The White House is considering officially designating more groups as foreign terrorist organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood—one of the Middle East’s oldest and most influential Islamic groups. We speak to Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Right. Well, I wanted to ask about another issue, which is that the Trump administration is now reportedly discussing an order, another executive order, to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Some of Trump’s advisers have long viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as a radical faction coming into the United States to promote Sharia law. Among its most vocal critics has been Breitbart News, which was previously headed by Steve Bannon, now Trump’s chief White House strategist. Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy spoke to Breitbart News last week, urging Trump to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
FRANK GAFFNEY: I hope he’ll do it, and I hope he’ll do it soon, the reason simply being that the Muslim Brotherhood, in many ways, is the leading edge of the global jihad movement worldwide. And I’m very heartened that the president has seemingly taken stock of this outfit, recognizes that they are a Sharia supremacist program that in fact has provided sort of the ideological impetus behind all of the other jihadist enterprises around the world.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Hina Shamsi, can you comment on that? What are the implications if this actually goes through and the Muslim Brotherhood is designated as a terrorist organization? And also the plans to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization?
HINA SHAMSI: You know, Nermeen, I think it’s important to understand that what were fringe anti-Muslim extremist views, that have existed for a long time now, are now in the White House. And this has long been an endeavor of those with these fringe anti-Muslim extremist views, where they’ve sought designation of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is an entity that was founded in 1928 in Egypt, has effectively independent chapters that are political parties in different places—it’s a complicated thing. But they’ve sought designation in order then to target American Muslim civil society and its leaders with spurious guilt by association—you know, facts that quite simply do not exist in terms of alleged wrongdoing.
And I think the real concern here is, with respect to what’s going to happen domestically, is that this move may then open the door for the use of dangerous and overbroad material support investigation or prosecution, and the use of overbroad, vague and unfair terrorism designation or investigation schemes that are so broad, as I said, that they can sweep in innocents, individuals and organizations, and place them at risk of having their assets frozen, even while they’re under suspicion and investigation, and really one of the worst stigmas that exists in our society today, which is suspected terrorist.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: But how would people—how would the Trump administration make a link between the Muslim Brotherhood and American Muslims? Because it’s not obvious that there is any connection at all.
HINA SHAMSI: Yes.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: I mean, as you pointed out, it was founded in Egypt in the early 20th century. What’s the connection? Why would the Muslim Brotherhood, in particular, produce greater suspicion of American Muslims than the thousands of other things that already do?
HINA SHAMSI: It’s an excellent question. And it relates to a series of documents or allegations, one in particular, that go back to 1991, that have been discredited with respect to allegations of connections between the Muslim Brotherhood and U.S. Muslim people or organizations—at a time when there was nothing wrong with any of this, right? And so, when you actually look at the facts, there’s nothing there. But that doesn’t stop these extreme conspiracy theories. Now, they’ve advanced these theories, you know, for a while now, during the Bush demonstration and the Obama administration, and both administrations rejected these approaches based on bigotry and guilt by spurious association again. But I think there’s real concern that this administration is poised to act on it.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, we just have 30 seconds, but on the issue of the judges deliberating on the Muslim ban and Trump going on his rant against the judges, once again, calling the former judge that ruled originally a “so-called judge” and now talking about these deliberations as “disgraceful.”
HINA SHAMSI: What’s truly disgraceful and dangerous is these attacks on one of the pillars of our democracy, the judicial branch, which is necessary to serve as a check on executive abuses. And that is what’s at stake.
AMY GOODMAN: Hina Shamsi, we want to thank you very much for being with us, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. She published an article this week—we’ll link to it—”Flying Home from Abroad, a Border Agent Stopped and Questioned Me … About My Work for the ACLU.”
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, what happened yesterday on the floor of the Senate when Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced for reading the words of Coretta Scott King that she wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee 30 years ago, opposing Jeff Sessions, at the time, to be a federal judge? Stay with us.