Network Against Islamophobia (NAI) Statement on Proposed Muslim Brotherhood Bill and Related Executive Order

Two JVP members in SeaTac wearing shirts that read "Stop Profiling Muslims".

Network Against Islamophobia (NAI) Statement on Proposed Muslim Brotherhood Bill and Related Executive Order

February 8, 2017Federal legislation and an Executive Order currently under consideration that would designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization would have dangerous, far-reaching implications.  These are clear attempts to criminalize Muslim communities, organizations, and activists and those advocating for civil and human rights for their communities.

The proposed legislation is, as Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), described it, “part of a two-step process to delegitimize a great swath of American Muslim advocacy organizations.”  As Azmy said, “This is sort of a massive cudgel, if it were passed, that could really be used to question, to target, to harass advocacy organizations.”

The government can use this legislation and Executive Order to target national and local Muslim civil liberties and other organizations that work on behalf of Muslim communities.  Its passage will further empower the government to engage in “anti-terrorism” witch-hunts against these and other groups that can jail community leaders, shut down key community organizations by freezing assets and blocking financial transactions, and badly weaken Muslim communities across the country that are already besieged. The potentially chilling effects of such a designation will include serious threats to constitutionally protected rights and activities.

As part of the Islamophobic and racist “war on terror,” local and federal government has already ratcheted up the targeting of Muslim communities on the grounds that, despite evidence to the contrary, they are the source of the greatest threat to the United States. Republicans have introduced similar legislation (several times) based on the debunked theory that the Muslim Brotherhood and other non-U.S. groups “secretly control” American Muslims.  Now, however, they can anticipate the wholehearted support for such legislation from an administration that is discussing its own Islamophobic directive.

The current bill’s initial version, proposed in 2014, was drafted by John Guandolo, a former FBI agent who has maintained that Muslim Americans “do not have a First Amendment right to anything.”  Senator Ted Cruz, co-sponsor of the latest bill, received policy advice during his Republican presidential campaign from Frank Gaffney, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense and leading anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist who sees mosques as part of attempts to impose “Sharia law” in the United States, and promotes the idea that Muslims are infiltrators in the highest levels of the U.S. government.

As CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw has said, “The fact that Senator Cruz’s current legislation has its origins in the conspiracy theories of a notorious Islamophobe serves to prove that the bill is designed as the basis for an anti-Muslim witch hunt, not as a legitimate defense of national security.” The same can certainly be said about the possible Executive Order.

The “Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act” and a possible Executive Order add a new layer to the harassment, intimidation, demonization, and unprecedented level of hostility that Muslim communities in the U.S. are already facing from a presidential administration in which anti-Muslim ideologues have open-door access to the Oval Office.

A key danger of the proposed legislation and Executive Order to Muslim communities and advocates lies in the Supreme Court’s broad interpretation of the federal law making it a felony to provide “material support” to an organization designated as “terrorist.” In 2010, the Court held that leaders of the Humanitarian Law Project, which intended to do no more than offer “expert advice” to a Kurdish group previously designated by the State Department as a “foreign terrorist group,” could be prosecuted under the law “even if,” Justice Roberts wrote, “the supporters meant to promote only the groups’ nonviolent ends.”  As human rights lawyer and, currently, national legal director of the ACLU,  David Cole wrote, “For the first time ever, the Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment permits the criminalization of pure speech advocating lawful, nonviolent activity.”

Such a McCarthyite Supreme Court decision is a very intimidating, dangerous template for the type of judicial rulings we can expect if the Muslim Brotherhood bill becomes law and the administration issues its Executive Order.

We know that Muslim organizations have been in the Islamophobes’ cross hairs for years.  This bill and Executive Order would enable anti-Muslim forces to intensify the power of government to further target these groups.  We also know that Muslim organizations are in the forefront of organizing for dignity and justice for Muslim and other communities that are especially under attack today. We will stand together with our Muslim partners against these and any other attempts to smear, delegitimize, or undermine the Muslim community.

Network Against Islamophobia (NAI), a project of Jewish Voice for Peace


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