With America caught up in an Islamophobic whirlwind, anything remotely tied to the Islamic faith sets off paranoid hysterics over an impending Muslim takeover. Rather than responsibly debunk these delusions, the Fox News network has contributed to the hysteria by promoting extremely radical guests, polarizing rhetoric, bigoted punditry, and racial profiling. Last week, FoxNews.com unveiled a new “investigation” targeting Muslim staffers on Capitol Hill. According to the report, the Congressional Muslim Staff Association’s (CMSA) have sought to bring the “Who’s Who” of jihadist sympathizers to its weekly Friday Jummah prayer meetings “for more than a decade.”
Right on cue, the right-wing American Center for Law and Justice demanded that the Justice Department to investigate and “take immediate action to halt” the congressional prayer sessions. Channeling its founder and indefatigable anti-Muslim Rev. Pat Robertson, the ACLJ said the “absurdity” of inviting “the very terrorists who want to destroy America” to Capitol Hill “raises a host of significant questions-including concerns about national security” and, based on Fox’s “report,” warrants a “thorough investigation”:
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation concerning reports that Islamic terrorists have appeared before a Congressionally sponsored Muslim group that meets at the U.S. Capitol. The investigative report by Fox News reveals that a number of well-known terrorists-including U.S. born Anwar al-Awlaki, the Al Qaeda cleric believed to be hiding in Yemen and the lone American on the U.S. government’s capture or kill list-have appeared at what’s been described as weekly ‘prayer’ sessions on Capitol Hill.
“It is unbelievable that that the very terrorists who want to destroy America are permitted to meet in a Congressionally-sanctioned setting on Capitol Hill,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ. “This raises a host of significant questions-including concerns about national security. We’re demanding that the Department of Justice conduct an investigation and take immediate action to halt to what appears to be a pattern of inviting Islamic extremists with ties to terrorism to participate in these events. The absurdity is clear: the U.S. government disinvites Franklin Graham to a prayer service at the Pentagon, while Islamic terrorists take part in Capitol Hill events. A thorough investigation is warranted.”
In ginning up the hysteria over terrorist infiltration, Fox and the ACLJ missed one small fact — the Friday prayers have nothing to do with the CMSA. As Religion Dispatches’ Sarah Posner explains, the prayers are held by individual staffers “under the auspices of the House chaplain; they are not an official function of the CMSA.” In fact, the CMSA, which does not receive funding or support from the government, “didn’t exist” when Fox says the people with terrorist ties supposedly went to the prayer sessions. The report, says Posner, is less fact and more “red meat” for the “conservative culture that feeds on paranoia.”
Just ask the Muslim Republicans who are involved. Suhail Kahn, a conservative Republican who served as a political appointee in the Bush administration and who currently serves on the American Conservative Union board, was once a Republican hill staffer. According to Khan, the services are open to the public and are “very pro-American, and tend to be about public service, and the honor of public service.” In fact, the member who granted Khan’s room request for a small number of Muslim staffers to pray was then-Speaker and current Islamophobe Newt Gingrich. If CMSA truly posed some national security issue, Gingrich or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — who’s staffer is CMSA’s vice-president — would avoid any semblance of support.
But, as Khan points out, unfounded “guilt-by-association” claims like this are nothing more than “good old fashioned bigotry.” “Ninety-nine point nine percent of honest reporters” would “know a smear when they see it” and “toss it into the garbage can,” he said. Kudos to Fox News for making that 0.1 percent.