By Shams Ghoneim
Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-Minn) request for investigations into what she called the supposed “infiltration” of the U.S. government by “fundamentalist Muslims” is an absurd and shameful witch hunt only Sen. McCarthy could be proud of.
Last month, Bachmann, along with four other members of Congress, sent a letter to the Inspectors General of the Department of Justice, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, making baseless claims that the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating the U.S. government through organizations, including the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and individuals who are working in the government. The five members of Congress — including Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Rep. Thomas Rooney (R-Fla.) and Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga/) — are basing their claims on evidence that is questionable at best. In a 16-page follow-up letter sent to the Inspectors General, Bachmann provided “evidence” for her claims from none other than Frank Gaffney, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center calls one of the nation’s top Islamophobes.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is commended for taking the issue to the Senate floor and condemning Bachmann’s witch-hunt. “When anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation, and we all grow poorer because of it,” McCain said. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) took to the airwaves, following a letter to Bachmann and her colleagues, demanding evidence for their accusations.
CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper slammed Bachmann’s Islamophobic witch hunt.
How far would these political figures go to malign, falsely accuse American Muslims and respected Muslim organizations? Congressional leaders making these accusations have breached the trust of the public they serve. They must be held responsible by the media and their constituents. If there was any offense that would warrant a resignation from a member of Congress, it seems that we have reached that point.
We are amid a highly spirited and contentious presidential election year.
These members with politically motivated and opportunistic intentions chose to bash American Muslims, spread hate, and fear mongering against a minority religion. They in fact are using such tactics to unseat the president by alleging his administration’s failure in protecting our national interest and security.
In Nazi Germany, Martin Niemoelle was a Protestant pastor and a submarine commander in World War I. In 1934, he started the Pastors’ Emergency League to defend the church. Hitler became angered by his rebellious sermons and had him arrested in 1937, tried, fined, and sentenced to seven months in prison. Later, Hitler ordered him arrested again and he spent the next seven years in concentration camps. He was liberated in 1945 and later became the World Council of Churches president. He is best known for his powerful statement about the failure of Germans to speak out against the Nazis:
“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Americans across faith communities must stand firm and stay alert to such divisive, dangerous, politically motivated and opportunistic attempts by some political figures to divide and conquer. We need to remember brave Christian leader of years past as history tends to repeat itself lest we forget the past.
Shams Ghoneim of Iowa City is coordinator of the Iowa Chapter, Muslim Public Affairs Council. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org