Several civil rights organizations have denounced the recent attack by five members of Congress on Huma Abedin, Deputy Chief of Staff at the State Department, likening it to a McCarthy-era witch hunt.
In a June 13 letter to Harold Geisel, deputy inspector general at the State Department, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.; along with Reps. Trent Franks, R-Ariz.; Louie Gohmert, R-Texas; Thomas Rooney, R-Fla.; and Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., attacked Abedin, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s long-time aide, for her alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, perceived to be a radical organization by the signatories to the letter.
The Muslim Brotherhood is characterized in the letter to the State Department as an organization with a mission to “destroy civilization from within. The letter also noted that the State Department has taken several actions favorable to the group, and asked Geisel to investigate its claims.
“Huma Abedin has three family members – her late father, her mother, and her brother – connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations. Her position affords her routine access to the Secretary and to policy-making,” said Bachmann and others in the letter.
“Huma is a successful Muslim woman who has risen through the ranks in the American political sector,” said Zahra Billoo, the Indian American executive director for the Council of American Islamic Relations in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“It’s really frightening that Bachmann would use her seat as an elected official to conduct this witch hunt,” Billoo told India-West.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., started a volley of Congressional defense for Abedin. In remarks delivered on the floor of the U.S. Senate July 18, McCain said he had known Abedin for a number of years.
“Put simply, Huma represents what is best about America: the daughter of immigrants, who has risen to the highest levels of our government on the basis of her substantial personal merit and her abiding commitment to the American ideals that she embodies so fully. I am proud to know Huma, and to call her my friend,” said McCain, noting that Abedin’s father, as alleged in the letter to have terrorist ties, died 20 years ago.
“These sinister accusations rest solely on a few unspecified and unsubstantiated associations of members of Huma’s family, none of which have been shown to harm or threaten the United States in any way. These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis, and no merit. And they need to stop now,” said McCain.
House Speaker John Boehner also condemned Bachmann’s accusations in a July 19 briefing, saying, “From everything that I do know of [Abedin], she has a sterling character and I think accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous." Several members of Congress have also stepped up in support of Abedin.
Meanwhile, Abedin received an unspecified threat from a man July 22, and has been placed under extra security, reported the New York Post. The unidentified man, characterized as Muslim, was questioned by local police and the State Department, but was not charged.
Bachmann, who serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, has been the most visible of the letter signatories. She and the other four congressmen also sent letters to the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, accusing Muslim organizations and individuals of penetrating U.S. government. A letter to Michael Horowitz, inspector general at the Justice Department, notes that the department relies on three organizations to provide outreach to Muslim Americans: the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Muslim Advocates.
“These groups appear to have been afforded access to senior policy-makers in the Justice Department, and thereby, been able to exercise influence in ways that align with Muslim Brotherhood agendas that could prove detrimental to our national and homeland security,” wrote the congressmen.
But Muslim civil rights organizations decried the accusations as baseless. “Bachmann is reaching at straws for conspiracy theories. This has to stop,” Aziza Hasan, MPAC’s Southern California director of governmental relations, told India-West.
“Muslims are becoming effective and engaging in the political system,” she said, noting that the attack could also be viewed as a sign of increased Muslim American clout in U.S. government.
Haris Tarin, director of MPAC’s Washington, D.C. office, said in a July 18 press statement, “This is a witch hunt, pure and simple. The attempt by Rep. Bachmann and her alliance of hate and fear to marginalize the American Muslim community has gone beyond politics and has become a national disgrace.
“This is McCarthyism at its worst, a threat which should unite public officials to cross party lines to uphold America's fundamental commitment of equality."
Abedin is married to former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner. The couple had their first child, Jordan, in January. She is the daughter of an Indian father, the late Sayeed Abedin, and a Pakistani mother, Saleha Abedin. Huma Abedin was born in Michigan and raised in Saudi Arabia, but returned to the U.S. to attend college.