Robertson’s Organizations Persist in Calls for Probe of Congressional Muslim Staffers

Under the headline, “Calls Rise to Probe Capitol Hill Muslim Prayer Sessions” yesterday, Pat Robertson’s news channel, CBN News, was able to offer only one organization that has called for a probe of the Congressional Muslim Staff Association: Robertson’s own American Center for Law and Justice.

As I’ve reported here and here, after Fox News ran a report claiming that speakers with terrorist ties spoke at Congressional prayer meetings, the ACLJ called for a Justice Department investigation of the CMSA. Suhail Khan, a Muslim Republican who has worked as a staffer for a Republican Congressman and as a political appointee in the Bush administration, and who currently serves on the board of the American Conservative Union, called the Fox report nothing but “anti-Muslim bigotry” and noted that Robertson is “notorious for anti-Islamic comments.”

On its Newswatch program, CBN attempted to create the impression that calls for law enforcement to intervene are somehow on the rise. Yet the only source for the story was Jordan Sekulow, the ACLJ’s Director of International Operations.

“The media didn’t want to report this,” Sekulow asserted, claiming they feared being called Islamophobes or bigots if they reported that the CMSA was hosting terrorist speakers. “When we started talking about this,” said Sekulow, “immediately the left and the kind of pro-Islamic world immediately cries bigot and says, why do you want to investigate? The reason you want to investigate is of course because we’re Muslims.” Sekulow went on to claim that individuals with terror ties were invited to prayer meetings, which, as Khan told me earlier this week, are not official CMSA functions, but are run under the auspices of the House Chaplain. (See the House Chaplain’s website for evidence of the prayer meetings being open to the public, like other religious meetings held under the Chaplain’s auspices.) What’s more, neither Fox nor ALCJ have produced evidence any of these individuals were invited by the CMSA; as Khan noted, the prayer meetings are open to the public. 

Yet Sekulow went on, “Why we’re calling for an investigation — who was picking these people to speak is what we want to know.” He went on to claim — something already disputed by Khan — that the Council on American Islamic Relations chooses the speakers. “This group,” said Sekulow, referring to the CMSA, “meets under the United States Capitol dome, they actually meet at the United States Capitol, at taxpayer expense. If CAIR is running prayer meetings there, and bringing in known terrorists, the American people deserve to know about it.”

As the interview went on, it became clear that Sekulow’s goal is to end the Muslim prayers at the Capitol by portraying Muslim organizations as necessarily having ties to terrorists, a common smoke and mirrors routine used by the right. “We see now,” he said, “that when we scratch the surface of most Islamic organizations we find something that we don’t hope to find. we find that if you bring in speakers, they’re connected to terrorism.” He identified this as “a problem within Islam. As Christians, we can’t change what’s happening internally in Islam, but we cannot be afraid of exposing the truth of what is happening here in our US Capitol. Our hope is that the truth comes out, that people see the associations here, and that this group isn’t able to meet anymore.”

As I noted on Friday, the vice-president of the CMSA (which, as Khan pointed out, doesn’t organize the prayer meetings but there is overlap between its members and people attending the prayer meetings, obviously) is a staffer for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Sekulow is a prominent Republican activist — he was the National Youth Director for the Bush-Cheney in 2004, and was a consultant to Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign, to which his father, Jay, the ACLJ’s Chief Counsel, also served as an advisor. Yet Sekulow is claiming that group for which a staffer for the ranking Senate Republican serves as an officer has ties to terrorists. McConnell’s office still has not responded to a request for comment.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email