Middle East studies in the News
Obama Seeks Alliance With Islamic Groups [incl. Sherman Jackson]
by Neil Munro
President Barack Obama quietly met with a group of Muslim political activists in the White House Feb. 4 to get them to support the Democrats' political machine.
The meeting didn't focus on U.S. foreign policy or Islamic jihadi attacks. Instead, it was Obama's outreach to a growing Democratic-affiliated political constituency, similar to other meeting with environmental, African-American or Latino political groups.
The president "encouraged the [Muslim] participants to remain civically engaged in their communities, and told them that he looked forward to seeking additional opportunities to continue the discussion of these and other issues," said a White House statement released after the meeting.
The immigrant Muslim population has grown by roughly 1 million since 2000, up to almost 2.7 million in 2013. The population has grown because the federal government has accepted many migrants from war-torn Muslim countries, such as Somalia and Syria.
Naturally, the U.S.-based Islamist groups want something in exchange for their cooperation with Obama's Democratic Party.
They want federal jobs for their allies, diplomatic support for allied Islamist movements in the Middle East, the stigmatization of criticism of Islam, plus the legal authority for U.S.-based Islamists to independently police zealous U.S.-based Muslims who are preparing to become jihadis.
"We spoke about the current environment, and what faith-based organizations like ours can do to assist the president…. [in] different ways, both domestic and international," Azhar Azeez, the Indian-born president of the Islamic Society of North America, told The Daily Caller. The society is the umbrella organization for several Islamic groups in the United States.
"We want to ensure that American Muslim involvement, especially from young people, are part of the process and at the highest levels," read a post-meeting statement from Hoda Elshishtawy, a former Democratic Hill staffer who attended the meeting on behalf of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. "The impact of having American Muslims serving at Cabinet-level and Undersecretary positions will demonstrate that American Muslims really are part of the process."
"It was a great meeting, basically a listening meeting for the president, listening to the concerns of the community," said Dean Obeidallah, a Muslim advocate and writer.
One problem is "anti-Muslim bigotry, and we're seeing people demonize Muslims," said Obeidallah. Because of Americans' criticism of Islam, "young Muslims are growing up stigmatized."
Criticism of Islam in the United States has risen because of numerous jihad attacks by believers in Islam.
Since 2001, observant Muslims have launched murderous attacks on many American civilians and soldiers, alongside their jihad attacks on people in India, Israel, Spain, England, and most recently, in France.
In response to Americans' criticism of the Islamic aggression, Obama has repeatedly denounced criticism of Islam. In 2012, for example, the president of the United States told the United Nation's General Assembly meeting that "the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam."
Although his goals are partisan, Obama's political outreach to American Muslims is partly conducted via Muslim religious groups. For example, at least two major Islamic religious leaders attended the meeting.
They were Mohamed Magid, a former president of ISNA, and Sherman Jackson, the leading African-American Muslim advocate for orthodox Sunni Islam. Jackson is a former board member of the Fiqh Council of North America, which issues authorative religious edicts, dubbed "fatwas," for observant Muslims.
In late 2013, the Fiqh Council issued a religious critique of the Islamic claims made by the violent Islamic State army in northern Syria. In turn, that critique was attacked as evasive and deceptive by some critics of Islam.
The statement did not identify any of the 14 or 15 attendees from the immigrant Muslim population.
Obama's meeting did not include any observant Muslims who openly criticize ideas central to Islam.
The meeting was organized by Farhana Khera, a Muslim lawyer who has campaigned against the post-9/11 police oversight of Islamic communities, andthe public's criticism of Islamic ideas. In 2010, she complained about the arrestand deportation of a Muslim cleric who had met with FBI officials and subsequently warned a U.S-based jihadi about police surveillance. Khera declined to comment when asked about the meeting.
In June 2012, Selim told TheDC that Obama's deputies had held hundreds of meetings with the Council on American Islamic Relations. Since 2001, several employees and former employees of that group has been been jailed or deported for jihadi-related crimes.
Before the meeting, White House statements described the meeting as outreach to a political constituency. "What the president is hoping to do is to have a broader conversation about the wide range of issues that are of importance to the Muslim American community." spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday, before the meeting took place.
"I would expect a robust discussion on a lot of the kind of middle-class economics…the upcoming deadline for the Affordable Care Act," he said.
A statement after the meeting said "the President thanked the participants for their work in a variety of fields and for coming together to offer views on issues of importance to their communities."Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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