A Jan. 12 Federal Page article about Muslim groups offended by what they considered anti-Muslim remarks by Republicans incorrectly described the reaction of Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) to an earlier complaint about remarks made by one of his aides. Craig responded to the complaints by saying he condemned "any sort of bigotry or intolerance," but declined to fire the staffer. (Published 01/19/00)
A Muslim advocacy group challenged House Republican leaders yesterday to repudiate a congressional aide for implying that North American mosques routinely harbor terrorists.
The statement by Yossef Bodansky, director of the House Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, is the latest in a string of stray remarks by Republicans that Muslims have found offensive. To them, it is just more proof that the party tolerates anti-Muslim attitudes in its ranks, says the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
At issue is a Jan. 8 article in Canada's National Post in which Bodansky is quoted as saying: "There are several thousand militants in mosques across the continent protected by their religious brethren. . . . The majority of Muslims are not terrorists, but the minority, the radical minority, including their supporters and sponsors and what have you, are hiding within the mosque system."
Bodansky did not return phone calls for comment yesterday. Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.), who chairs the task force, also could not be reached for comment.
The Muslim group wrote an angry letter to Jim Nicholson, Republican National Committee chairman, calling Bodansky's statements "inaccurate" and "offensive" and referring to the task force's "history of political gaffes and blunders."
"I wish we were organized enough to have a 'mosque system,' " said CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper. "If he knows anything specific he should say it, not just make generalized smears against an entire religious community."
Resentment has been building among Muslim groups recently against Bodansky and the task force, founded in 1989. Bodansky is a native Israeli, now a naturalized citizen associated with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies in Houston, described in reports as a small right-wing security issues think tank.
Even writers known as supporters of Israel have criticized Bodansky and his work for extremism. A 1998 article in Washington Jewish Week quoted critics, including Jewish officials, calling Bodansky's writing "alarmist" and "full of unsubstantiated information bathed in hyperbole."
CAIR has complained about Republican members and staff in the past, mostly to no avail. In June, CAIR lobbied Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, to sever ties with analyst James George Jatras after Jatras associated Islam with "the darkness of heathen Araby." Craig did not respond.
In November, CAIR wrote a letter to Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), a GOP presidential candidate, rebuking him for repeatedly invoking the "rise of radical fundamental Islam" as one of the main threats to America.
In the latest letter, CAIR Chairman Omar Ahmad asked Nicholson to acknowledge the offensive nature of Bodansky's remarks and anti-Muslim sentiments in the Republican Party in general, to apologize, and to make sure the offenders have no hand in formulating foreign policy.
The irony, Muslim activists note, is that a CAIR poll recently found that the majority of Muslims are Republican, support George W. Bush for president and overwhelmingly describe themselves as conservative.