The appointing of current C.I.A director Mike Pompeo, a former congressman from Kansas, to Secretary of State has raised alarms for civil rights groups across the country.
“My concern is that Mr. Pompeo has left a trail of horrific, inaccurate, bigoted statements and associations vis-à-vis Muslims around the world,” said former director of the State Department’s office of religion and global affairs Shaun Casey.
Pompeo sponsored legislation that would have recognized the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization during his time as a congressman. The most well-known case of Pompeo’s sentiments that are causing alarm, however, took place two months after the bombing of the Boston Marathon, when he took the floor of the House to condemn American Muslim leaders for a lack of response to the attack.
“Silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts,” Pompeo said. When Pompeo was informed that his statement was incorrect, as multiple American Muslim organizations had released statements or organized support, he did not release an apology or response.
Pompeo will be replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson under President Donald Trump. While there is expected to be little outcry from the Senate, national organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are asking senators involved in Pompeo’s approval to reconsider.
Other concerns stem from Pompeo’s ties to anti-Muslim groups. In 2016, Pompeo accepted the National Security Eagle Award from Act for America (ACT), a group whose local chapters are known for protesting the inclusion of Islam in textbooks and the building of mosques. ACT chapters have also supported “anti-Shariah” bills in various states.
“Imagine if this stuff had been said about Jews, or African-Americans or Chinese-Americans,” said Wa’el Alzayat, former Middle East expert for the State Department. “And yet, we’re living with an administration that is actually rewarding people with racist views or racist associations with some of the highest positions in our government.”
Similar allegations have been raised regarding Trump’s choice for national security advisor, John R. Bolton. Bolton is also a former United Nations (UN) advisor and chairs the Gatestone Institute, a think tank that has promoted articles about the “Islamization” of European countries by Muslim immigrants.
“This is just another way of demonizing a broad swath of American Muslims,” said Faiza Patel, co-director of New York University School of Law’s Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.
Muslim leaders and groups are not the only Americans concerned. Six liberal Jewish organizations released a joint statement calling the appointment of Bolton “dangerous.” Bolton will not need to be approved by the Senate.
“This willingness to support anti-Muslim bigotry violates fundamental Jewish and democratic values of tolerance, equality and respect,” the statement read.
Both Bolton and Pompeo are tied to groups and individuals who promote the philosophy that Islam is a political ideology instead of a religion. Despite this, Pompeo said in his confirmation hearing for the C.I.A. last year that he believed in making the CIA’s workforce diverse and that working with countries with majority Muslim populations could be beneficial when providing intelligence to the United States.