The secretary of state is the chief diplomat responsible for guiding the foreign policy for the United States of America, and the face of America in the world — including the Muslim world. And soon, the man holding that job will be a former right-wing Tea Party congressman who once, among other Islamophobic statements and actions, accepted an award from a hate group labeled the “largest anti-Muslim group" in the country by both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center
In the aftermath of the firing of now-former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump wasted no time in naming CIA director Mike Pompeo as Tillerson's replacement. But before his time at the CIA, Mike Pompeo was a no-name Tea Party congressman from Kansas who positioned himself as a right-wing uber-hawk, particularly in relation to foreign policy toward the Muslim world.
While he was in Congress, for instance, Mike Pompeo once told a church crowd that the “threat to America” was caused by “people who deeply believe that Islam is the way.”
“They abhor Christians,” Pompeo further told tell the church audience and “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.”
And, according to The Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University (where I serve as a senior fellow), Mike Pompeo once had the audacity to claim that all Muslims were "potentially complicit" in acts of terrorism collectively.
Mike Pompeo also tried to label the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization: He co-sponsored the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act more than once, trying to force the U.S. State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a “foreign terrorist organization.” The Washington Post reported that previous presidential administrations (both Democrat and Republican) have not viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as a “terrorist” organization and that any such legislation would have “a far-reaching [negative] impact on American Muslims at a time when Muslim community leaders say the religious minority is facing the worst harassment it has seen since the aftermath of 9/11.”
“It is wrongheaded and dangerous to tar all [Muslim] Brotherhood members with one brush,” the New York Times editorial board wrote in a February 2017 editorial condemning any terrorist designation of the Muslim Brotherhood. “Such an order would be seen by many Muslims as another attempt to vilify adherents of Islam. It appears to be part of a mission by the president and his closest advisers to heighten fears [of Muslims].”
And even Pompeo’s current agency, the CIA, thought it was a terrible idea to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. According to an in-depth report by POLITICO Magazine, CIA experts warned that such a designation “may fuel extremism” and damage relations with America’s allies, according to a summary of a report for the intelligence community and policymakers that was shared by a U.S. official. The CIA document, published internally on January 31, 2017, noted that the Brotherhood — which boasts millions of followers around the Arab world — has “rejected violence as a matter of official policy and [has publicly] opposed Al-Qaeda and ISIS” and other terrorist groups as well.
Sadly, the Islamophobia of Mike Pompeo does not end there.
Mike Pompeo also accepted the National Security Eagle Award from the aforementioned SPLC- and ADL-designated hate group, ACT for America, in 2016. The group's president that year called him "a steadfast ally of ours since the day he was elected to Congress." Additionally, Pompeo has also appeared over 20 times on the right-wing talk radio show of Frank Gaffney, who has been called "one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes" by the same organization.
And, as Robin Wright recently wrote in The New Yorker, while in Congress, Mike Pompeo repeatedly condemned the nuclear deal with Iran brokered by the Obama Administration as “an unconscionable arrangement,” claiming that the “Iranian regime is intent on the destruction of our country.” One year later, Pompeo went further and called (another) American-led regime change in Tehran. “Congress must act to change Iranian behavior, and, ultimately, the Iranian regime,” Pompeo said at the time.
Donald Trump has never made it any secret that he does not like Muslims: In addition to his infamous Muslim travel bans, he once famously told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that “I think Islam hates us.” And within his West Wing, Donald Trump has surrounded himself with current and former advisers like Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Michael Flynn who have all made disparaging public remarks about Islam and Muslims; including statements like “Islam is not a religion of peace” (Bannon), that violence is a fundamental part of Islam (Gorka) and that Islam is “like a cancer” (Flynn, whom Trump named as his first national security adviser).
Now with Mike Pompeo’s impending ascension to secretary of state, the Donald Trump administration has made it clear that pluralistic diplomacy towards the Muslim world is not even remotely important to them. Based on his own long history of Islamophobia, Mike Pompeo is simply not fit to serve as America’s chief diplomat, particularly to those 1.7 billion Muslims who pray towards Mecca every day of our lives.
Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of The MuslimGuy.com and senior fellow for The Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University.