Timing is poor for Quinn’s new council
By FRan Eaton September 8, 2011 9:02PM
Updated: January 23, 2012 3:45AM
Last week, Gov. Pat Quinn announced the appointment of his first and only religion-affiliated outreach group, the Muslim-American Advisory Council.
“Illinois is a diverse state, which is one of our greatest strengths,” Quinn said. “There are more than 400,000 Muslims and 300 mosques within our borders, representing various racial and ethnic sects of Islam. I want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity for input in how we address issues such as education, public safety and jobs because the strategies may need to differ based on the history, culture and needs of different communities.”
While it is admirable for a governor to seek advice from an array of citizens with different perspectives, this advisory council was announced at the close of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan — which we dare point out also happened to be just a week and a half before the 10-year anniversary of the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor.
Some of the key persons appointed to counsel the governor on matters of education, public safety and jobs are leaders of some of America’s largest Muslim-affiliated networks. Bridgeview’s Safaa Zarzour is security general of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and Chicago’s Ahmed Rehab is executive director of Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
In 2007, the U.S. government listed both ISNA and CAIR as unindicted co-conspirators among 300 Muslim organizations affiliated with the Holy Land Foundation, a group accused of funding terrorist plots. The Texas trial ended in a hung jury, but the suspicion surrounding ISNA and CAIR’s affiliation remains in federal records.
Despite the federal government apparently having some doubt about the two organizations, Quinn’s office had no qualms naming ISNA or CAIR national leaders to his list of advisors.
“The individuals who were appointed to serve on the council are all leaders in the Muslim-American community and share the governor’s commitment to public service,” Quinn spokesman Annie Thompson wrote in an email. “These individuals were thoroughly vetted.”
All this at a time when televised images are reminding us of the agony and pain Sept. 11, 2001, brought upon America. The terrorists that flew the second plane into the World Trade Center were unashamed of their religious affiliation. They boldly proclaimed their allegiance to, and martyrdom for, a holy jihad on America and Western civilization.
While those terrorists are rare among peace-loving Muslims, they are, nonetheless, part of history. And Quinn’s timing of this announcement, at the very least, rubs salt into a wounded, but slowly healing, American psyche.
Not only was the timing inappropriate, giving groups such as CAIR and ISNA such prominence in state government is also ill-advised, Pamela Geller, author of “Stop the Islamization of America,” said.
In at least a dozen states, including neighboring Missouri, legislation to ban Shariah, the religious law of Islam, is under consideration. Such legislation has not been proposed in Illinois.
“The American people seek the conservation of our Constitutional freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience,” Geller said. “Political elites are self-enforcing Shariah law. They will not criticize it. There’s a growing gap between those seeking to preserve the Constitution and those who want to cater to the Muslims’ rule of law.”
Recently in New Jersey, a judge refused to issue a restraining order against a Muslim man accused of domestic violence because his behavior fell within the boundaries of Shariah. Last week, the New York Times defended Shariah in an editorial while condemning Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich for voicing concern about it.
Perhaps there’s no reason to be concerned about the governor’s Muslim-American Advisory Council or the organizations its members represent. They’ve been thoroughly checked out, we’re told.
And like the Quinn administration, maybe we shouldn’t be concerned that anyone on the advisory council will encourage consideration of Shariah while recommending strategies to better integrate Muslims in Illinois socially, educationally, culturally and economically.
Another question: Why, besides one advisory group addressing Holocaust issues, is the Muslim-American Advisory Council the only religion-affiliated advisory committee listed among Quinn’s appointed boards? There’s no evangelical, Hindu, Protestant or Catholic advisory group that we could find.
At least one Catholic would like to know the answer to that question. After all, Catholic Charities has been cut off from serving foster and adoptive families because its religious doctrine conflicts with the state.
“Your guess is as good as mine on that one,” Catholic Charities’ attorney Peter Breen said. “Let us know if you find out why Catholics aren’t as welcomed.”
Sorry, Mr. Breen. We can’t tell you. We asked, but Quinn’s office had no comment.