Posted by Guest on April 09, 2018 in Blog

Screen_Shot_2018-04-12_at_9.38.47_AM.pngBy Mollie Todd

In the current administration, politicians with a history of discriminatory rhetoric and actions have managed to become commonplace. Former Director of the CIA and Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo is no different. Throughout his political career, Director Pompeo has made several inflammatory remarks about Arab Americans and American Muslims, and has maintained ties to anti-immigrant groups. On April 9, a panel of leading interfaith and rights experts hosted a panel on Capitol Hill to examine Pompeo’s troubled record and its implications for his  appointment as Secretary of State. The speakers included Arab American Institute (AAI) Executive Director Maya Berry, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), Hoda HawaRabbi Jack Moline, President of the Interfaith Alliance, Catherine Orsborn the Campaign Director of Shoulder to Shoulder, and Scott Simpson, Public Advocacy Director of Muslim Advocates.

The panel began with an overview of Pompeo’s long history of discriminatory statements toward Muslims. In 2010, Pompeo ran against Raj Goyle, an Indian American, for Kansas’ Fourth Congressional District seat. During his campaign, Pompeo tweeted out an article referring to his opponent as an “evil turban topper” and refused to condemn signage from a supporter that read “True Americans Vote for Pompeo.” He continued with similar rhetoric in 2013, nearly two months after the Boston Bombing, to denounce American Muslims for failing to condemn the event. Pompeo went as far to remark that, “Silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts.” Pompeo’s contempt for minorities does not stop at the American Muslim community, but also extends to LGBTQ individuals. He has spoken out against LGBTQ rights, particularly their right to serve in the military as well as their right to marry.  

As stated by multiple panel members, Mike Pompeo has been the darling of two anti-immigrant organizations designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He has been a long-term ally of Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy and Brigette Gabriel of ACT! for America. In 2016, Pompeo received ACT! for America’s National Security Eagle Award. This group is known for protesting the construction of mosques, promoting bigoted “anti-Shariah” bills in state legislatures and works to exclude teaching resources on Islam from schools.

Consequently, many of the panelists expressed concern over Pompeo’s pending appointment to the office of Secretary of State. Given his past rhetoric and support for anti-Muslim hate groups, can Pompeo be an effective representative of the United States to predominantly Muslim nations? As noted by Hawa, Pompeo is reactionary, willingly ignores facts, and is personally biased against a significant American minority. AAI’s Berry echoed that Pompeo’s biases could impede the right of American Muslims to have equal and adequate representation in the government and protection under the law. Similarly, Orsborn noted that Pompeo’s appointment as Secretary of State will give a platform to white extremist groups and compromise the image of American Muslims within our society as a whole.

Even with his history of discriminatory rhetoric and support of designated hate groups, Pompeo sadly will not stand out amongst the other members of the Cabinet. In actuality, as noted by Hawa, Pompeo is “part and parcel” of the agenda of the current administration. The participants in this briefing, as well as the American Muslim and Arab American communities, remain skeptical of Pompeo’s ability to fulfill his duties as Secretary of State. With his clear prejudices against Islam and its adherents, it is unclear if Pompeo will be committed to upholding religious freedom and if he will be able to represent American values abroad.

Mollie Todd is a spring 2018 intern at the Arab American Institute.