelessly to overcome the immense hurdles they face to be accepted inside Washington. The outpouring of support for Huma Abedin by individuals as diverse as Secretary Hillary Clinton and Congressman John Boehner (R-OH) has been nothing short of inspiring, but there are countless others without such powerful connections, who have lost their jobs – and their reputations – on even flimsier charges. Several other individuals targeted by Bachmann’s attacks remain largely undefended, including Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Rashad Hussein; Presidential advisor Dalia Mogahed; FBI Citizens Academy graduate Kifah Mustafa; Homeland Security Advisory Committee Member Mohamed Elibiary, and Homeland Security Countering Violent Extremism Working Group Member Mohamed Magid.

Beyond these individuals, however, this type of vitriol is also extremely damaging to the well-being of our nation as a whole. The US government simultaneously balances a deep entanglement with the Arab and Muslim worlds and a shocking reticence to enlist the support of Arab Americans and American Muslims who arguably know these regions best. It’s a reminder that we may have come a long way, but until comments like Bachmann’s are rendered unacceptable in public discourse, we still have a long way to go. And no, that’s not my attempt to subordinate her free speech to Islamic law. 

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