Sarah Posner: Religious War Comes to CPAC

CPAC really isn’t the friendliest place for Muslims to be.

Religious War Comes to CPAC

by Sarah Posner

(Nation)

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual three-day parade of GOP presidential hopefuls delivering paeans to God, country and capitalism, was this year embroiled in a full-scale, intra-party religious war. The conservative movement, according to a group of Islamophobic activists, has been taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood, which they claim supports Sharia, “a supremacist program that justifies the destruction of Christian churches and parishioners” and “the replacement of our constitutional republic…with a theocratic Islamic caliphate governing according to shari’ah.”

That charge came straight out of a flyer handed to me by Krista Hughes, an employee of the Center for Security Policy (CSP), whose president Frank Gaffney is one of the principal ringleaders in the rightwing propaganda campaign to strike fear in Americans’ hearts that a fifth column of Muslim extremists seeks to subvert America from within.

At CPAC, Gaffney’s chief target is Suhail Khan, a former Republican House staffer, Bush administration political appointee and current Senior Fellow at an evangelical think tank focused on religious freedom. Khan, a self-described devout Muslim who serves on the board of the American Conservative Union, CPAC’s organizer, is a conservative through and through. Raised in the San Francisco Bay area, he told me the atmosphere at UC Berkeley, where he attended college, turned him off and led him to his current political persuasion. But Khan’s conservative cred is of no moment to Gaffney, who has waged war against him as well as conservative movement icon Grover Norquist, also an ACU board member, because, Gaffney insists, they are both in league with anti-American Islamists.

Khan, who told me earlier this year that CPAC had shunned Gaffney because he is a “crazy bigot,” has withstood a barrage of Gaffney’s conspiratorial histrionics, which are reminiscent of the charge by John Birch Society founder Robert Welch that Dwight Eisenhower was a secret communist agent.

 

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