America's leading Islamist groups may have just lost an elected cheerleader with the arrest of Pennsylvania state Representative Movita Johnson-Harrell, but plenty more were elected on November 5th to take her place.
Johnson-Harrell, a fixture at Islamist fundraisers, was indicted on December 4 for stealing more than $500,000 from the poor and mentally ill, spending it on lavish vacations, fur coats, and even her own political campaign. But fortunately for radical organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), 26 Muslim candidates recently answered its call to fill local school board, city council, and state assembly seats across the country. However, as with the disgraced Johnson-Harrell, a significant number of these freshman public officials have problematic ties to extremists.
Take Abrar Omeish, who was elected to the Fairfax County school board in Virginia: her father, Esam Omeish, was the former president of the Muslim American Society, which U.S. prosecutors have concluded is the "overt arm" of the Muslim Brotherhood in America. Esam was forced to resign from a state immigration board in 2007 after video surfaced of him praising Palestinians who chose "the jihad way" to liberation.
In 2011, Esam admitted that he was a former Muslim Brotherhood leader, and in 2016 he penned a tribute to Brotherhood members on social media, calling them the most noble, humane, and gentle of Muslims.
Abrar appears to have adopted her father's Islamist zeal. While studying at Yale, the 24-year-old was a member the Muslim Students Association (MSA), which was founded by Muslim Brotherhood expatriates in 1963 with the goal of "spreading Islam as students in North America."
Abrar was part of MSA-led efforts to silence Muslim reformer Ayaan Hirsi Ali by attacking her "scholarly credentials." She later appeared in a podcast with the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT), an Islamist think tank which seeks to "institute the Islamic Revolution in the United States."
Abrar's victory elicited congratulations from Islamist leaders of Muslim Brotherhood factions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria.
Ibraheem Samirah was one of two Muslim Democrats whose election helped to flip the Virginia House of Delegates. During his college years, he was a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, the leading proponent of the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign in America.
His father, Sabri Ibrahim Samirah, is a prominent Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood leader who was barred entry to the U.S. for 10 years, likely because of his chairmanship of the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), a now-defunct Muslim Brotherhood front group which served as the propaganda wing of Hamas in the U.S.
Omar Tarazi won a seat on the Hilliard, Ohio city council after being appointed to that position in March. He is the son of "Mouhamed Nabik Tarazi, an imam who attended the radical Omar Ibnelkhttab Mosque in Columbus, where three congregants have been convicted since 2003 on terrorism charges. The elder Tarazi even officiated the wedding of Iyman Faris, an Al Qaeda terrorist sentenced to 20 years for plotting to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge.
Tarazi was a speaker at the Noor Islamic Center Mosque in Hilliard, where numerous extremist clerics have been invited to preach, and the previous CEO was listed in a private directory as a U.S. leader for the Muslim Brotherhood. As a lawyer, Tarazi represented the parents of Rifqa Bary, a 16-year-old girl who ran away to Florida because her father allegedly threatened to kill her for apostasy.
Abrar, Ibraheem and Omar represent a new breed of politically savvy Islamists.
But Abrar, Ibraheem and Omar are not their fathers. They represent a new breed of Islamists— politically savvy, second generation activists who simultaneously espouse or quietly advance the contradictory core principles of social liberalism and theocracy.
Have Islamists joined with progressives to advance social justice, or for political expediency? In its 2019 report, The Rise of American Muslim Changemakers, CAIR laments that this alliance "requires working on issues that may—on the surface level—appear to be at odds with traditional community norms and values."
Rep. Samirah, Virginia's recently re-elected House delegate, left no doubts about the integrity of the blue-green alliance in a 2018 speech before American Muslims for Palestine, an anti-Semitic hate group sympathetic to Hamas: "[Muhammad] had to form treaties with his enemies" Samirah said. "He had to form alliances with people who weren't necessarily believers of his message, who would later on become people who would be his enemies."
Yet, for many politically ambitious Muslims, the allure of identity politics is far too seductive to ignore. Following the election, dozens of mainstream news articles glowingly reported that Somali immigrant Safiya Khalid won the Lewiston, Maine city council seat "despite hateful social media attacks" and "racist trolls." But Khalid's Democratic opponent reportedly endured threats and intimidation that go beyond cyber-bullying. Khalid's supporters allegedly surrounded his home, pounding and kicking his doors and windows as they urged him to drop out of the race for daring to run against a Somali contender.
Other recent electees, such as East Orange County City Councilman Mustafa Al-Mutazzim Brent, have weaponized identity politics and take a militant tone. The New Jersey councilman believes that "White America has been at war with black America since 1619," and that President Trump should be "executed" rather than impeached.
Although Johnson-Harrell won't be around to stump for her Islamist patrons, a growing coalition of like-minded Muslim lawmakers stand ready to advance the same agenda. For now, they seem to be content to work in partnership with the Left and within America's democratic institutions to effect change. But as their influence grows, let us not be surprised to see them jettison their progressive ideals and revert to regressive, fundamentalist principles.
Benjamin Baird is coordinator for the Middle East Forum's Islamism in Politics project.