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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Islamists in the House

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Karen Lehrman Bloch
Karen Lehrman Bloch is a cultural critic; author of The Lipstick Proviso: Women, Sex & Power in the Real World (Doubleday) and The Inspired Home: Interiors of Deep Beauty (Harper Design); Editor of International Political Affairs at The Weekly Blitz; and curator of the book and exhibition Passage to Israel (Skyhorse).

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Perhaps the most alarming scene from a week of alarming events was the one captured on video by former Wall Street Journal reporter Asra Nomani. 

Nomani — a leader of the Muslim Reform Movement, which seeks to separate Islam from Islamism, the politicization of Islam — was waiting outside the office of Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) on March 6 and filmed Linda Sarsour barking orders in Arabic to members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who were essentially acting as Tlaib’s bouncers for a press briefing. Sarsour told them to block Nomani from entering.

At the very least CAIR is, as Sam Harris put it, “an Islamist public relations firm posing as a civil-rights lobby.” The FBI has investigated its ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and in 2014 the United Arab Emirates designated CAIR a terrorist group. It’s proudly run by Islamists, who, as Qanta Ahmed, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations has put it, are working toward not just the destruction of Israel but “the extinction of the Jewish people.” Thanks to Tlaib, we now have CAIR thugs roaming the halls of Congress.

But that’s just where the trouble begins. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) is headlining a CAIR event on March 23. So let’s be clear: We now have sitting on the House Foreign Affairs Committee a woman who has a strong relationship with a group that the UAE has designated a terrorist organization. Would she provide CAIR with high-level intelligence? Well, from her standpoint, why not? She has been very clear that she’s on a mission, and that mission aligns completely with CAIR’s.

We also learned this past week that Tlaib was a follower of a grossly anti-Semitic Instagram account. Once her connection was exposed, Tlaib merely unfollowed the account without an explanation or apology. She also has posed for photos with anti-Israel activist Abbas Hamideh, who co-founded the group Al-Awda, which considers Israel illegitimate.

After the farce of last week, Tlaib knows that CAIR, Omar and Sarsour now have the Democratic Party at their beck and call. Indeed, the Democrats, unable to even pass a simple resolution condemning anti-Semitism, have become the best dhimmis — second-class citizens — Islamist supremacists could ever have.

It didn’t have to be this way, of course. Tlaib and Omar, the first Muslim women elected to Congress, could have done amazing work on behalf of their communities and poverty-stricken Muslim countries. Somalia, in particular, is a human rights disaster — something Omar, a Somali immigrant, has yet to even mention. Instead, their entire focus has been on Israel and Jews.

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, head of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and another leader of Muslim reform, believes Omar should be removed immediately from the Foreign Affairs Committee. As Jasser put it: “When did congressional office become a deprogramming rehab for radical Islamist ideologies?” 

“The future of the Jewish people is at stake, but so is the future of Muslims in the United States.”

When Americans were being beheaded by ISIS, President Barack Obama had the perfect opportunity to separate Islam from Islamism. He took a pass, leading to the continuation of death, destruction and darkness for millions of Muslims around the world. We are now again at a point where that crucial distinction needs to be made. Perhaps President Donald Trump should appoint Jasser to a task force to help the Muslim Reform Movement make that distinction clear.

Jasser uses the phrase “separation of mosque and state.” All Americans need to understand what that means, so that real bigotry against Muslims can be dealt with appropriately, so that Muslims can finally find freedom within their own religion, and so that the hate that has been passed on from one generation to another can finally be subdued.

The future of the Jewish people is at stake, but so is the future of Muslims in the United States.

I think about the two Muslims kids who live next door. What Omar and Tlaib are doing is harming them more than any bigot could. As columnist Qanta Ahmed wrote, Omar and Tlaib “invite hostility to our own communities, and more misunderstanding of Islam within America.”

We must encourage Muslim reformers like Nomani and Jasser so that the missteps of Omar and Tlaib can lead to positive change.  


Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author and cultural critic living in New York City.

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