Richard A. Gephardt, a Democratic congressman from Missouri, and leader of the House’s minority group, withdrew his nomination of a ‘moderate’ Muslim to serve on a congressional commission on July 7 after the country’s Jewish lobby attacked him for being ‘anti-Israel’ and an ‘apologist’ for terrorist groups.
Salam Al-Marayati, a political exile from Iraq, is executive director of the Los-Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and had been nominated to serve on the National Commission on Terrorism. His wife, Dr Laila Al-Marayati, already serves on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other Muslim political groups in the US reacted angrily to Gephardt’s decision, having earlier congratualted him on nominating Al-Marayati in the first place. Gephardt claimed his decision to withdraw the nomination had nothing to do with Jewish pressure, but was made because of the length of the security clearance prodedure Al-Marayati would have to go through, which, he said, would last longer that the limited life of the commission.
Al-Marayati attributed the decision firmly on the Jewish lobby, saying that those who had mobilised against him were “attempting to muzzle and monopolize” the discussion.
Nihad Awad, CAIR’s executiove director, said that Gephardt’s move “deprives the commission of someone who represents mainstream Muslim perspective” on terrorism.
CAIR’s press statement said “This reversal by Representative Gephardt will serve only to institutionalize discrimination against American Muslims and their leaders. Muslims have been widely stereotyped using the issue of terrorism and it is therefore essential that a credible Muslim voice be heard.
“The pro-Israel lobby’s manipulation of discussion on this important issue has a negative impact not only on American Muslims who suffer the stigma of suspicion and exclusion, but also on American foreign policy that currently lacks Muslim input. This despite the fact that there are some six million Muslims in this country and that America has strong bi-lateral relations with more than 40 Muslim-majority countries.
“Those who represent one side of the debate cannot be allowed to establish a pro-Israel ‘litmus test’ for any Muslim who is to be considered for government service.”
However, this position was itself attacked by some Muslims who describe it as naive and unrealistic, saying that the Jewish lobby’s hold over the American polity is well-established, and attempting to work within the system only gives it credibility it does not merit.
Muslimedia: July 16-31, 1999