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Why Mike Pompeo's Views On Muslims Keep Coming Up In His Confirmation Hearing


Mike Pompeo's nomination to be secretary of state has been controversial. Even though he appears to have the votes for confirmation, he might not get a majority in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. One issue that has come up in his confirmation hearings is his view on Muslims. He has a history of making incendiary comments. For example, when he was the Kansas congressman in 2013, months after the Boston Marathon bombing, he said this on the floor of the House.


MIKE POMPEO: When the most devastating terrorist attacks on America in the last 20 years come overwhelmingly from people of a single faith and are performed in the name of that faith, a special obligation falls on those that are the leaders of that faith. Instead of responding, silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts.

SHAPIRO: In fact several American Muslim groups had condemned the bombings. Another notable comment a few years ago speaking to a church group in his hometown of Wichita, Pompeo said this about what he said was a minority of Muslims who want to wipe Christians from the Earth.


POMPEO: These folks are serious, and they abhor Christians and will continue to press against us until we make sure that we pray and stand and fight and make sure that we know that Jesus Christ as our savior is truly the only solution for our world.

SHAPIRO: Wa'el Alzayat is a former State Department official who argues that a secretary with these views would be dangerous. He now leads the Muslim-American activist group Emgage Action, and he joins us now in the studio. Hi There.


SHAPIRO: Emgage Action sent a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee opposing Pompeo's nomination. You said he has a disturbingly high level of ease in vilifying Muslims. Why do you believe this is a dangerous quality in a secretary of state and not just a quality you disagree with?

ALZAYAT: You know, beyond the troubling remarks and the insensitivity they demonstrate, this is somebody who is supposed to represent the best of America. And our foreign interlocutors will include many people from Muslim nations who may really become suspicious of the intentions of not only him but the government he represents whenever we're trying to deal with them and engage with them on often sensitive, difficult issues, from counter-terrorism to combating child labor. So I find that to be problematic. And this is exactly the kind of rhetoric that violent, radical terrorist organizations use to instigate their followers to carry out attacks against their own citizens and our country.

SHAPIRO: In Pompeo's confirmation hearing, Democratic Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts mentioned the comment we heard a moment ago about Muslims being potentially complicit. And Markey pointed out that many Boston Muslim groups did condemn the attacks. Here's how Pompeo responded.


POMPEO: It is true that many leaders spoke out about it. I'm not sure that we ever get to a point where it's enough.

SHAPIRO: What do you think of that response?

ALZAYAT: It really upsets me. So what is enough for Pompeo? What does he exactly seek? Is he asking us to leave our religion, which will be unconstitutional? Is he asking us to simply leave the country? It's our country.

SHAPIRO: Many of his controversial comments came from his time as a congressman, not as the head of the CIA. And in fact people at the CIA have said that he worked hard there to establish strong partnerships with Muslim countries. And we have not heard concerns from the leaders of Muslim countries about his nomination. Why should American Muslims be concerned if those countries are not?

ALZAYAT: Well, first of all, it's customary for countries to refrain from comments because it is seen as interference in domestic politics of another nation. But, you know, those comments that he made - he never repudiated them. He could have said, you know, in the heat of the moment, I said something that I now regret. I understand that the majority of Muslims are patriotic and condemn and have condemned terrorism. But he didn't. And I really call on the Senate not to approve him until he does that or, at a minimum, raise these issues of his vote comes to the floor.

SHAPIRO: That's Wa'el Alzayat. He's a former State Department official who now leads the Muslim-American activist group Emgage Action. Thanks for joining us.

ALZAYAT: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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