Earlier this week, a Pakistani-American businessman named Mansoor Ijaz published an article in the Christian Science Monitor, entitled, a “A Muslim Belongs in the Cabinet.” I heard about it via Josh Marshall and TPM.
The surprising revelation in the piece related to how Mitt Romney had answered a question from Ijaz about having a Muslim in Romney’s would-be Cabinet:
I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that “jihadism” is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, “…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration.”
Romney, whose Mormon faith has become the subject of heated debate in Republican caucuses, wants America to be blind to his religious beliefs and judge him on merit instead. Yet he seems to accept excluding Muslims because of their religion, claiming they’re too much of a minority for a post in high-level policymaking. More ironic, that Islamic heritage is what qualifies them to best engage America’s Arab and Muslim communities and to help deter Islamist threats.(link)
At first, I thought this was pretty troubling. While obviously you wouldn’t put someone of a particular religious background in your cabinet as a token, you also wouldn’t exclude someone from a high position because of their religious background, would you?
But — when questioned about it, Romney described the question differently: “His question was, did I NEED to have a Muslim in my cabinet to confront radical Jihad, and would it be important to have a Muslim in my cabinet. And I said no…” (full quote here; or, see it on YouTube)
If you put aside the bluster about taking on “Radical Jihad” (all the Republicans seem to talk this way), Romney’s explanation of his interpretation of the question and subsequent answer actually isn’t very controversial.
Moreover, once you start to look a bit more closely at Mansoor Ijaz, what you find is a lot of sketchiness.We could start with the CSM article itself, where Ijaz makes a series of wild claims about his role in international affairs:
As a private American citizen, I negotiated Sudan’s offer of counterterrorism assistance to the Clinton administration in 1997 when the US government had no relations with that country’s leaders. I felt there was still an opportunity at that time to unravel the metastasizing terror network being organized by Osama bin Laden and his followers.
I later initiated dialogue with an Arab counterintelligence official in the summer of 2000 that could have resulted in the extradition of Mr. bin Laden to a friendly Muslim country and neutralized Al Qaeda’s pre-9/11 planning. That summer, I also helped negotiate a cease fire in Kashmir, which brought peace to a region that has known constant conflict since partition between India and Pakistan. (link)
I believe he left out the part about where he also brought down the Berlin Wall with his own hammer, invented the Microwave oven, and rescued a cat from drowning in Antarctica.
Oh wait, he also single-handedly broke the A.Q. Khan scandal:
In early 2001, I notified national security adviser Stephen Hadley that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and militant Islamists, some of whom I had worked with during the cease-fire campaign, were actively engaged in the sale and distribution of Pakistan’s nuclear technology. Mr. Hadley asked me to make recommendations on how these proliferation activities could be stopped. I did so, mindful that, as an American Muslim whose father was a pioneer in Pakistan’s nuclear program, I risked harming the name of my family. But for the sake of my duty as a citizen, I helped the US government expose the illicit transfers. A.Q. Khan, who headed Pakistan’s nuclear program, was arrested a few years later.
Thank you for all your efforts, Mr. Mansoor Ijaz! You get the Ahmed Chalabi Award for Flagrant Self-Promotion.
Incidentally, ccording to Wikipedia (which may not itself be 100% trustworthy — though this particular page is pretty well-documented), Ijaz’s claim that he helped negotiate a case-fire in Kashmir cost him a regular Pundit gig at Fox News.
(If you Google, more incidents of sketchiness start to emerge…)
I don’t love Mitt Romney, but I’m inclined to take his word for it over Ijaz’s on this question — and I think Josh Marshall may be barking up the wrong tree.