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.
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