An Open Letter to an American-Muslim Leader

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Salam Al-Marayati, (R) president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPACT) (Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Salam Al-Marayati, (R) president of MPAC, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Dear Mr. Salam Al-Marayati,

I read your article lamenting how years of efforts by law enforcement agencies to build bridges with American Muslim communities was being destroyed by the policies of the current administration – policies you labeled as a “source of Islamophobia and generalized suspicion of American Muslims.”

While I appreciate your desire to form relations and engage with law enforcement agencies, any meaningful effort – i.e. one that results in security for all Americans as well as protection of civil liberties for Muslim communities — has to be based on reality.

In your article, you speak of the days of the Obama administration, when your organization — the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and other similar Islamist organizations – not only had a seat at the table but called the shots.

During that time, a coalition of Muslim Brotherhood-linked individuals and groups (including you and MPAC) successfully pressured the government to scrub references to Islam from the FBI’s and the military’s counter-terrorism training materials and end instruction about Muslim Brotherhood activities in the U.S.

Groups such as yours were continually invited to the White House and featured at Obama’s Countering Violent Extremism Summit. At the same time, you successfully kept reformist and anti-Islamist Muslim groups out of the conversation.

While all this was happening, a new force in the Islamist world was preparing to burst into the international scene: ISIS (a group that shares the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood).

And burst in it did, taking America and the world by surprise. A group that Obama dismissively called the “JV [junior varsity] team” managed to take over huge swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and institute a reign of terror there.

During the former president’s watch, the brutal group grew exponentially, drawing massive numbers of recruits from all over the world (America included) using slick PR plastered across the internet and a team of effective recruiters.

The current administration successfully dismembered that effort, causing the group to instruct its supporters to flee back to their home countries and carry out attacks – which they have, some successfully and some (thankfully) thwarted.

So, since the days of Obama administration, the world has changed. While you charge the current administration with stirring up “Islamophobia” and “generalized suspicions of American Muslims,” perhaps it’s time to stop parroting the narrative of the Left, point the finger at the real culprit and figure out what to do about it.

The first thing to do is admit that, yes, Islamist terrorists are trying to enter the U.S. and there must be adequate vetting in place to prevent them from doing so. Instead, you have labeled any and all of these efforts by the current administration as resulting from “Islamophobia.”

As the Supreme Court recently ruled, Trump’s travel ban (which was always intended as a temporary measure) was not based on anti-Muslim sentiment but real security concerns.

You categorized yourself politically as occupying a “crucial center space,” which you say is the “best defense against extremism.” While it is true that MPAC’s stance has moderated in recent years (you were the only U.S. Islamist group to congratulate Egypt when former President Morsi – leader of the Muslim Brotherhood — was overthrown in 2013), MPAC has not condemned the Muslim Brotherhood or its foundational Islamist ideology.

On the contrary, an MPAC policy paper written in 2010, states that “Conservative groups like the Muslim Brotherhood pose long-term strategic threats to violent extremists by siphoning Muslims away from violent radicalism into peaceful political activism.” That paper has not been repudiated.

The question is: What is the desired end product of that “peaceful political activism?” For the Brotherhood’s  founder, Hassan Al-Banna, it is the establishment of a global caliphate run by sharia law.

In addition, for someone who claims to offer an alternative to extremism, why will you only condemn some of the violent acts of Hamas and Hezbollah but not these organizations as a whole? Could it be due to your suggestion that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks?

More recently, you and your group became an adviser to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). During that time, the SPLC ended up creating an anti-Muslim watch list that was used by major media and tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter.

Included on the list were many anti-Islamist activists, including  Maajid Nawaz, a Muslim himself, and his organization, the Quilliam Foundation. (Clarion Project was also on that list.)

Nawaz sued the SPLC for slander, winning a lawsuit that included an apology to him by the SPLC and payment of over $3 million dollars in damages.

In your article, you blame “far right” political activists for undermining successful security programs by law enforcement agencies and civil rights successes of the Muslim communities, replacing these advancements with anti-Muslim sentiments and attacks.

While both of those claims are dubious, you fail to condemn “far left” activists who have pushed a narrative of Muslim victimhood as a smokescreen to obscure some of the real issues that plague the American Muslim community – extremist preachers in U.S. mosques and the radicalization of youth (through those preachers and well as the internet).

By dragging out the tired refrain of Islamophobia, you, like the rest of those using this manufactured tool, seek to deflect the conversation from the real issue: the compatibility of Islamism with democracy and the values espoused by the U.S. Constitution.





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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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