Commission biased toward Arabs, Muslims

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-VA, who was a driving force behind the much-criticized Freedom from Religious Persecution Act, recently introduced the seemingly favorable legislation that would create the National Commission on Terrorism. The bill (originally H.R. 4536) was approved Sept. 17 as an amendment to a $16 billion package to fund U.S. aid programs worldwide. The House-Senate conference committee will convene this month to reconcile the House and Senate bills.
We are questioning the balance and objectivity of the proposed commission because of Wolf’s legislative history, his apparent focus on Islam and Muslims and from a statement that Rep. Wolf attached to his bill.
The statement focuses specifically on “Middle-Eastern terrorism” and recommends several people to be on the commission who clearly have anti-Arab and anti-Muslim biases.
We are concerned that this legislation will target American Muslims and Arab-Americans in the same way that earlier counterterrorism legislation allowed secret evidence to be selectively applied to our communities.
We understand and agree completely on forming a commission to combat terrorism in this country or around the world. However, we think specific language must be added to the amendment which says that Arab-American and Muslim groups will not be targeted or charged with aiding and abetting terrorism abroad — especially when no convincing evidence is given.
It is disturbing that the commission, which will target terrorists who use violence and rhetoric that is incited and hate-filled to hurt Americans and civilians across the world, is composed of members who have political agendas and hold an irrational attitude of hostility directed against the Arabs and Muslims.
Proposed commission members include: Ed Badolato, executive director of the International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals and so-called “terrorism expert” Steven Emerson.
A recent article in a journal published by Badolato listed nearly all national American Muslim and Arab-American organizations under the headline “Domestic Groups Which Support Middle Eastern Terrorism.”
Moreover, Emerson’s self-claimed expertise on terrorism should be questioned in light of his swift identification of a “Middle Eastern trait” in the Oklahoma Bombing. With zeal and lack of any hard evidence, Emerson also blamed the TWA 800 crash on Muslims.
Other Emerson associates proposed for commission membership are Steven Pomerantz and Daniel Pipes. According to media reports, Pomerantz has ties to representatives of Israel’s intelligence and military establishment.
In a 1990 article in National Review, Pipes said: “Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene.”
Besides his racist comments about immigrants, Pipes has denied the truth of Muslim religious ties to the city of Jerusalem to support Israel’s exclusive claim over the city.
Other proposed members of the commission include Fouad Ajami and Riad Nachef. Ajami once commented in Newsday that the difference between the two major branches of Islam is that “the Sunnis are homicidal and the Shiites are suicidal.”
Nachef was indicted by a federal grand jury last year for conspiracy to commit extortion. Another count charged Nachef with using firearms during a crime of violence. He is due to be sentenced on one remaining count in October. Nachef is allegedly a leader of a Lebanese group called Al-Ahbash.
Legalizing the obstruction of Muslims’ and Arabs’ rights in the United States does not make it constitutional or just. At this time, we need both Muslim and non-Muslim Americans to challenge the intention of the establishment of this terrorism commission.
What is its specific purpose?
Will it be examining right-wing vigilante groups in the United States whose primary purpose is the overthrow of the U.S. government? Or will most of its time be focused specifically on “Middle-Eastern terrorism?”
Legitimate representatives of the American Muslim and Arab-American communities should be consulted and appointed to any such commission. These representatives would support any balanced and objective efforts to combat terrorism and would make sure that policies will not result from bias and prejudice.
It is most important that Arab-Americans and American Muslims be specifically protected against harassment by this commission, since the stereotyping of these groups in the United States has led to many misunderstandings about their loyalty to the United States, and about their beliefs and actions.
The commission must not encourage unfounded accusations against these people by those who have unacknowledged political or religious agendas or are looking for easy scapegoats in a very complicated international crisis.
Fedwa Wazwaz is a computer science major at the University.
Pam Nice is associate director of Faculty Development at the University of St. Thomas.
Kathryn Haddad is president of ADC Minnesota.
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