11/19/09: Suhail Khan discusses Ft. Hood Massacre and Pat Robertson on Rachel Maddow Show




Islam is a violent—I was going to say religion, but it’s not a religion, it’s a political system. It’s a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and the world domination and I think we should treat it as such. And treat its adherents as such as we would members of the communist party or members of some fascist group.


Conservative televangelist Pat Robertson, putting his own patented Pat Robertson exploitative spin on the mass murder at Ft. Hood earlier this month. A graduate of Pat Robertson’s law school, a politician to whom Pat Robertson has been a great benefactor over the years was elected governor of Virginia this month. He is Bob McDonnell, he’s received tens of thousands of dollars of donations from Pat Robertson. He’s appeared on Mr. Robertson’s televangelist TV show, the 700 Club, and when Mr. McDonnell was asked this week if he thought it was appropriate for Pat Robertson to state, as you just heard, that Islam is not a religion, but rather a violent political system, Mr. McDonnell said this. [ROLLS CLIP]


You know, I’ve got probably fifteen thousand donors to the campaign and I can’t—I can’t stand and defend or support every comment that every donor might make.


Yeah, that profile in courage from Mr. McDonnell this week. There’s also comments from Republican congressman Don Manzullo of Illinois who was forced to clarify statements that he made about Islam this week after his objections to the potential transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to his home state included this little gem. [ROLLS CLIP]


These are really, really mean people whose job it is to kill people. Driven by some savage religion.


Some savage religion. Congressman Manzullo later said that he wasn’t referring to all of Islam. He apologized for any misunderstanding. Mr. McDonnell and Congressman Manzullo joined in the religious misunderstanding fest this week by the biggest celebrity of all in conservative and Republican circles, Sarah Palin. [ROLLS CLIP]

I think it was quite unfortunate that, to me, it was a fair, I mean, politically incorrect to not—I’m going to use the word—profile this guy, profiling in the sense of finding out what his radical beliefs were. But I say profiling in the context of doing whatever we can to save innocent American lives, I’m all for it then.


Pity the poor CIA in the middle of all of this. Pity the poor CIA, which in the midst of that political climate is unveiling its new campaign to try to recruit Arab-Americans as CIA officers. Arab-Americans whose language skills alone are considered a vital tool for American fighting terrorism. The CIA has just previewed in Michigan a new TV ad targeting Arab-Americans for recruitment which it plans to air nationwide in the coming months. That recruitment effort made all the more difficult by the fact that Republicans in Congress have kept as their top member of the intelligence committee a Michigan congressman who is accused—excuse me, who has accused the CIA of harboring al-Qaeda sympathizers. In 2006, Congressman Pete Hoekstra of Michigan co-wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal with former Republican Senator Rick Santorum. The op-ed argued that there were people inside the U.S. intelligence community trying to help al-Qaeda. When given the chance to back away from that accusation, Congressman Hoekstra told the New Republic at the time, quote, to rule out the possibility that there are people in the intelligence community that are doing this to help al-Qaeda, I think, would be naïve. If you think Congressman Hoekstra maxed out on modern McCarthyism back in 2006 when he accused the CIA of harboring al-Qaeda sympathizers, take a look at what he said today on CNN.


I’m not only worried about these types of people potentially being in the military, I’m concerned about these folks being everyday Americans around America, living among us, who may have become—or are in the process of becoming radicalized.


That’s the top Republican on intelligence. And if you’re enjoying this side of McCarthyism with fewer Muslims are evil, politicizing of terrorism, you will enjoy what the attorney-general was up against this week in the Senate. He was momentarily rendered speechless, in fact, by Republican accusations that there may be terrorist sympathizers now in the U.S. Justice Department. [ROLLS CLIP]


On Guantanamo, decisions to bring detainees to the United States and afford them civilian trials is highly questionable. I want to know more about who is advising you on these decisions. There are attorneys at the Justice Department working on this issue who either represented Guantanamo detainees or worked for groups who advocated for them.


The principle reason there were so few military trials is the tireless campaign conducted by leftist lawyers to derail military tribunals by challenging them in the courts. Many of those lawyers are now working for the Obama Justice Department. That includes Holder, whose firm, Covington and Burling volunteered its services to at least eighteen of America’s enemies in lawsuits they brought against the American people. The witness can surely respond to what I said.


I don’t even know where to begin.


I don’t know either. And I didn’t burst out laughing in the middle of it like you did, but I was tempted. Joining us now is Suhail Khan, the fellow for Christian-Muslim understanding at the Institute for Global Engagement. He’s a former senior political appointee in the administration of President George W. Bush. Mr. Khan, thanks for joining us again.


Thanks for having me, Rachel.


There are two insinuations being made now pursuant to issues of terrorism. One, that Muslims generally can be trusted. And two, that al-Qaeda sympathizers are some kind of fifth column inside the U.S. government right now. Do you see these two types of insinuations as separate issues or do you think that they spring from the same place?


They unfortunately spring from the same place. So we’re just reeling from the tragedy of Ft. Hood. We all remember what happened on 9-11 and instead of pulling together as Americans regardless of our faith, there are some, unfortunately, that are exploiting these tragedies for their own—either political or sometimes really hate-filled and it really is sad and disgusting.


As a Muslim who served at a high level in the U.S. government, I know that you were faced with people who questioned your loyalties, questioned the fact that you were there. What did you go through in that regard and do you think that it affords any lessons for us in terms of the way that the issue is being brought up again now in the context of the Obama administration and terrorism?


Well, I do—I did, after 9-11, I was serving in the White House and I felt some were attacking me and it was actually bipartisan. But I got to say, the vast majority of Americans are fair and they knew the truth and they stood by me both here in Washington, D.C. and around the country and that’s what made all the difference. But it’s so important that we stand up and say no when people try to exploit these tragedies for their own political or hate-filled ends. It just—we can’t, we’ve done this before, during the communist era, Jews were the victims oftentimes, we’ve gone after Catholics in the past, and now, unfortunately, it’s fair game to go after honest law-abiding Muslims around the country and it’s just not right and good honest people need to stand up against it.

When I look at ambitious—in some cases, accomplished politicians like Mr. Manzullo, like Mr. McDonnell, like Ms. Palin, like Pete Hoekstra, when I look at these folks, again, who are very ambitious members of their party, very ambitious politicians, and I see them say things like this and get away with these comments about Muslims with really no political price to pay, at least in their own party, the question I’m answering—I want answered, is whether there’s something wrong in our politics. Not just is there something wrong with them individually, but whether our politics are sort of—are too tolerant of smears against Muslims.


Well, it’s unfortunately, right now, it is fair game to go after Muslim-Americans, honest Muslim-Americans, and I work really hard and my friends to try and remind people that Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans have served in uniform since the Revolutionary War and every war. Thousands have served, thousands serve today. And I remember those heroes that have served in the past and continue to serve. People like specialist Kareem Sultan Khan who at age sixteen on 9-11, resolved that he was going to join the military as soon as he was of age, enlisted in the Army, went to Iraq, served honorably, earned the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. Unfortunately, as President Lincoln said, gave that last full measure and devotion by being killed in the line of duty in Iraq and is buried at Arlington. Those are the heroes that I want to remember and I remind politicians on both sides of the aisle that these are Americans. Regardless of our faith, we need to honor their memory and honor those that are serving today by upholding our values of fairness and justice for all people, regardless of their race or their religion. And that’s just the bottom line, Rachel.


Suhail Khan is a former senior political appointee under President George W. Bush. He is now the fellow for Christian-Muslim understanding at the Institute for Global Engagement. Very happy to have you on the show, Suhail. Thanks for joining us.


Thank you, Rachel.

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