WASHINGTON – Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale, this week defended his call for an investigation into the influence of Muslim groups on government organizations, even as the proposal came under more fire.
On Thursday, 42 religious and secular groups criticized Franks and four other House members who signed letters demanding the probe, saying the letters questioned “the loyalty of faithful Americans based on nothing more than their religious affiliations and … tenuous evidence of their associations.”
The groups ranged from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and American Baptist Churches USA, to the Hindu American Foundation and People for the American Way, to the Secular Coalition for America and American Atheists, among others.
Their criticism followed a Senate floor speech last week by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who said the letters’ focus on one top State Department official, Huma Abedin, “are nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable citizen.”
“These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis, no merit. And they need to stop now,” McCain said.
Franks could not be reached for comment Thursday. But in a Tuesday statement, before the most recent criticism, he accused critics of engaging in “political correctness.”
“To collaborate in this administration’s political correctness and pretend that these issues are not real is to potentially put innocent lives at risk in the pursuit of preventing anyone from feeling uncomfortable,” Franks said in the statement.
Franks – along with Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia and Thomas Rooney of Florida – wrote to the inspectors general of five agencies last month, demanding investigations into the influence exerted by the Muslim Brotherhood on the federal government and its impact on national security.
In his Tuesday statement, Franks said the letters were not targeting individuals, but rather the Muslim Brotherhood in general, a group that the letters said is dedicated to “‘destroying the Western civilization from within,’ a practice the Brothers call ‘civilization jihad.’”
“The evidence of the hostile nature of the Muslim Brotherhood is not in doubt in any reasonable mind,” Franks’ Tuesday statement said. “Consequently, in spite of the din of politically correct voices urging us all to look the other way, I cannot retreat one inch from pushing back on Muslim Brotherhood influence inside the United States Government.”
But critics Thursday said that the charges by the five House members merely singled out “innocent individuals based on their religious adherence.”
“As such, your actions have serious implications for religious freedom and the health of our democracy,” the groups said in the letter addressed to the five House members.
David Silverman, president of American Atheists, said the lawmakers’ actions amount to modern-day McCarthyism and spewing hate in the name of religion. He said that is why his organization signed on to the letter criticizing the House members’ demand that the inspectors general mount investigations.
“Religious and nonreligious people are uniting against organized lies and organized hate, and really what this is is organized hate,” Silverman said.
Secular and religious organizations joined to write the letter because the issue affects more than just Muslims, said Lauren Anderson Youngblood, spokeswoman for the Secular Coalition for America.
“This is an issue that affects all Americans, religious and nonreligious,” she said. “When you have a group of lawmakers who are singling out minority religions, that’s a problem.”