Conservative Rift Over Islam Goes Public
February 7, 2003 1:34PM EST
Conservatives clash on Muslim Bush aides
Ralph Z. Hallow
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published February 7, 2003
A dispute among prominent conservatives escalated yesterday over accusations that radical Muslims have improper access to the White House.
Veteran conservative activist Grover Norquist, credited with helping swing Muslim voters to support President Bush in the 2000 elections, has been accused of suppressing criticism of radical Islamic influence at the White House.
Influential national defense specialist Frank Gaffney and American Conservative Union President David A. Keene yesterday separately accused Mr. Norquist of employing "Stalinist tactics" against those who disagree with Mr. Norquist's role in brokering access to the Bush White House.
Mr. Norquist had accused Mr. Gaffney and some of his allies in the conservative movement of "racism" and religious bigotry.
But Mr. Gaffney and some other conservatives say they worry that Mr. Norquist, who has the ear of White House chief strategist Karl Rove, prevents moderate Muslims from presenting their views to the White House in person — a charge Mr. Norquist calls absurd.
Nonetheless, Mr. Gaffney says his "concern is that Grover is playing the role of enabler, I assume unwittingly, for the Wahhabist [radical Muslim] agenda and its penetration of our political system — and especially of the Bush White House," Mr. Gaffney said.
He said the dispute with Mr. Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform, "has come to a head because he has called me a racist and a bigot."
Mr. Norquist yesterday barred Mr. Gaffney from attending the regular Wednesday morning meetings of conservative Capitol Hill aides and interest-group representatives held in Mr. Norquist's L Street offices. The White House regularly sends a representative to the meetings, at which Mr. Rove has occasionally been the featured speaker.
In disputes with organizers of two recent conservative conferences, Mr. Norquist warned his critics to back off because Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove were on his side.
Norquist critics said that at various times he has told them that the president and Mr. Rove were angry with Mr. Gaffney and Middle East scholars Daniel Pipes and Steve Emory for, in Mr. Norquist's view, painting all American Muslims with the broad brush of radical Islamic terrorism.
"What I find troubling is not Grover's standing up for the rights of Muslim citizens, since they should have the same rights as rights as any other citizens, but that he used his contacts in the White House to try to silence anybody who doesn't agree with him," said Mr. Keene.
An aide yesterday said Mr. Rove was traveling and would not be able to comment on the Muslim-Norquist issue. Other White House sources characterized the airing of the issue as "not very helpful, especially now."
In a letter sent yesterday to Mr. Gaffney, Mr. Norquist accused him of impugning the loyalty of Ali Tulbah, an American Muslim and an associate director of Cabinet affairs in the White House.
"There is no place in the conservative movement for racial prejudice, religious bigotry or ethnic hatred," Mr. Norquist wrote. "This is the second time that a Muslim working for President George W. Bush has been subjected to an attack by you because of his faith. You have made similarly dishonest allegations against [public liaison official] Suhail Khan while he worked inside the White House."...
"The conservative movement cannot be associated with racism or bigotry ... therefore, until you have made a public apology to [Mr.] Tulbah, [Mr.] Khan and the president and these apologies have been accepted, I am afraid that your attendance at the Wednesday center-right coalition meeting ... can no longer be allowed."
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