Donald Trump has no business being president, so it’s hardly surprising that he has chosen so many aides who have no business being in government. His early appointees included far-right extremists Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka – all of them hostile to Islam and sympathetic to Russia. They are mercifully gone, but in their place we have the ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, a Twitter troll who views it as his mission to promote Trumpism in Europe, and the new chief of staff of the National Security Council, Fred Fleitz, who has a record of trafficking in virulent Muslim hatred.
Until joining the NSC at the end of May, Fleitz was senior vice president of the Center for Security Policy, a think tank that has been denounced for peddling anti-Muslim animus by such groups as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. Its founder is former Reagan official Frank Gaffney, an avid conspiracy theorist who has suggested that President Obama was a secret Muslim, that the logo of the Missile Defense Agency included a Muslim crescent, and that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was guilty of “treason” for appointing a Muslim judge.
Gaffney and his collaborators have long alleged that there is an immense, invisible plot by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood to impose shariah law in the United States – shariah being the rough equivalent of halacha for Jews or canon law for Catholics. In Gaffney’s telling, the agents of this conspiracy include longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, who was born in Michigan and grew up in Saudi Arabia. Sen. John McCain (R) came to Abedin’s defense, saying: “These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis, and no merit, and they need to stop now.” McCain is right, but that hasn’t dissuaded the conspiracy-mongers from continuing to peddle these McCarthyist smears.
Since joining the NSC, Fleitz has tried to disassociate himself from such hateful views. That’s a little difficult, however, because he was one of 16 co-authors of a book published by the Center for Security Policy in 2015 called “The Secure Freedom Strategy: A Plan for Victory Over the Global Jihadist Movement.” This document purports to describe a “secret plan of the Muslim Brotherhood to ‘destroy Western civilization from within.’” Among the signs of this insidious plot, which the book calls “civilization jihad,” are “interfaith ‘dialogue’” and “enlisting non-Muslim clerics to argue on First Amendment grounds against opposition to shariah.” Those crafty Muslim subversives – how dare they talk to preachers of other faiths or cite constitutional protections for their religious beliefs!
The book claims, ludicrously, that 80 percent of U.S. mosques advocate “violent jihad” and calls, ominously, for revoking “the citizenship of naturalized Americans” who are trying “to insinuate shariah-complaint norms into civil society.” That’s similar to saying that anyone who advocates obedience to the Ten Commandments should be deported for being un-American. “The Secure Freedom Strategy” also recommends that Congress declare war on the “Global Jihad Movement” (there is no such thing), whose agents are said to range from actual terrorist groups to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an innocuous international organization made up of Muslim-majority states. The agents of this mythical movement, even those arrested within our borders, are supposed to be deported or locked up at Guantanamo Bay.
“The 2015 report doesn’t accurately reflect Fleitz’s views,” an administration official now tells the Wall Street Journal. Uh-huh. Note that this book doesn’t have chapters credited to individual authors; Fleitz and his co-authors assumed collective responsibility for the entire document.
Fleitz himself now tweets: “Please don’t associate me with the above criticism of mosques or the idea that the US should deport Muslims or strip their citizenship. I do not and have never supported this.” If he didn’t support these ideas, why sign onto a book that does? And even if Fleitz is now disavowing these particular prejudices, he is not disassociating himself from the larger crackpottery which holds that Muslims are the enemy within. According to CNN, Fleitz has defended anti-Islamic hatemongers such as Robert Spencer, who has said “you cannot tell peaceful Muslims from Jihadis in any discernible manner,” and Pamela Geller, who once ran ads with such tag lines as “End all aid to Islamic countries.”
Unfortunately, Fleitz’s anti-Muslim views make him right at home in the Trump administration. His outlook is evidently shared by his new boss, John Bolton, whom he previously served as chief of staff at the State Department from 2001 to 2006. For the last five years, Bolton had been chairman of the Gatestone Institute, another anti-Muslim group that routinely peddles fake news such as the claim that “Muslim mass-rape gangs” are turning Britain into “an Islamist Colony.”
It is a disgrace that hate-mongering conspiracy theorists are assuming senior positions in the White House. But then what do you expect when the most senior position of all is filled by a hate-mongering conspiracy theorist?