Muslim leaders call on Trump to reject anti-Muslim administration appointments

Muslim leaders call on Trump to reject anti-Muslim administration appointments
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Caitlin Dickson
·Reporter
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More than 300 American Muslim leaders are imploring Donald Trump to reject the anti-Muslim policies he touted during his presidential campaign, as well as administration appointments that will bring Islamophobic attitudes into the White House.

“It is deeply concerning that you have announced the appointment of individuals to your upcoming Administration with a well-documented history of outright bigotry directed at Muslims or advocating that Muslims should not have the same rights as their fellow Americans,” reads the letter the leaders sent to the president-elect this week. “We urge you to reconsider and reject such candidates.”

Though the letter does not reference any specific Trump-appointees by name, the Council of American Islamic Relations — the country’s largest Muslim rights advocacy organization and one of the letter’s main signatories — has spoken out separately about what CAIR government affairs director Robert McCaw called “a concerning Islamophobic trend” in Trump’s appointments.

“The letter took nearly two weeks to draft, and every three days or so there would be a new appointment,” McCaw told Yahoo News.

Of those that have been announced so far, McCaw pointed to Trump’s selection of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has called Islam a “vicious cancer,” for national security adviser, and Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo, who has blamed American Muslim leaders for violent attacks by Islamic extremists, for head of the CIA, as as two particularly troubling examples.

“When you have people who have anti-Muslim policy positions put into positions of power, you are going to end up with bad policy that will negatively impact American Muslims and not make us any more secure,” McCaw said.

The letter, which can be read in full at MuslimLettertoTrump.com, was signed by CAIR’s national executive director Nihad Awad, Gold Star father Khizr Khan, Muslim American scholar Dalia Mogahed and over 300 other Muslim community leaders from around the country.

CAIR announced in a press release that “the letter is the first public communication to the new administration from American Muslim leaders who work actively every day to serve and enrich their communities and their country.” However, it echoes many of the same sentiments expressed by Muslim leaders both during Trump’s campaign and in the wake of his election, as reports of anti-Muslim bias, harassment and attacks have continued to rise.

While noting that Trump’s “recent denunciation of such behavior on “60 Minutes” was a positive first step,” the letter further urges the president-elect “to clearly and strongly condemn bigotry, hate crimes and bias-based school bullying directed at any American, including American Muslims.”

McCaw said that while CAIR has “generally had good relations with the Obama administration,” he admitted that as “one of the more outspoken” Muslim rights advocacy organizations, the group’s relationship with previous presidents hasn’t always been easy.

Many policy decisions put forward by the George W. Bush administration in the wake of 9/11, for example, “put him at odds with majority of Muslim leaders, and that relationship was quite strained.”

Still, McCaw said, there has “always been an open line of communication.”

Whether the incoming Trump administration will be open to such dialogue, however, remains to be seen. McCaw said that CAIR has yet to receive any sort of response from the Trump team to the latest letter.

“There would have to be an acknowledgement that past statements and positions from Trump on the campaign trail and that of his nominations and appointments did not have the best interest of the Muslim community at heart,” McCaw said. “We’re under no disillusion that … there is a certain animosity in the Trump administration toward the Muslim community. That’s definitely a hurdle that has to be overcome, but can’t be done by Muslims alone.”