A prominent Phoenix tea party leader who believes Muslims cannot be trusted to be loyal to the United States and should not be working for the federal government is incensed with U.S. Sen. John McCain’s defense of a top State Department official and is eying a recall drive against Arizona’s senior senator.
Wes Harris, the founder and chairman of the Original North Phoenix Tea Party, said he plans to take out a recall petition against McCain. While Harris has many problems with McCain, a mass email he sent out focused solely on the senator’s recent defense of Huma Abedin, a top aide to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Harris accused Abedin of having ties to an Islamic extremist group, and he objected to the fact that a Muslim was working for the State Department in the first place.
Harris said he believes Muslims’ loyalty to the U.S. is questionable because their ultimate loyalty is to the Quran and Islam, which he described as “more a fascist type of organization.”
“Have you ever read the Quran? I suggest you do so, because anyone that is a Muslim is a threat to this country, and that’s a fact,” Harris told the Arizona Capitol Times. “There is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. If they are Muslim they have to follow the Quran. That’s their religion and that’s their doctrine.”
Harris said he plans to circulate recall petitions against McCain. In his email, he said, “We must find a way to get rid of this embarrassment.”
The email Harris sent includes a forwarded item from the blog Bare Naked Islam that castigates McCain for defending “Islamic enemies of America” and attacking U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican and tea party favorite. The blog piece ends by saying, “Go to hell, Senator, it’s time for you to take your final dirt nap.”
Bachmann was one of five members of Congress – a list that includes Arizona’s Trent Franks – who signed a letter to the State Department’s inspector general alleging that the Islamic group Muslim Brotherhood was influencing the department. The letter also alleged that members of Abedin’s family had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Harris said McCain’s impassioned defense of Abedin on the Senate floor was far from the only reason he’s seeking the senator’s ouster, but it was a major factor.
“He just took Michele Bachmann over the coals on the floor of the Senate for her warning about the infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood into our government,” Harris said. “It’s just one of many things. It culminates in this latest debacle.”
Harris is also a precinct committeeman in the Legislative District 6 Republican Committee.
Recalls against federal officials are not legally binding, and McCain would not be required to leave office if Arizona voters rejected him in a recall election. But state law allows federal elected officials to file statements with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office pledging to resign if they lose a recall election, and McCain has filed such a statement.
No federal elected official in Arizona has ever faced a recall election. McCain critics on both sides of the aisle have pursued several unsuccessful recalls against him in recent years.
Harris said he believes Abedin has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. But ultimately, he said it doesn’t matter whether she’s linked to the group or not because he doesn’t believe Muslims should work for the federal government.
On Wednesday, McCain rose to Abedin’s defense in response to a June 13 letter that Bachmann, Franks and three other congressmen sent to Harold Geisel, a deputy inspector general at the State Department asking Abedin and other agency employees be investigated for alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. He said the allegations involving three of Abedin’s relatives were unsubstantiated, and criticized the members of Congress who sent the letter for launching “specious and degrading attacks.”
“These allegations about Huma and the report from which they are drawn are nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American and a loyal public servant,” McCain said. “These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis, and no merit. And they need to stop now.”
Harris disagreed with McCain’s assessment of Abedin, saying she shouldn’t be working for the State Department, regardless of whether she has Muslim Brotherhood ties.
“Is she a Muslim? Is she an active Muslim?” Harris said. “I rest my case. That’s all she needs to be.”
Zuhdi Jasser, the founder and president of the Phoenix-based American Islamic Forum for Democracy, an organization dedicated to opposing Islamic extremism, said Harris’ views are misguided, ignorant and dangerous.
Jasser said there is no inherent conflict between Islam and American values, and that Harris is confusing the religion of Islam with the political ideology of Islamism. Jasser, a Valley doctor, said there’s no reason why Muslims can’t be good Americans, though he believes Islamists cannot be, and he noted that thousands of American Muslims have served with honor in the U.S. armed forces.
“A Muslim is anybody that follows and adheres to the faith of Islam. An Islamist is a supremacist that believes the state should be guided by a particular interpretation of Islam,” Jasser said. “It is extremely dangerous, and I think misguided American policy, to mix up being Muslim with being an Islamist.”
Though Jasser disagreed with the five congressmen’s decision to name Abedin in their letter, he said he shared many of the other concerns they shared about the Muslim Brotherhood and the threat of Islamic extremism to the United States. Islamism is a genuine threat to America, he said.
But statements like the ones Harris made make it harder to combat extremism by alienating Muslims who believe in America’s values, he said, both in this country and abroad. Jasser said moderate Muslims are America’s greatest asset in the fight against Islamic extremism.
“If you want moderate voices of Islam to marginalize the supremacists that seek global domination, then they need to feel supported in countries that share our values, like the United States,” Jasser said. “If the sentiment becomes that it’s incompatible, then it becomes very difficult for me to get traction in the Islamic community that this country will defend our rights.”
Abedin is the wife of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat who resigned last year after he was caught sending women lewd photos of himself via Twitter.
One signer of the letter, Congressman Tom Rooney, a Florida Republican, later told Politico that naming Abedin “was not the wiser path to go down,” and that the focus of the letter was to improve national security, not go after her.
A McCain spokesman declined to comment on Harris’ comments or his recall threat.