State Department’s Continued Outreach to Radicals

The Obama administration's efforts to conquer hearts and minds in the Muslim world as part of its broader strategy to battle Islamist terrorism may be a laudable goal. But the administration's continued pandering to radical Islamists both at home and abroad continues to baffle and frustrate opponents of political Islam and Islamist organizations.

The administration has been swift to embrace newly-elected Islamist regimes in the Middle-East despite their violent and pro-jihadi rhetoric. Last month for example, it heaped praise on Egypt's new Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi for helping broker a truce between Israel and Hamas after eight days of fighting. In lauding Morsi, the U.S. government overlooked statements supporting Hamas issued by Morsi's colleagues in the Muslim Brotherhood and their celebration of rocket attacks on Israel. Morsi was a senior Brotherhood official for years before seeking office.

This international outreach to authoritarian Islamist regimes bestows undue legitimacy on Islamists and renders democratic and secular opposition and dissident groups voiceless. The same flawed outreach is being pursued domestically.

The latest example comes from a State Department-sponsored delegation last year of five Bulgarian Muslims who came to discuss the role of religion in the United States. Details of the trip, funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs under its International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), were obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism via a Freedom of Information Act request.

The delegation hoped to "learn about the environment of religious tolerance in the U.S. and how religious groups function in a democratic society with a separation of church and state," records in the 379-page FOIA release show. It described meetings the delegation had with leading Islamist groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and individuals in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and Chicago from Sept. 26-Oct. 14, 2011.

This is a problem that has been detailed before. Rather than seeking views from the broader, more diverse Muslim American community, government officials grab at "the lowest hanging fruit," said Zuhdi Jasser, a Phoenix-based doctor who heads the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. "But they ignore ideological diversity and instead take the shortcut of generally allowing those Muslims who are part of a national and global political Islamist movement to represent our faith community."...

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