Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Members of Congress Blast Claims That Muslim Interns are 'Spies'

CAIR, America’s prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, applauded statements by members of the U.S. House of Representatives rejecting claims made by several of their GOP colleagues that Muslim congressional interns are "spies."

On Oct. 14, four right-wing members of Congress, with a long history of fringe or bigoted statements, launched a book called "Muslim Mafia" and asked for an investigation of Muslim "spies" on Capitol Hill. An article in Politico said the alleged spying by Muslims was in fact a "fairly straight forward public relations and lobbying strategy," with the goals of "'placing Muslim interns in congressional offices' and registering people to vote."

In a statement, CAIR said:

"It is troubling that right-wing elected officials would serve as publicity agents for extremists who seek to bar an American minority from exercising its constitutionally-protected rights. We applaud those who stand up for the right of all Americans to participate fully in our nation's political system.”

Watch these short media interviews on this issue:

CAIR Video: Rachel Maddow Exposes Anti-Muslim Extremists (MSNBC)

Round 2 of Rachel Maddow Exposes Anti-Islam Extremists in Congress (MSNBC)

CAIR Rep Discusses ‘Manchurian Interns’ on CNN

In response to the right-wing smears, the Atlanta Journal called CAIR a "mainstream, all-American civil liberties and advocacy group." An article on Salon.com called the actions of the elected officials who launched the anti-Muslim book the "most despicable domestic political event of the year."

The demand for a probe of Muslim "spies" in Congress drew condemnation from other elected officials, one of whom called it a "witch hunt."

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) issued a statement, which read in part:

"I am appalled by this request [for an investigation of Muslim 'spies' in Congress], and the insinuation that Muslim-Americans are somehow conspiring against this country through their work on Capitol Hill. As a strong advocate for diversity and religious freedom, I find these claims to be outrageous and offensive. I urge the rest of my colleagues to join me in denouncing this witch hunt, which is clearly intended to create fear and distrust in our Capitol Hill community."

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) issued the following statement in support of American Muslim congressional interns:

"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."

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, stated in part:

“These fallacious allegations implicate the existence of a society still struggling with anti-Muslim sentiment. My Muslim colleagues in the House of Representatives, along with the highly qualified, patriotic and committed Muslim staffers and interns that have worked with my office and with CAPAC, contribute mightily to our democratic process. Any slander against these fellow patriots is slander against democracy and religious freedom.”

Dave Gaubatz, the anti-Islam blogger who co-authored "Muslim Mafia," has a long history of bigotry targeting Islam and Muslims. Gaubatz has called Islam an "evil ideology" and worked for a racist group that sought to make "adherence to Islam" punishable by a 20-year prison term.

SEE ALSO: Republican Lawmakers Leading Witch Hunt Against Muslim Group

In the past, Gaubatz has been questioned by state and federal law enforcement authorities for actions that were perceived as those of a stalker. CAIR has filed a criminal report against Gaubatz over materials he and his son say they stole from the civil rights group's offices.

Gaubatz has also called President Obama a "crack head" and wrote that "a vote for Hussein Obama is a vote for Sharia Law." He also called Islam a "terminal disease that once spread is hard to destroy."

It is unfortunate that there is a fringe segment of Americans who wish to promote hatred against American Muslims and intimidate them from exercising their rights to engage politically. Despite the attempts of this new McCarthyism, CAIR and the American Muslim community remain committed to encouraging dialogue, protecting civil liberties of all Americans, and promoting justice and mutual understanding.