Muslim legal advocacy and support groups lobbying Congress are having an impact on political candidacy and decision-making – in a way that's affecting national security.
Benjamin Baird is deputy director of the Middle East Forum's (MEF) Islamist Watch project. He tells OneNewsNow two different types of platforms typically are involved – and they are definitely influencing American elections and more.
"On the one hand," Baird says, "there are Muslim American organizations that are Islamist, and have ties in most cases to the Muslim Brotherhood or South Asian Islamist movements." Some of these groups, he explains, are financing elections and "get out the vote" drives – and in addition are providing questionnaires to current lawmakers as well as potential candidates.
"They ask them questions that coincide with their agenda," Baird observes, explaining that questions like "How do you feel about immigration?" and "How do you feel about counterterrorism?" are common. Responses are then published – and if the answers fit the narrative, certain candidates are endorsed, he adds.
"In the past few years, these Muslim American groups have given huge sums of money to elections – not just federal elections, but also local and state," Baird points out. He considers some of them to be incredibly involved at the local level.
On the other hand, Baird says the second type of platform can be named "civil society organizations." For example, he considers the National Iranian American Council and Turkish Heritage Organization to be civil society organizations.
"They represent foreign regimes and attempt to influence American politics to the benefit of their regimes," the project coordinator explains – and in the process cause "a lot of concern with national security, as these regimes are so often friendly with jihadist organizations."
According to Baird, political action committees (PACs) are one of the many streams of funding for these platforms.
"In 2010, for instance, Citizens United [v. FEC] was court case that allowed foreign corporate entities to fund American elections," he offers. "[And as a result] foreign corporations that are close to regimes in Ankara and in Tehran are participating."
"There are also Muslim Americans living in the United States who have their own corporations here in the U.S. that are also very tied to foreign regimes – and some of these people are undoubtedly influencing elections on not just the federal level but the local level."
Both of these platforms – Muslim American and civil society organizations – can be tied to foreign regimes and lobby lawmakers, Baird notes.
Tied to the Iranian regime, one such civil society organization is the aforementioned NIAC, Baird shares. He explains that a previous court case revealed NIAC was "working with an Iranian foreign minister, setting up congressional meetings in 2015 at the height of when the JCPOA [the Iranian nuclear deal] was being considered."
Through the years, Baird says, "they've become increasingly involved in lobbying American lawmakers to limit [the country's] ability to respond to Iran." For example, at the height of tensions with Iran after a U.S. drone was shot down above the Strait of Hormuz in June 2019, the NIAC was lobbying lawmakers to limit the president's war powers.
He continues, pointing out that in recent years "Iran [was seeing] some of the largest mass protests in their country since the 1979 Islamic revolution – with a real chance of regime change."
While U.S. sanctions were the culprit of mass protests against the tyrannical regime, NIAC lobbied Congress to eliminate the sanctions, he points out.
More recently, during the Democratic primaries, the Army veteran says each candidate was questioned about their stance on the Iran nuclear deal. With this information, he says, "they released endorsements for those candidates who backed it and basically criticized anyone that didn't support it."
All things considered, Baird says, "[NIAC has made] great strides in trying to limit both our diplomatic and military response to Iran."
A second civil society organization is the Turkish Coalition of America, according to Baird. "They've been putting money into a lot of local and federal elections – and by local, [he is referring to] schoolboards, city councils, and county commissioners.
"Obviously, it's really a problem when a foreign regime is having an impact at all these down-ballot races," the MEF project coordinator says. "Small elections are being influenced by foreign governments."
All these funding efforts and lobbying efforts are affecting national security, Baird argues.
"On the surface, many of these Muslim American and civil society organizations may seem like they're simply supporting progressive ideals [and] in some cases they may be supporting far left policies – but underneath it all, there are real national security concerns here," he explains.
When these types of platforms are at work, the talk about pro-immigration and open borders, Baird contends their agenda has more to do with "opening up the country to receive immigrants from countries that have high populations of likeminded Muslims." All the while, he adds, they are also opposing America's counterterrorism efforts.
Specific to this topic, he goes on to mention the Coalition for Civil Freedoms (CCF), which he refers to as a "pay-to-slay organization, [because] they solicit donations that they can send to terrorists in jail." While it may be called a "Ramadan drive," for example, these funds ultimately incentivize acts of terrorism.
On top of that, Baird states, "a few months ago, [CCF] met with about 60 members of Congress to try to push legislation that would really undermine our ability to prosecute and investigate terrorism, [as] they wanted to make it so that we could not use undercover agents."
All these groups, and others like them, present "many national security concerns," Baird concludes.