The Common Good

Muslims Call New Religious Freedom Appointee a ‘Puppet’ for Islam Foes

WASHINGTON — One of two new members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has Muslim civil rights groups crying foul.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
Zuhdi Jasser testifies during a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee last year. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Related Reading

Zuhdi Jasser, who lauded a controversial New York City police surveillance program that targeted Muslims and helped lead the opposition to an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero, has been appointed to the commission, which advises the president, Congress and State Department on religious rights abuses internationally.

"It would have been better to appoint someone who has some measure of credibility with Muslim Americans," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"He has long been viewed by American Muslims and the colleagues in the civil liberties community as a mere sock puppet for Islam haters and an enabler of Islamophobia."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appointed Jasser and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, appointed Robert P. George, a philosophy professor at Princeton University and top adviser to the U.S. Catholic bishops.

Democrats appoint five of the commission's nine members, because they are the party in the White House; the other four are appointed by Republicans. With the Jasser and George appointments, three commission spots remain vacant.

Jasser, an activist and cardiologist from Phoenix, addressed the first in a series of hearings last year called by the House Homeland Security Committee to investigate the threat of homegrown terrorism.

Jasser's group, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, has called the leadership of most established U.S. Muslim groups "malignant" and accused them of preaching a form of "political Islam."

Jasser won praise from conservatives for his willingness to testify about his co-religionists, but gained the ire of Muslims who said he fuels anti-Muslim prejudice.

George, well respected in conservative circles, comes to the commission with a less controversial profile.

A political philosopher and constitutional scholar, he is a board member of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Washington-based non-profit that has provided much of the legal defense for churches in high-profile religious freedom cases.

Many Catholic bishops rely on George as "a touchstone" and consider him "the pre-eminent Catholic intellectual," Bishop John Myers of Newark, N.J. told the New York Times in 2009.

Most recently, George has helped rally opposition to President Obama's contraception mandate. He is also one of the principle drafters of the "Manhattan Declaration," a 2009 conservative manifesto that encouraged Christians to resist abortion, same-sex marriage and threats to "religious liberty."

Lauren Markoe writes for Religion News Service. Via RNS

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Related Stories

Resources

Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)