Modern Politics in Action: The Congressional Muslims Staffers Association

Over the last few weeks I have posted several articles about the Congressional Muslim Staffers Association (CMSA). In response to this series the CMSA seems to have made several changes to their website.
The last change was to restore the listing of the Executive Board members to the site. It appears that someone explained to them that even if some nasty blog like Heretics Crusade looks up the embarrassing things you have said or done Congressionally Approved Organizations don’t get to hide their leadership from public view.

I see it as but a small step in the right direction. The CMSA website has many things about it that are disturbing to anyone familiar with the 1st Amendment.

Today I am going to summarize the most troubling elements afresh. If there to be links missing to any information you will likely find the sources in my earlier pieces on the CMSA.

First and least politically significant: someone at the CMSA needs to take up a collection from any Saudi princes hanging around Washington so their web designer can pay the 29.95 or whatever it is for their web template. Then they can take the “A WebsiteBuilder Website” out and put in professional titles for their pages.

Let’s look at the first page of the CMSA website “about” tab.

“…CMSA is a non-dues paying membership association open to any Congressional employee who defines his- or herself as “Muslim”, regardless of their race, gender, school of thought, personal level of “religiosity”, and country of origin…

I imagine that this clause is the CMSA’s attempt to get around the Establishment Clause. Even so, given the stated ideologies and associations of some of the board members I find it hard to believe that an Ahmadiyya Muslim or secularist Muslim like Dr. Wafa Sultan would be given a voice at their events.

As I read this, I could go and get hired by a Senator, walk up to Assad Akhter and say “I consider myself a Muslim” then walk away and expect to be added to the CMSA “membership.” Would I then be “in the loop” with respect to obtaining CMSA voting rights? I have my doubts.

Any Muslim Congressional employee is considered a CMSA member regardless of their level of participation or the degree that they publicly identify themselves as “Muslim”.”

Here is where it starts getting a bit Orwellian to me. Does this sentence mean that if the CMSA finds out a Congressional staffer who was raised Muslim but is now an agnostic has been hired they add another number to their “membership”? How can any group claim to represent those who never gave them that right?

Under “CMSA at a Glance” we find that:

Congressmen Ellison and Carson are the current CMSA sponsors for the 111th Congress. The CMSA is not a member of, nor formally affiliated, with any outside organizations or networks.”

The highlight is in the original text. It seems that the CMSA wants everyone to be clear on this. Of course it says nothing about unofficial affiliation or personal affiliations of the leadership.

WHO WE ARE: The CMSA is composed of Muslim American professional, administrative, and support services staffers who work in the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, Congressional Library, Congressional Research Service, Congressional Budget Office, and Capitol Police Department.”

Would this be legal if the members were Christians? It seems to me that any group that attempts to ORGANIZE the people who are supposed to be objective EMPLOYEES of Congress in order to promote a completely religious agenda in the actions of elected officials is attempting to exercise undue influence. Lobbyists walk in the front door, they don’t insert their agenda into the “objective” briefings of Federal Committees and Officials in the guise of a “legislative assistant”.

I am just a little leery of their claim to represent ALL non-elected Muslims working on The Hill given that their Communication Director ignores the state of Israel and calls the entire region Palestine and the Community Outreach Coordinator was trained to represent conservative ARAB Muslim concerns by The Hala Foundation.

CMSA members come from all regions of the United States, representing the diversity amongst Muslim Americans (i.e. African, Black, Arab, South Asian, Latino, male, female, etc) and the plurality of personal practice and thought within the community (i.e. Sunni, Shia, liberal, conservative, secular, cultural, etc).

That is just silly. How can anyone buy this claim? Since the CMSA automatically claims any one even suspected of being “Muslim” as members it is disingenuous to turn around and tout how “diverse” your membership is.

Just imagine the laughter in the halls of Congress if any so called “Christian” group tried to claim to represent every Christian on The Hill including Conservative Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Coptic Christians, Unitarians, conservative Evangelicals, liberal Episcopalians, agnostics/atheists that used to be Christian, Gay pastors and Fred Phelps acolytes all at the same time!

Just to pick one example; how can they claim to represent both Shiite and Sunni interests given that both seek the total destruction of the other as evil heretics? How can they pretend to pursue the interests of both secular Muslims and Conservative Imams? It is nonsense on the face of it!
What is not known is the actual /religious/political orientation the CMSA promotes. That is because until today, while the CMSA site talks about holding events and having regular programming there was nothing at all about actual events or programs to be found.

Today for the first time an “event” has been listed:

Congressional Muslim Staffers Association
Public & International Affairs Briefing Series

U.S.C.I.R.F.
A Briefing on U.S. Monitoring of the International Status of
Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion or Belief

Presentation and Q&A with:

Knox Thames
Acting Executive Director
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

Friday, November 13, 2009
11:00AM to 12:00PM
2456 Rayburn H.O.B.
U.S. House of Representatives

I asked in an earlier post just how the “members” know about the events they have to attend to be able to vote for the board. I got no response from the CMSA board. I emailed them several times as well but still have gotten no response.

According to the CMSA website’s “Elections” page anyone who is even vaguely able to call themselves Muslim and works for Congress can vote for the Executive Board after they attend this event. It might be interesting if all the “members” showed up and then voted in the next election.

CMSA members are designated to perform diverse functions, including leadership duties including but not limited to chief of staff, legislative director, legal counsel, senior legislative assistant, communications director and other senior level assignments.”

Other than the Communications Director (Mouaz Moustafa) none of the above functions are listed as part of the Executive Board.

The CMSa claims to not work to place interns but does use them to pad their “membership”:

Muslims who acquire internships and fellowships in various Congressional Offices and Committee are granted non-voting membership privileges during their formal program.”

This means that they can be counted as members but have only the privileges of a non-Muslim to attend their events.

PROFESSIONAL PRIORITIES: First and foremost, all CMSA members hold their responsibilities to their Congressional Members, Chairs, or Support Service as their professional priority. Membership in the CMSA is voluntary and dues-free. Member’s participation in Association programs is secondary to their responsibilities in their Congressional Offices, Committees, and/or Support Service. Any participation in CMSA programming is independent and unrelated to a member’s professional obligations and responsibilities within their respective Congressional Offices, Committees, and Support Services.“

It boggles the mind at how much baloney can be fit in three sentences. Let’s break it down:

First and foremost, all CMSA members hold their responsibilities to their Congressional Members, Chairs, or Support Service as their professional priority.”

Well that sounds nice but since Mainstream Islam considers governments and laws not based in Islam to be “invalid” their “professional priorities” are not what I am concerned with! Given that mainstream Islam teaches that lying or breaking “kafir” rules to protect or promote Islam what “professional” priorities will result in a better place in Heaven I must be forgiven for not taking this line too seriously.

Membership in the CMSA is voluntary and dues-free.”

Another sense-free statement. We have already seen that the CMSA claims all Muslims, former Muslims and sort of Muslims working on The Hill as members. While it is true the members pay no dues they also do not get the option of NOT joining this (I hope) illegal lobbying group embedded in the Congressional staff.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: The CMSA provides its members with professional development and social networking opportunities to expand their knowledge content and professional resources that improve their ability to serve their Congressional Member or Committee Chair’s policy agenda and/or constituent relations.”

Now that sounds interesting! Can I get a list of the publications or texts used for this purpose? It is not that I think there might be anything, um, seditious there; I just like to be careful where my freedom is involved.

CONGRESSIONAL RESOURCE: The CMSA is a valued resource to Congressional Members and staff, conducting programs that increase their awareness about the diverse Muslim American community and presenting the plurality of the community’s social and political perspectives and concerns. CMSA programs highlight how Muslim Americans are positively contributing to America’s civic, political, and economic sectors and strengthening its tradition of pluralism, multiculturalism, and democratic institutions.”

What programs? All I find is text about what KIND of programs they do. There is hardly a word about past, present or future programs or their content. What they do list for examples are not reassuring at all:

Examples:
· “All DC-Area Muslim Summer Interns” Capitol Hill Reception.
· Resume collection for “Muslim American Congressional Resume Book
· Participation on panels at various symposium hosted by DHS, CAIR, MANA, etc.”

CMSA provides support to Congressional and other government offices to help their engagement with Muslim American constituencies and organizations.”

WHAT does that mean? Do they call the “Muslim American constituencies and organizations” and give some kind of Quranic password and tell them that “Sen. Wifflepoof is cool, you can talk to him.”? Do Congressional and other government offices need the CMSA’s approval for Muslim organizations to “engage” with them?

BRIEFINGS: CMSA hosts occasional briefings that increase awareness about the diverse social and political concerns of the Muslim American, and how the community’s vast resources can be in service to strengthening America’s civic, political, and economic institutions. CMSA features Muslim and non-Muslim academics, researchers, and community leaders as expert speakers in its briefings. The CMSA acquires Congressional Member sponsorship to reserve rooms for briefings in Congressional facilities.

Now there is something! How about the CMSA post an archive of past briefings to verify that ALL American Muslim concerns are being addressed? Somehow I have a feeling that the answer will be no. But can MR. Akhter explain why not? Surely the CMSA’s briefings to Congress include nothing to embarrass his organization!

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: CMSA encourages Muslim Americans to participate in civic and interfaith activities that benefit their local communities throughout the United States, and to increases their constructive relations with their elected officials and engagement with government and law enforcement representatives.”

Now that doesn’t sound bad. But, it all hinges on just what the CMSA considers “constructive relations” and “engagement” to mean. If they use the same definition that CAIR seems to employ then “constructive” means “benefiting the spread of Islamic principles and privileges in the U.S.” and “engagement” means “keeping America from listening to actual Moderate Muslims or any who seek to reform Islam”.

Someone needs to let Diala Jadallah know that some concrete examples would go a long way to putting the legitimate worries of citizens to rest. Or they might show that the CMSA has an agenda other than what they reveal on their website. Call it our need to know.
Now we move on the Association’s objectives, which are to:

“• Represent the social and political concerns and initiatives of the Muslim American community to Congressional Members, staffers, and other Federal officials. CMSA will allocate balanced attention to both domestic and international affairs that are relevant to the Muslim American community and the larger Muslim world.”

THAT IS LOBBYING! How can it be legal for a self described lobbying group to take unfair advantage of the working relationships of Congressional staffers and the Elected Officials they serve?

“• Provide authentic representations of Islamic principles and Muslim practices to government officials and pubic affairs organizations. CSMA strives to present Muslim traditions in a way that recognizes the plurality of religious thought and diversity of cultural practices in the American Muslim community.

First, please fix the term PUBIC affairs organizations. I put the traditional polite (sic) in my first article but I guess no one picked THAT up in the rush to obscure the conservative Shiite link. For the enlightenment of those who might be somewhat new to English the word pubic refers to the genital region of the human body.

With that out of the way I have to ask what kind of authentic representation the CMSA thinks they can make? The CMSA site itself speaks of the “diversity amongst Muslim Americans (i.e. African, Black, Arab, South Asian, Latino, male, female, etc) and the plurality of personal practice and thought within the community (i.e. Sunni, Shia, liberal, conservative, secular, cultural, etc). “

Given that the Outreach Coordinator was trained by a racist Arab organization and the Syrian born Communications Director claims that “Northern Palestine” is legal home do we dare believe that this statement is sincere? Tell me President Assad; wouldn’t an archive of briefings and programs shut up pests like The Heretics Crusade? Or would it just make others even more suspicious? In this day and age I would suggest that the advice given Caesar’s wife might be germane.

“• Act as an intermediary between the Muslim American community and Congressional Members, Offices, Committees, and other Federal departments and agencies. To facilitate engagement between Federal officials and Muslim leaders, CMSA collaborates with America’s mainstream, moderate Muslim organizations that specialize in advocacy, community organizing, media, public affairs, or research.

Now here is a key bit. Let us remember that it was Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR that first brought this groups existence to the attention of main street America (Moi included). The scandals involving CAIR and its leadership are a legend in their own time. I have always entertained the possibility that the CMSA really IS true to the part about mainstream and moderate.

At first glance the final list of Islamic resources they provide is broadly moderate. They do seem to have made an effort, but they still include that link to the Shiite site that declares marrying infants legal.

What speaks louder to me is that CAIR is NOT on the CMSA list at all! This may be significant; it may be only Taqqiya. I would like more data before I decide. With the recent news of a NY Imam ratting out the FBI to a suspected terrorist, I am not hopeful.

“• Foster a Capitol Hill environment that is conducive to the professional, social, and spiritual development of Muslim staffers and community members.”

Spiritual development? Once again; who decides what make up a valid “spiritual development”? Conducive means to tend to cause; with the ridiculously diversity of Muslims the Association claims to represent how can they possibly agree on what kind of spiritual development that environment should encourage. For that matter why should The Congressional working environment be “conducive” to anyone’s spiritual development? I thought the idea was for The Hill to be neutral in that regard and allow the individuals to pursue their own damn choice of “Spiritual Development”.

“• Promote civic activity by Muslim Americans in their local communities, to engage with local elected officials and government representatives, and increase the number of Muslims who pursue careers in government and public affairs professions.

We are all just supposed to believe that there is NO agenda driving all this effort? Not a single partisan action has been committed by the CMSA leadership in pursuing this engagement and promotion of Muslim influence beyond their representation in the population? We are just to accept that the CMSA does it all in the name of “African, Black, Arab, South Asian, Latino, male, female, Sunni, Shia, liberal, conservative, secular and cultural Muslims slighting no one in their representation?

This is a lie on the face of it since representation that would satisfy Shiites might well be hateful to Sunnis and both would see a “cultural” Muslim’s agenda as something they are forbidden to support. IF we want to know the CMSA’s agenda we need to know more about the agendas of the individuals that make up its controlling body.

At this time the only CMSA leaders publically listed are the:

Members of the Executive board:

1) Assad Akhter, President

2) Moon Yousif Sulfab, Vice President

3) J. Saleh Williams, Program Coordinator

4) Mouaz Moustafa, Communication Director

5) Diala Jadallah, Community Outreach Coordinator

In my first article on the CMSA I went over all of the associations and personal utterances I could find for each Board Member. Even with my limited resources those results were not encouraging.

Less encouraging was the CMSA’s brief apparent attempt to avoid criticism by hiding the identity of the Executive Board. Someone please page George Orwell. I think I saw him over in the corner having a drink with Robert Heinlein.

Update: The list has been replaced on the site; did someone remind them of a legal concept we call public information?

The CMSA has also added a “media” tab to their site with a few vanilla articles. The one on the formation of the Association contains almost no information that cannot be found on the group’s website (the J. in Mr. Williams’ name means Jihad but that is not a very useful tidbit). The article seems to be mostly that very text juggled around a bit. It is not an article, it is a press release.

It is worth noting that the article says that the MCSA membership is what “leaders call a microcosm of the politically, ethnically, and religiously diverse American Muslim communities.” What it doesn’t say is who those leaders saying this are.

Somehow I do not think the term “leaders” as used here means “a broad spectrum of Elected Officials.” In fact I would bet that the leaders referred to are none other than the Executive Committee itself! Of course there was no attribute to the quote to help settle that bet.
There is some new info there but again it is a blatant distortion of reality seemingly meant to enlarge the credibility of the group’s views and actions:

One of the group’s active leaders, a legislative assistant named Jihad Saleh, says that CMSA is a “big tent” organization that eschews differences that may divide and has built upon the knowledge and know-how of a broad base of government employees that encompass Democrats and Republicans, as well as Sunnis and Shi’as.”

How can I believe that? For two years this site provided no links to any Islamic information other than a conservative Shi’ite website. Then they added a vanilla Taqqiya site after my first article appeared. And then BOTH links disappeared only to reappear surrounded by a collection of more moderate links.

We should also note that according to my latest information there is ONE member of the CMSA that is a registered Republican. Most of the members reportedly work for solidly Left-leaning Senators and Congressmen. That one (registered) Republican member allows the CMSA to organize as a “non-partisan” association. Without this person they would lose many of their rights and privileges as a group.

I am a naturally optimistic person. I would love to find out that the leadership of the CMSA is now committed to a pure Jeffersonian Liberality like that enshrined in The Constitution. All the evidence though seems to say that I would have to be an idiot to put any money on that horse.
In closing I want to put the cherry on top of this rather alarming sundae. President Obama was reported by the Denver Post to have worked with the estimable Jihad Williams to vet a list of 300 names down to 45 for employment… by the WHITE HOUSE.

How many people work in the white house minus elected and appointed officials? If Muslims make up .025 percent of the American population (a generous estimate) then how many Americans of all sorts must work for the White House in order for 45 Muslims to be “representative”?

According to my trusty calculator if .02% is equivalent to 45 then 45 * 50 = 2,250 or 1% and 225 times 100 equals 22,500 for 100%. If all that Obama and the CMSA seek is a fair representation for Muslims in the White House Staff then we should find 22,500 Americans working for the White house!

Um, does that number seem just a tad high to you? It does to me. Let’s go find some facts.
According to Wikipedia, if we subtract the military and Secret Service, the White House employs between 1500 and 2500 employees. It seems that with the best of intentions (assuming that the 45 are intended for military and Secret Service jobs and volunteers et al.) we have less than 6500 people employed by the White House including such Executive Office entities as the OMB!

Once again we can do the math.

.02% of 6500 is 13. Hmm, it seems that just maybe President Obama and Jihad Williams of the CMSA are seeking to give specially selected members of one religion three and a half times more representation on the White House staff as they have in the general population…BY INTENT!

For the nth time I have to ask; is this right, is this Constitutional? Is this LEGAL?

Freaked-out Americans Want to Know!

Stay Tuned!
Next, Heretics Crusade looks at Knox Thames, Acting Executive Director U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

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