By Patrick Poole
Last Thursday, Sam Brownback was sworn in as the State Department’s new ambassador for religious liberty.
Today — in his first official speech as ambassador — Brownback openly embraced a hardline Islamic cleric who authorized a fatwa in 2004 justifying the killing of Americans in Iraq, and another fatwa in 2012 calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.
Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah’s past is no mystery to the State Department. For example, the Obama administration’s State Department had to repeatedly apologize in May 2014 for promoting Bin Bayyah as a moderate. However, the Obama administration then implemented a full-court press with the U.S. media and the D.C. foreign policy “Smart Set” to rehabilitate the image of the Mauritanian cleric.
The presence of multiple senior Trump State Department officials at an “interfaith” event in Washington, D.C. in support of Bin Bayyah’s efforts appears to confirm there will be no change. The Trump administration is continuing the engagement with Bin Bayyah they inherited from Obama — despite the fact that Bin Bayyah’s views on Israel are directly contrary to those of President Trump.
There is also an inherent contradiction in the Trump State Department embracing the interfaith efforts of an Islamic cleric who openly states on his website that Christians are going to hell. Bin Bayyah has also said that interfaith outreach to Jews in Arab lands should only be done with extreme caution — and only with Jews who oppose Israel.
The State Department is promoting Brownback’s speech at Bin Bayyah’s event earlier today:
An Obama administration holdover, State Department Special Advisor for Religious Minorities Knox Thames, gushed his praise of Bin Bayyah during the cleric’s opening keynote last night:
The Obama administration’s attempts to rehabilitate Bin Bayyah were not without controversy. Most embarrassing for the Obama White House was Bin Bayyah’s approval of a 2004 fatwa authorizing the killing of Americans in Iraq and endorsing the Iraqi “resistance.” This information was raised in June 2013 after it was reported Bin Bayyah had been escorted into the White House to meet with senior members of Obama’s National Security Council.
The 2004 fatwa was issued by the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) while Bin Bayyah was serving as vice president. It called for “resisting occupation forces,” stating this was a “duty” for all able-bodied Muslims inside and outside Iraq. The official Iraqi resistance site posted the IUMS fatwa.
The Obama White House defended meeting with the cleric, but made no comment about Bin Bayyah’s past extremist statements or Islamic rulings.
Read it all and this previous post for more background: State Dept Again Promotes Muslim Cleric Who Backed Fatwa on ‘Killing of U.S. Soldiers’
In addition to backing the fatwa calling for the killing of U.S. troops, the cleric has “urged the U.N. to criminalize blasphemy” and has spoken “out in favor of Hamas,” the radical terrorism organization committed to Israel’s destruction, according to reports.