The story broke just over a month ago: Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, would be appointing the first Muslim ever to serve on the House's Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The congressman in question is the man who represents the 7th District in the State of Indiana, Rep. Andre Carson
The right-wing blogosphere immediately lost its collective mind, followed rapidly by talk radio.
The Daily Caller howled that Carson "received political contributions from Islamist groups named as unindicted co-conspirators of terrorist organizations and once gave a speech in which he said that the U.S. education system should be based on the Koran."
Breitbart.com, quoting the Middle East Forum, warned that "Carson has received nearly $34,000 in campaign funds from Islamist sources, primarily individuals affiliated with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
CAIR has been linked to Hamas by the FBI. Hamas is listed as a terorrist organization by the U.S. government."
Neither Breitbart nor MEF seemed terribly interested in running down exactly who those individuals might be and what their connection to an admittedly controversial group was, however. For their part, according to the MEF's mission statement: "The Middle East Forum promotes American interests in the Middle East and protects Western values from Middle Eastern threats. ... At home, the Forum emphasizes the danger of lawful Islamism; protects the freedoms of anti-Islamist authors, activists, and publishers; and works to improve Middle East studies." (Emphasis added.)
On the flipside, The Star's Matt Tully opined that Carson was "shattering Muslim stereotypes." Tim Mak, writing for The Daily Beast, took Indy talk show host Tony Katz (WIBC-FM) to task for his critique:
Carson's most vocal opponent is conservative talk show host Tony Katz, who hosts a top Indiana radio show and has called for the congressman's resignation. Katz and others objected to a Muslim American conference that Carson spoke at in late 2014, alleging that an individual with terrorist ties attended the event and that the congressman should not have been in attendance.
"I question his intelligence for showing up to [the] event. I question whether someone like that should be attending the House Intelligence Committee," Katz told The Daily Beast. The radio host stopped short of questioning the congressman's patriotism, but said his attendance at the conference raises questions about the congressman's "belief in law and justice" over the "vigilante violence" of terrorism.
Regarding CAIR and the event in question: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is civil rights advocacy group based out of Washington D.C. While its vision and mission as a lobbying body is to advocate for justice and mutual understanding, the organization has fallen victim to Islamophobia for years. In 2007, it was named as an "unindicted co-conspirator" in the Holy Land Foundation trial in Texas. Officials with Holy Land were convicted for diverting funds to Hamas, a well-known terrorist organization. Although CAIR was never charged in the case and there was no evidence to suggest otherwise, the rumor damage had been done and CAIR was labeled as an organization with terrorist ties.
The terrorist rhetoric against CAIR and another U.S. Muslim advocacy group, The Muslim American Society, resurrected in mid-November 2014 when both groups were placed on a terrorist watch list along with over 80 other organizations from around the world. The list was generated by the United Arab Emirates. No one knows exactly why CAIR and MAS were placed on the list, but an article in the Washington Post noted both organizations are connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood which is at political odds with the U.A.E.
Carson was branded with a scarlet T as soon after the U.A.E.'s terrorist watch list became public because of contributions from both groups made to his campaigns. The screams of terrorist ties grew stronger when Carson spoke at the Muslim American Society-Islamic Circle of North America Convention Appreciation dinner in Chicago a month after the groups appeared on the U.A.E. watch list. More confusion erupted after the convention program listed Carson as a panelist in a discussion about Ferguson, MO. The panel was also to include MAS executive director Mozen Mohktar, who critics say was under FBI investigation in 2007 for allegedly operating a website that was raising funds for an Al-Qaida terrorist in Britain who was eventually convicted of plotting against U.S. landmarks and warships. Carson denied even knowing about the panel discussion let alone participating in it and issued this public statement:
As a former law enforcement officer with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security in the anti-terrorism unit, it is critical that Americans know that I would never associate with any individual or organization trying to harm the United States of America or its citizens.