- - Friday, October 31, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Are any members of Congress sympathetic to radical Islamists?

While this accusation may sound unbelievable at first, recent comments from Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly’s speech supported Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government and boasted of his defense of the Islamic Saudi Academy in 2008. At that time there were serious concerns the school used textbooks that promoted religious intolerance. Such concerns remain part of a bigger picture in which young people are radicalized by ideas propagated by angry Islamist extremists.

The 2004 report of the 9/11 Commission made a plea calling for the United States to “Engage the Struggle of Ideas” and help moderate Muslims defeat extremist ideology. The report discussed how a Saudi ministry used government funds to “spread Wahhabi beliefs throughout the world, including in mosques and schools.” The report noted how Americans are “often appalled” by the intolerance, anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism presented in such schools and mosques.

In 1998, Representative Frank Wolf of Virginia’s 10th Congressional District sponsored legislation establishing the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The USCIRF was created to oppose intolerance globally and in June 2007, it sent a delegation to Saudi Arabia. Later that year, it scrutinized textbooks at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Fairfax County, Virginia as part of a broader report on conditions in Saudi Arabia and expressed concerns regarding the promotion of hate, intolerance, human rights violations and even violence “which may adversely affect the interests of the United States.”

Since that time, Wolf has repeatedly asked the State Department to definitively address the USCIRF concerns. In a July 14, 2008 letter to Secretary of State Rice, he inquired: “If we can not be certain of what is being taught here at home in Saudi-affiliated schools, how can we take seriously their claims that the radical Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, which they have been known to propagate in educational institutions globally, is a thing of the past?”

Unfortunately, Congressman Wolf is now retiring from Congress, but Gerry Connolly, his colleague from the neighboring 11th district, is seeking another term. In a recent speech to an Arab-American group, Congressman Connolly boasted of how, as Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, he had denounced opponents of the Islamic Saudi Academy as “bigots” during a public hearing in May 2008.

Connolly further boasted of having proclaimed at the hearing that, “we’re not going to act on your bigotry, we are going to renew [the Academy’s lease.]” Connolly ignored the serious efforts of the USCIRF to oppose intolerant schooling in both his speech and in his apparent determination to renew the Academy’s lease in 2008.

In the same speech, Connolly boasted of his support for funding the current Palestinian Authority with no concern for the power of Hamas in that structure. Hamas, of course, is a radical Islamist group dedicated to the destruction of Israel that has been classified as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. Hamas’s ideology undermines Palestinian peace efforts and seeks to radicalize Muslim communities.

Connolly also boasted of being the lone holdout on the House Foreign Affairs Committee who opposed the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt. Connolly stated that they had been “democratically elected” and that we had to accept that fact whether we liked them or not.

Connolly fails to understand that there is more to democracy than being elected by a majority of voters. There is also the need to preserve constitutional government and prevent majority oppression of minorities. These concepts are essential to winning the struggle of ideas against Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood that would have their particular sect control society and politics.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government pursued this agenda and also enabled deadly violent oppression of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority. Does Connolly stand by this “democratically elected” violence?

Connolly’s blindness toward the Brotherhood, its affiliate, Hamas, and the global problem of intolerant schooling funded by Saudi oil wealth makes him unfit for public office during this crucial struggle of ideas.

Luckily, there’s an alternative in Virginia’s 11th district. Suzanne Scholte is a genuine human rights activist who has saved numerous North Koreans and other persecuted people from oppression. While Connolly was defending Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government as “democratic”, Scholte was fighting for the freedoms of all people. She would be a dramatic upgrade for the voters of the 11th district.

Hugh Iwanicki is a former emissary to Iraq and author of the recent book “Shock and Alarm: What it was really like at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq.”

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