Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and proponents of his plan to build a 13-story Islamic center near Ground Zero are now being helped by Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform and conservative Republican activist. Norquist and his associates are calling on the Republican Party to drop its opposition to the plan, arguing that the GOP is threatening the rights of Muslims and that its criticism will backfire politically.
Norquist and his friends are distributing a letter saying that the Republicans fighting Imam Rauf’s plan are infringing upon religious freedom and are “alienating millions of Arab American and Muslim American voters who believe, as we do, in the principles of our party—individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law.”
Among those signing the letter are Suhail A. Khan, listed as the Chairman of the Conservative Inclusion Coalition and Norquist’s wife, Samah, listed as a Senior Advisor to Arab and Muslim Outreach for the U.S. Agency for International Development under the Bush Administration.
Norquist is trying to convince Republicans that attacking Rauf’s plan will cost them in the November elections, even though nearly 70 percent of Americans agree with them. He describes it as a “distraction” that will cause the party to lose support among non-Christians.
“You’re not just going to lose Muslim votes. You’re going to lose Jewish votes, Indian votes, Buddhist votes. Every member of a minority group looks at a situation like this and says, oh, the people hitting this minority will eventually start hitting me,” he said.
Norquist’s criticism gives the impression that a fissure exists in the Republican ranks and helps frame the critics of the project as simply being against permitting the practicing of Islam. Yet again, Norquist has aligned himself with the Muslim Brotherhood network in the U.S. that is supporting Imam Rauf and accusing his opponents of having “Islamophobia” and having an anti-Muslim bias.
To understand Norquist’s role in the campaign to aid Rauf, we must look at his history. He founded the Islamic Free Market Institute in 1998 with financing from Abdulrahman Alamoudi, a Brotherhood activist supportive of Hamas and Hezbollah that was later convicted on terrorism-related charges. Norquist’s group was also funded by the International Institute of Islamic Thought, listed as a front in the Brotherhood’s own documents.
Using his connections in the conservative movement, Norquist was able to help his Brotherhood associates develop a relationship with the Bush Administration, particularly after the attacks of September 11 when the government sought to assure the American-Muslim community that the war on terror was not a war on Islam. In November 2001, John Zogby said Norquist was “central to the White House outreach.”
Norquist is likely a convert to Islam himself. His wife, Samah, is a devout Muslim and it is unthinkable that she would marry a non-Muslim if she takes her faith seriously. In 2008, they adopted a baby from the now-Muslim city of Bethlehem. When Norquist was asked by Paul Sperry if he had converted to Islam, he said it was “personal” and left it at that.
Another signatory of the letter is Suhail Khan, a long-time associate of Norquist’s. Khan’s father served as Vice President of the Muslim Students Association, founded by the Brotherhood. His father also served as an official of the Islamic Society of North America, another Brotherhood-tied group currently listed by the government as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the Holy Land Foundation trial, a designation shared with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Khan’s mother served on the board of CAIR’s California branch and Khan accused critics of CAIR of exploiting the Fort Hood shooting for their “political partisan and worse, for their racist ends.” Frank Gaffney, President of the Center for Security Policy, told me that an FBI Special Agent involved in terrorism investigations informed him that Khan is indeed a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Khan was also intimately involved in Norquist’s efforts to help these groups develop a partnership with the Bush Administration. He was reported as being the one at the White House responsible for managing the outreach to the Brotherhood-tied groups whose events he has a history of speaking for.
Norquist’s support of Imam Rauf is just the latest episode in a pattern of involvement in Brotherhood campaigns. CAIR and ISNA are endorsing Imam Rauf and attacking his opponents. Rauf and his staff have hidden websites that refer to their Shariah Index Project to rate the compliance of each country with Shariah law. The Brotherhood’s International Institute for Islamic Thought was deeply involved in the project, as was a high-level Iranian government official named Mohammad Javad Larijani. His brother ran for President of Iran in 2005 and is a top loyalist of Ayatollah Khamenei. A photo of Imam Rauf meeting with Larijani has been removed.
In June 2009, Imam Rauf wrote in support of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and argued that the Iranian protestors did not oppose the Iranian regime’s foundations. He called on President Obama to “say his administration respects many of the guiding principles of the 1979 revolution – to establish a government that expresses the will of the people; a just government, based on the idea of Vilayet-i-faqih, that establishes the rule of law.”
In addition, Imam Rauf refuses to call Hamas a “terrorist group” and has a position in the Perdana Global Peace Organization, which is the largest donor to the Free Gaza Movement behind the flotilla to Gaza. Those trying to raise the $100 million needed for Rauf’s project have not ruled out raising money from Iran or Saudi Arabia.
This is who Norquist is supporting. Some American-Muslims are speaking out against the Ground Zero Islamic center proposal, such as M. Zuhdi Jasser of the American-Islamic Forum on Democracy and Rima Fakih, the first Muslim to become Miss USA. The director of Al-Arabiya TV is standing against it, as are Stephen Schwartz of the Center for Islamic Pluralism and Tarek Fatah of the Muslim Canadian Congress. Influential Muslim scholars at Al-Azhar University oppose it as well, with some seeing it as so harmful to Islam and Muslims that it must be part of a Zionist conspiracy. Yet, Norquist hasn’t sided with these Muslims. He’s sided with the Muslim Brotherhood and their friends.
“What we see, at the very minimum, is his role in serving the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood, whether it’s intentional or not, but I happen to think it is,” Frank Gaffney told FrontPage. He said the “Muslim Brotherhood is all over the Ground Zero mosque” and that Norquist’s activism on their behalf is a “classic influence operation.”
Contrary to what Norquist, CAIR and ISNA say, most critics of the Ground Zero mosque do not seek to strip away Muslims’ freedom of religion. They believe that those who lived through 9⁄11 deserve the most say in the matter and they are concerned about Imam Rauf’s questionable ties. The Brotherhood wants to attack the integrity of the mosque’s critics and it can count on Grover Norquist for help.