Gephardt's Lack of Foresight Leaves Marayati Out in the Cold

The Jewish lobby is perhaps the most influential political entity in the United States today. How influential? Just ask Salaam Al-Marayati.

Marayati was nominated by House Minority Leader, Richard Gephardt (D-MO), to sit on the 10-member National Commission on Terrorism, only to have that nomination withdrawn Friday after concern was raised over the amount of time it would take to complete the background check required for his approval. But considering the barrage of vehement opposition to Marayati’s nomination from American Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Zionist Organization of America, there can be no doubt that background checks had little bearing on the reversal. Gephardt just buckled under pressure from the Jewish lobby.

Simply put, this is a travesty.

Salaam Al-Marayati is highly qualified and most necessary for the Commission. In his capacity as the executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Marayati has taken to the task of doing advocacy work for the American Muslim community in a manner that has been as mainstream, even-handed and objective as one can imagine. Gephardt recognized this and rightly put forth his nomination. So it is absolutely unacceptable that the objections of a paranoid, self-interest bloc could override the good name and strong qualifications of someone such as Marayati.

But even more disturbing than the nomination withdrawal itself, is the lack of foresight demonstrated by Gephardt and other politicians involved in this matter. The United States needs to recognize how crucial it is to have people like Salaam Al-Marayati participating in important efforts such as the National Commission on Terrorism. Gephardt should have paused to consider the invaluable perspective that possibly only someone such as Marayati could bring to this endeavor. And since this Commission could have far-reaching impact on the American Muslim community, it seems almost ludicrous to have it go forward without credible, informed, balanced input from someone such as Marayati.

Furthermore, Gephardt’s backpedaling cheapens the progress already made in Muslim-American relations. Indeed Muslims have made minor inroads in the realm of establishment acceptance; case in point -- Muslims being invited to the White House for recognition of Muslim religious festivals. But when the United States fails to recognize the importance of having a Muslim serve on the National Commission on Terrorism, invitations to the White House become nothing more than mechanisms of appeasement and patronization.

At some point logic must outweigh fear. Sure, for Gephardt and his Democratic cohorts, it is most definitely a scary proposition to buck the wishes of the Jewish lobby; especially with election year preparations in full swing. But the United States needs to wake up and realize that the American Muslim community will only grow stronger in the coming century. There are no longer "ifs" in the equation. Muslims will outnumber Jews in the United States. Muslims will become a force in American politics with which to be reckoned. So alienating Muslims now only works to create a future relationship that is adversarial instead of cooperative.

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