Ohio Muslims Launch Campaign Against Possible Lazio Appointment

(iviews.com) As Americans continue to watch the Florida elections saga unfold, it appears more and more likely that Texas Governor George W. Bush will be the next president. Now a group of Muslim American activists in Ohio are wasting no time in telling Bush who they would not want to see in his administration if he succeeds in his battle for the White House.

The United Muslim Association of Toledo has posted on its website (http://www.toledomuslims.com/umat/email/emailbush-lazio.htm) a pre-formed letter asking Bush to overlook New York Congressman Rick Lazio for any cabinet position, saying they do not want "a Bush victory to be tainted by the appointment of racists, bigots, and dividers to our cabinet."

The young congressman from Long Island failed in his bid for New York's open senate seat in the 2000 elections, but now speculation has surfaced that he may get a cabinet position under a Bush administration.

But Lazio may not get a cabinet seat without first facing serious opposition from America's increasingly vocal Muslim community. Lazio gained infamy in the Muslim American community after he challenged political campaign donations given to Hillary at a Boston fundraiser, calling it "blood money...from people who associate themselves with terrorism and violence in the Middle East". He further angered Muslim voters when campaign supporters made calls to New York voters suggesting that funds coming from Muslims were linked to the bombing of the USS Cole.

On the heels of his defeat at the polls, Muslim organizations expressed signs of relief. In a statement issued immediately after the elections, the Council on American Islamic Relations reported that Muslim-bashing failed as a tactic for candidates.

But not long after the election, Lazio was seen as targeting Muslims once again with legislation he co-sponsored in the House of Representatives. The proposed law, H.R. 5500, requires the US Attorney General to "establish an office in the Department of Justice to monitor acts of international terrorism allegedly committed by Palestinian individuals or individuals acting on behalf of Palestinian organizations."

Speculation among Toledo Muslims that the congressman could be appointed to the Bush White House came after conservative talk show host Sean Hannity suggested that Lazio would become the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. But a Bush spokesperson told iviews.com that such suggestions are mere speculation.

"Governor Bush and the Bush organization has not speculated on potential White House or cabinet or other appointments at this time, and we don't expect to do so until the election contest has been completed," said campaign spokesperson Ray Sullivan.

A call made to Lazio's congressional office was not returned.

Mohammed Alo, Secretary General of the United Muslim Association of Toledo, says he will not wait for any official announcement on Lazio.

"Our organization likes to predict events and react to them before they happen. As trite as the term "proactive" sounds, we try to embody that term. We keep our ears to the ground and encourage our readers to send out mail, make phone calls or send faxes to the appropriate individuals," said Alo, who also maintains the website.

In one week, nearly 200 e-mails were to the Bush camp, but Alo says he's hoping for more. "We want to flood the transition team with "No Lazio" e-mails and letters."

Leaders of several Muslim organizations have also met with individuals close to the Bush transition team. A spokesperson for the American Muslim Council confirmed that one if its members had met with a Bush official about the matter but declined to mention any other details.

The national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), Salam Al-Marayati, also told iviews.com he had expressed concerns about Lazio with someone "close to Bush" and said he was willing to spend his organization's political capital to fight such an appointment.

"Any time you have a situation which is detrimental [to the Muslim community], we have to make sure our voices are heard," said Al-Marayati.

If selected, Lazio would still have to be confirmed in the House and Senate. Still, Al-Marayati remains confident that Congress would not seriously consider someone "guilty of hate speech".

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