Progressives, Islamists huddle at Justice Department
Top Justice Department officials convened a meeting Wednesday where invited Islamist advocates lobbied them for cutbacks in anti-terror funding, changes in agents’ training manuals, additional curbs on investigators and a legal declaration that U.S. citizens’ criticism of Islam constitutes racial discrimination.
The department’s “civil rights lawyers are top of the line — I say this with utter honesty — I know they can come up with a way” to redefine criticism as discrimination, said Sahar Aziz, a female, Egyptian-American lawyer.
“I’d be willing to give a shot at it,” said Aziz, who is a fellow at the Michigan-based Muslim advocacy group, the Institute for Social Policy & Understanding.
The audience of Islamist advocates and department officials included Tom Perez, who heads the department’s division of civil rights.
“We must continue to have the open and honest and critical dialogue that you saw in the robust debate,” Perez responded in an enthusiastic closing speech a few minutes after Aziz made her demands at the event.
“I sat here the entire time, taking notes,” Perez said. “I have some very concrete thoughts … in the aftermath of this.”
The meeting at George Washington University showcased the expanding alliance between American progressives and Islamists, said Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor in New York.
Progressives “are making these Islamist groups into the [political] representatives of Muslims in the United States,” he told The Daily Caller. That elevation of Islamists to a leadership role sidelines the majority of American Muslims who don’t want Islamist leaders, as well as American Muslims who are female or gay, he said.
McCarthy investigated and prosecuted Egyptian-born Imam Omar Abdel-Rahman, dubbed “the blind sheik,” for urging Muslims to kill New Yorkers. Abdel-Rahman was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1996.
Progressives ally with the Islamic lobby because “they think it will be a political voting bloc that will be reliably Democratic,” said Robert Spencer, an author and expert on Islam.
None of the Islamist advocates or the civil rights officials in attendance, including Perez, objected to Aziz’s call for free-speech restrictions.
The event did not include Zuhdi Jasser, an Arizona Muslim, former naval officer and a co-founder of a coalition of modernist Muslim groups, the American Islamic Leadership Coalition. “The Islamist groups’ victimology feeds into the left’s propaganda that the right is anti-minority and anti-Muslim, so there’s a mutual political benefit there,” said Jasser, who clashes with Spencer over rival responses to the Islamist groups.
Nor did the conference include any influential critics, such as McCarthy and Spencer, who argue that Islamist terror attacks are partly motivated by Islamic texts. These texts include the Koran’s verse 9:5, which says “when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them.”
Aziz, however, used her invitation to argue that Americans’ fear of Islamists’ bombs has evolved into racism towards dark-skinned men.
The word “Muslim,” she said, “has become racialized. … I don’t accept this formalistic cop-out that this is all about religion.”
Aziz did not offer any evidence for her claim, which she said justifies the use of Title VI anti-discrimination laws against institutions and individuals who argue that Islamic texts spur Islamic violence.
This legal redefinition, she said, would also “take [federal] money away from local police departments and fusion centers who are spying on all of us.”
Aziz also argued against the commonplace police practice of informally talking with people in communities, including Muslim communities. “This has been a real problem with this outreach stuff,” she said. Muslims “are acting in good faith, and then they find their imams, who were going to outreach meetings, were being spied on,” she complained. “Some have been deported. Some have been prosecuted.”
In March, Afghan-born New York Imam Ahmad Wais Afzali was ordered deported after he admitted he lied to the FBI about warning a suspected Muslim terrorist that he was being investigated. That terrorist, Najibullah Zazi, admitted that he was planning to place bombs in the New York City subway. The imam learned about the investigation because he had offered to work with local police to help identify potential terrorists in his congregation.
“People are going in good faith” to talk with police, Aziz said. “They’re being very honest about what their grievances are. They’re telling the government, ‘This what we want you to do … [and] we want you not to spy on our community.’”
Dwight Holton, a Justice Department legal counsel based in Oregon, said the threat of criminal gangs or terror attacks justifies routine police contacts with locals. “When we go to a barber shop to talk to the community, we don’t tell them you can have a lawyer,” he said.
“You should,” Aziz immediately replied.
Aziz’s advocacy was supported by a second Islamist advocate, Islamic Society of North America president Mohamed Magid. He argued that “teaching people that all Muslims are a threat to the country… is against the law and the Constitution.”
Magid asked Perez to change the federal government’s rules governing terror investigations, for more private meetings with top justice department officials, for the reeducation of FBI agents, and for more people to oppose criticism of Islam, which he labelled “religious bigotry and hate.”
In 2009 the federal government named Magid’s organization an unindicted co-conspirator in the successful 2009 trial of three Muslims who smuggled $12 million to the Islamist terror group Hamas. Two of the smugglers received life sentences.
During his speech, Perez applauded the Islamist lobbyists for persuading government officials to end extra security checks on airline passengers from Nigeria and 12 Islamic countries. The checks were adopted in 2010 after a Nigerian Muslim tried to blow up a passenger aircraft on Christmas Day.
“What did we hear in the aftermath of that? We heard a lot of feedback from people in this room and from leaders across the country that we could be doing a better job [by ending the checks]… and a few month later, and thanks to you, we did just that,” Perez told the Islamist advocates.
McCarthy, the former prosecutor, said few people recognize the expanding alliance between progressives and Islamists.
Americans “don’t realize that Islamist ideology is collectivist and redistributionist, so it works seamlessly with the left,” he said.
“They disagree over gay rights and women’s rights, [but] on many big items they’re on the same page,” McCarthy added, citing Islamist groups’ support for the administration’s health sector law as an example.
Perez did not promise to meet any of the demands made by the Islamists, but he repeatedly promised extensive consultations and flattered the attendees, while speaking in a style that blended the cadences of an academic lecturer and a rural preacher. “There will be times where we have honest differences of opinion, but if we don’t talk and don’t actively listen and if we don’t reflect and recalibrate where necessary, then we won’t be doing our job, and you have our continuing commitment to that end,” Perez declared.
Progressives, including Holton and Perez, choose to ignore the Islamists’ stated goals, Spencer said. “They assume — and force us to assume on pain of charges of ‘Islamophobia’ — that all Muslims are moderate, peaceful and have no intentions of bringing Sharia [Islamic law] here,” said Spencer. “No amount of evidence to the contrary, no amount of jihadi plots, and no number of demands for accommodation of Sharia’s provisions, ever disabuses them of this dogma.”
Justice Department officials declined to comment to The Daily Caller.
When the session ended, Perez — a Maryland resident, a progressive and a former staffer to Sen. Ted Kennedy — climbed the stage to embrace Imam Magid, who was born in Sudan and trained at a Saudi fundamentalist seminary.