Days before the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history Obama’s Homeland Security secretary became the highest ranking government official—and first sitting cabinet member—to highlight a convention held annually by a radical Muslim group with extremist origins. The Indiana-based nonprofit is called Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and it was founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organization of Hamas and Al Qaeda. ISNA was an unindicted co-conspirator in a huge case involving an Islamic charity (Holy Land Foundation) that provided support to a foreign terrorist organization, mainly Hamas.
ISNA conferences often feature contentious speakers, including renowned Islamists and advocates of terrorism. Among them is Imam Warth Deen Umar, who referred to the 9/11 hijackers as martyrs that were secretly admired by Muslims and has called for violent jihad. At one ISNA convention Umar portrayed the Holocaust as punishment of Jews for being “serially disobedient to Allah,” according to a research conglomerate recognized as the world’s most comprehensive data center on radical Islamic terrorist groups. The nonprofit, Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), published a disturbing report on ISNA that documents its radical ideology and conference speakers throughout the years that include “some of the world famous Islamists and advocates of Jihad.”
About a week before the 15th anniversary of 9/11, Obama deployed Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to ISNA’s annual powwow in Chicago. The appearance likely amounted to a slap in the face to many Americans, especially survivors of the 2001 attacks. Johnson’s speech lasted about 22 minutes and he basically said ISIS/ISIL isn’t Islamic, that Islam is a religion of peace and that Islamophobia is the same as McCarthyism. In a press release announcing the appearance, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) writes that Johnson will discuss the Obama administration’s “continued commitment to build bridges to Muslim American communities, and encourage Muslim Americans—particularly youth—to continue to fully participate in American society.”
Johnson didn’t exactly receive a warm reception and was booed repeatedly, especially as he exited the stage. He told the crowd that a group of terrorists is attempting to hijack their religion and that he and Obama “refuse to bend to the political pressure to call terrorism Islamic extremism.” He went on to say that “we know that ISIL, though it claims the banner of Islam, occupies no part of your religion, a religion founded on peace.” Then Johnson proceeded to compare the discrimination and vilification suffered by Muslims to the plight of African Americans, in particular to “tar you with a broad brush of suspicion.” Johnson proclaimed that the bullying and physical attacks experienced by Muslims nationwide are familiar to him as a black man. “I look out at this room of American Muslims and I see myself,” he said, adding that theirs is a similar struggle to the one his African American ancestors fought to win acceptance in the U.S.
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