Never before has such an open critic of Islam been in a position that Mike Pompeo is poised to occupy. The outgoing CIA Director is known as someone skeptical of diplomacy, chiefly of the Iran nuclear deal, which he would be in position to end once at Foggy Bottom. But his history is far darker than those public policy positions. He has associated with some of the most notorious and nefarious anti-Muslim voices in the public sphere. And those associations should be serious impediments to his confirmation.
Regarding Muslims, Pompeo’s views couldn’t be more different than those of the outgoing secretary, Rex Tillerson. Last May, we heard Tillerson publicly advocating for more understanding between the Muslim world and the United States, stating, “We need to put a lot more effort into understanding one another better--understanding each other’s cultures, understanding each other’s beliefs.” Tillerson added that he had hoped that Trump’s views on Muslims “like, we hope, the American people’s views — are going to continue to evolve” for the better.
What a stark and alarming contrast to Pompeo’s views about Muslims. First off, Pompeo openly pals around with the nation’s top anti-Muslim activists: Brigitte Gabriel, the leader of “ACT for America,” and Frank Gaffney.
Here’s a little primer for those lucky enough to not have heard of either Gabriel and Gaffney. As the Anti-Defamation League has documented, Gabriel heads ACT For America, “the largest anti-Muslim group in the United States,” where she has spread “hateful propaganda” about Muslims such as the dangerous smear that a “practicing Muslim” “cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States.” The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has officially designated Gabriel’s organization as a “hate group” because it pushes “wild anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, denigrates American Muslims and deliberately conflates mainstream and radical Islam.” As one ACT for America leader stated publicly, “Islam is a supremacist, totalitarian political ideology masquerading as a religion. It's as dangerous as Nazism or communism and must be eradicated.”
Despite that, Pompeo has time and time again teamed up with Gabriel and her organization. In 2016 as a member of Congress, Pompeo personally reserved a room on Capitol Hill so that Gabriel and ACT could spew their despicable views about Muslims to members of Congress and others. And in 2016, Pompeo accepted ACT’s highest award, the National Security Eagle, because as Gabriel put it, “Rep. Mike Pompeo has been a steadfast ally of ours since the day he was elected to Congress.”
To American Muslims, Pompeo accepting an award from ACT is akin to a person proudly receiving an award from a white supremacist organization.
And then there’s the person Trump wants as his next Secretary of State’s close ties to another leader in anti-Muslim hate: Frank Gaffney. The SPLC has dubbed Gaffney as “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes.” Gaffney has tried to gin up fear of all Muslims in America—including of me—by claiming that Muslims who appear to be peaceful are actually engaged in “a more stealthy kind” of jihad to destroy America. And as the ADL noted, Gaffney “pioneered the anti Shariah hysteria by publishing materials regarding the threat of an Islamic takeover of the U.S.”
Add to that, Pompeo himself has ginned up fears of Muslims. Two months after the 2013 Boston marathon bombing, Pompeo took to the floor of the House to claim that Islamic leaders across America were “potentially complicit” in this attack because of their “silence” in condemning it. In reality, Muslim American groups had uniformly swiftly condemned that attack. A member of Congress could have known that if he’d cared to.
And in 2014, Pompeo told a church congregation in his home state of Kansas that the fight with ISIS is in essence a holy war. Pompeo explained that there are Muslims who “abhor Christians” and they will continue “to press against us until we make sure that we pray and stand and fight and make sure that we know that Jesus Christ is our savior is truly the only solution for our world.”
But the biggest consequence here, potentially, is for the Iran deal. Trump made it clear Tuesday morning that the deal was one reason he fired Tillerson, telling reporters: "When you look at the Iran deal, I thought it was terrible. He thought it was okay. I wanted to either break it or do something, he felt a little differently.” Trump then, referencing Pompeo’s views on the Iran deal, commented: “With Mike, Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process.”
Trump is 100 percent correct. They disturbingly do share similar views.
So our nation now moves from a Secretary of State who advocated diplomacy when it came to the Iran deal and building understanding with Muslims to the polar opposite. This should concern all Americans who don’t want to see increased tensions with Iran, because with Pompeo as Secretary of State, we are one step closer.