Hardliner has Islam squarely in her sights

WASHINGTON // It was two days after she called for the revocation of Jimmy Carter's passport as punishment for meeting with Hamas that Sue Myrick introduced in the US House of Representatives her 10-point plan to "wake up America". That, in fact, is the very name of the agenda she has outlined to stop what she considers the infiltration of "radical Islamic extremists" in US society. Mrs Myrick, who represents a politically conservative district in North Carolina, has emerged as an increasingly loud voice on Capitol Hill on the threat of domestic terrorism - much to the chagrin of her critics, who have said she is merely stoking fears and fuelling stereotypes.

Indeed, Mrs Myrick, co-founder of Congress's bipartisan anti-terrorism caucus, has painted a stark picture of a United States under siege by extremists. "They have clearly stated their intention to infiltrate us, much like the Russians did during the Cold War," she wrote in February in a column posted on her congressional website. "We had no problem analysing and acting on that information then. "I know that some people will refuse to admit there is a subversive movement going on here," she said, "but let me remind you that we have underestimated the will and capability of our enemy for more than 30 years. They are patient and determined to achieve their radical agenda."

So Mrs Myrick introduced an agenda of her own. Wake Up America calls for an audit of all sovereign wealth investment here. It seeks an investigation by the General Accounting Office of the way Arabic translators are hired at the Pentagon and Federal Bureau of Investigation; Mrs Myrick says she was told that the FBI's Arabic specialists cheered in the translation room when they learnt of the September 11 attacks.

The plan asks the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the non-profit tax status of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group, which Mrs Myrick has said receives funding from Saudi Arabia and which she has suggested engages in illegal lobbying on behalf of foreign governments. Mrs Myrick has introduced legislation to deny visas for religious leaders from countries that do not allow reciprocal visits from non-Muslims and supports cancellation of a scholarship programme for Saudi students unless that country changes the way its textbooks portray the United States.

The representative also calls for a federal investigation of the Muslim chaplain programme for US prisons and the military. Her specific concern is any chaplain selected by Abdurahman Alamoudi when he was overseeing that programme. Mr Alamoudi was convicted on federal charges of financing terrorism and is now serving a 23-year prison sentence. Mrs Myrick, who declined through a spokesman to be interviewed for this article, has said the aim of the Wake Up America agenda is to alert the public to the dangers of domestic terrorism. But her critics have said she is doing something else: stirring up fear.

"Really, to me, this is a cheap stunt to exploit fear among those people that are willing to listen to her message," said Corey Saylor, national legislative director for CAIR, the group Mrs Myrick wants the IRS to investigate. Mr Saylor said her charge that CAIR is lobbying for foreign governments has no basis. While the Wake Up America agenda, as a whole, is not necessarily likely to go far, it opens a window on to the way some lawmakers in Washington view Islam and the Muslim world, a view partly responsible for the political furore in 2006 over the proposed sale of several US ports to DP World. Mrs Myrick, for one, was a vocal critic of that deal. At the time, she sent a letter to George W Bush that said: "Dear Mr President: In regards to selling American ports to the United Arab Emirates, not just NO - but HELL NO!"

More recently, she expressed outrage over the outsourcing to a foreign company of the production of security chips for US passports. After Mr Carter travelled to Syria in April to meet with representatives of Hamas, Mrs Myrick went far beyond the condemnation offered by the White House and state department, and called on the government to seize the former president's passport. She also said federal funding for the Carter Center, which works on international human rights issues, should be halted.

Mrs Myrick said part of the reason the government has yet to take the steps she is advocating - such as an investigation of whether any Muslim chaplains, for example, are preaching a "radical" message - is because of political sensitivities. "We're too politically correct on everything and it's very, very frustrating today because we are not doing what we need to do," she said in a May interview with the Conservative Beacon, a website.


The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat 

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