A Houston-based group whose executive director has made numerous incendiary statements about his city’s mayor, President Obama and others is hosting a prominent but discredited anti-Muslim hysteric at an event later this month.
The Houston Area Pastor Council (HAPC), which honored Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (who is running for governor this year) with its “Faithful Citizenship Award” at a fundraiser last March, will host Kamal Saleem at a Jan. 30 luncheon at Houston’s First Baptist Church. An email from the HAPC today doesn’t make the topic of Saleem’s discussion clear, but the subject line calls him a “former Muslim Brotherhood member.” The message goes on to describe Saleem as “born to a large Sunni Muslim family in the Middle East,” “recruited by the Muslim Brotherhood,” and who “completed his first mission to Israel at the age of seven.” It goes on:
“Kamal was also recruited by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (The PLO) and other radical Muslim groups. The many years of his radical Islamist training, resulted in Kamal mastering every form of divisive extremist tactics.”
Following injury in an automobile accident, the email says, Saleem “has since become a man on a new mission, as an Ambassador for Christ, the one true and living God.”
Well, we’re all for opposing radicalism, Islamist or otherwise. But the HAPC’s description of Saleem appears to be more than a little misleading. In an article for CNN back in 2008, Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American scholar at the University of California-Riverside, described Saleem as one of “trio of self-proclaimed ex-terrorists … making the rounds of the lecture circuit, charging thousands of dollars for their fantastical tales of life as murderous Muslim extremists.” Aslan went on to explain how scholars and terrorism experts have discredited many of the claims made by Saleem and his anti-Muslim trio:
“(T)hese guys are not ex-terrorists at all but—wait for it—fundamentalist Christians posing as ex-terrorists. Their fervently anti-Islamic message, in which all Muslims are labeled as radicals, is a prelude to a testimony about how accepting Jesus into their hearts and becoming born again saved them from a life of terrorism.”
Our friends at Right Wing Watch have done a good job following Saleem and his career on the anti-Muslim hysteria circuit. Saleem claims that President Obama has created a stealth Islamic “shadow government” to control the United States and that gay people, “baby-killers,” communists and the “women’s movement” have entered into “unholy alliances” with Islam to oppose him (Saleem). He told an audience at the religious right’s Values Voter Summit in 2012 that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was working with governments in Islamic countries to undermine the Constitution and “subjugate American people to be arrested and put to jail and their churches and synagogues shut down.”
Of course, it’s not really surprising that the HAPC is hosting someone who promotes this trash. The group’s executive director, Dave Welch, says he opposes Muslims who seek leadership positions in government because “we have deep concerns about the loyalty of Muslims to the Constitution.” He claims President Obama is “anti-Christian” and “anti-American” and that pastors who acknowledge President Obama’s Christian faith are“much like the clergy of Hitlerian Germany and the ‘Positive Christianity’ that represented complete acquiescence to and control by the Nazi state.” He calls Houston’s openly lesbian mayor, Annise Parker, a “sodomite” and has warned of a “gay takeover” of his “sin sick” city. Moreover, Welch has praised a right-wing evangelist who in the past called Roman Catholicism “a false religion” and asserted that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. And last year he issued a call for “imprecatory prayer” (prayers calling on God to curse or bring calamity — even death and destruction — upon those perceived as wicked or as enemies) against supporters of same-sex marriage.
In short, Welch is a vicious political extremist who has invited a like-minded fanatic to speak to his group. As we said, no surprise. But we wonder: Is Greg Abbott still proud to have accepted an award from Welch’s group?