The GOP’s Anti-Muslim Wing Is in Retreat
It’s funny that they are banned at Weyrich luncheons because many of the people responsible for leading the Muslim bashing charge are protege’s of Weyrich’s Heritage foundation, FCF, and other theocrat nationalist groups that he spun up on the right.
But after a November election that saw three of the party’s loudest voices on “creeping Shariah” defeated—and the GOP presidential nominee ignore the issue entirely—the anti-Islam movement within the Republican party may have peaked. Wary of further alienating a once-promising conservative constituency, mainstream Republican leaders have sought, publicly and behind closed doors, to distance themselves from the loudest of the Muslim-bashers in their midst.
“They have gotten a bit of bad odor,” says GOP powerbroker Grover Norquist, who has pushed to change his party’s tone on Islam.
Randa Fahmy Hudome, a former Bush administration official, Washington lobbyist, and prominent Muslim Republican, notes: “There is a self-policing factor in the Republican Party, when some members get a little off base on some of these issues. That’s the state of play right now.”
A turning point came in July, when Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), along with four Republican colleagues, signed a letter demanding an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood’s supposed infiltration of the State Department. The letter singled out a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin. Bachmann and her colleagues, deploying tenuous evidence and guilt-by-association, charged that Abedin should not have been given a security clearance because of alleged ties to Muslim radicals.
Days later, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had condemned Bachmann’s letter from the floor of the Senate, calling it “unwarranted and unfounded” and “scurrilous.” Speaker of the House John Boehner piled on, calling the letter “dangerous.” The chair of the House intelligence committee, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), emphasized to USA Today that though she served on his committee, Bachmann’s allegations did not have the committee’s imprimatur. Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida senator and tea party favorite widely touted as a potential 2016 contender, publicly denounced the allegations promoted by Bachmann and her allies, like former Reagan official and longtime anti-Shariah activist Frank Gaffney.
Behind the scenes, GOPers worked to smooth over hurt feelings. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who in 2007 became the chamber’s first-ever Muslim member, says several Republican House members quietly approached him to apologize for the Abedin episode. Norquist, who runs the influential group Americans for Tax Reform, says that following the letter controversy, “We have heard back from a bunch of Hill staffers—‘We are keeping our guy away from Gaffney and those guys, they’re crazy.’”
Gaffney has been blacklisted from the American Conservative Union, which hosts the annual CPAC confab, since 2011, after accusing Norquist and an associate, Suhail Khan, of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood. He’s also become persona non grata at the Weyrich lunches, the weekly consevative strategy sessions first initiated by the late social conservative guru Paul Weyrich.