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On the state level, high-level Muslim appointments can also be a controversial issue. Last year, New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, appointed Sohail Mohammed to be the state’s first Muslim Superior Court judge, but only after facing down a hail of charges from conservatives in his own base that Mohammed would bring Sharia, or Islamic religious law, into American courts.
“Sharia law has nothing to do with this at all. It’s crazy!” Christie declared at an August 2011 press conference.
Bachmann’s call for a probe of several federal officials of Muslim faith was delivered via a series of letters she and fellow Republicans Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Thomas Rooney and Lynn Westmoreland sent on June 13 to the inspectors general of the departments of State, Homeland Security, Defense and Justice, and to the director of National Intelligence. The letters asked the inspectors to investigate the appointees’ alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. These accusations were based on a report compiled by Frank Gaffney, who was a top Pentagon official during the Reagan administration. Bachmann and her colleagues focused especially on Abedin, who, according to the letter sent to State Department’s inspector general, has three family members “connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives.” The letter also claimed that the State Department has adopted a policy favorable toward the Muslim Brotherhood, indirectly suggesting that this policy could be a result of Abedin’s alleged family ties to the organization.
No official response from the inspectors general has been made public. But CNN reported that IG’s at the Departments of State and of Homeland Security had rejected Bachmann’s request as being outside their mandate, which is to examine the effectiveness of government programs and to prevent fraud and waste.
Shail Khan, a former political appointee in the George W. Bush White House, had a similar experience while working in government. Khan served in the Office of Public Liaison from Bush’s first day in office and until the end of his term. During this time, he was attacked by Frank J. Gaffney, who heads the conservative Center for Security Policy, for his “family’s Islamist connections.”
“They tried to question my loyalty,” Khan said in an interview, “but people like Huma Abedin and like me, who passed serious security clearance, are not a threat.”
Khan now tries to encourage young Muslim Americans, in the administration and on Capitol Hill, not to give up on public service. “These things discourage patriotic Americans from serving in government,” Khan said, adding that in recent years he succeeded in convincing several Muslim staffers to remain in government.