The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) --the federal watchdog that was created back in 1998 to help the president, Congress and the Department of State better understand religious persecution across the globe -- is at the center of debate over a new appointee.
According to Religion News Service, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim who has been appointed to the group, is drawing cries of protest from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), among others.
On the surface, this may seem counter-intuitive. After all, Jesser does, indeed, embrace Islam and CAIR is an organization that fights for the civil rights of Muslims living here in America.
But here's the sticking point: Jasser has been a vocal proponent of controversial New York City police surveillance (programs that have, ironically, targeted Muslims). He narrated the film, "The Third Jihad," which the NYPD came under fire for showing during training sessions. Additionally, he was opposed to the infamous Ground Zero mosque. (He has defended the film in an interview with The Blaze.)
Clearly, his opinions have fallen outside of the Islamic mainstream. As a result, CAIR has been open and honest about its disdain for the appointment.
"It would have been better to appoint someone who has some measure of credibility with Muslim Americans," CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said. "He has long been viewed by American Muslims and the colleagues in the civil liberties community as a mere sock puppet for Islam haters and an enabler of Islamophobia."
Jasser, who was appointed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), is a cardiologist who resides in Phoenix, Arizona. He has taken a firm stance against the vocal advocacy arms of the Islamic community in America. The organization he founded, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, has called most U.S. Muslim groups "malignant" and has accused them of embracing "political Islam."
Jasser is joined as an appointee to USCIRF by Robert P. George of Princeton University. George was appointed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Currently, three commission spots remain vacant and open.
"These appointments are further evidence that the Republican agenda is not about defending so-called 'religious liberty,' but about ensuring that their conservative values continue to have a prominent voice over other points of view," lamented liberal blog ThinkProgress.
(H/T: Religion News Service)