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Trump’s cabinet picks deepen concerns over anti-Islamic White House

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Donald Trump (L) speaks alongside retired US Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn during a campaign town hall meeting in Virginia Beach, Virginia, September 6, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

The cabinet appointments of US President-elect Donald Trump have signaled his intention to deliver on his hard-line campaign promises and deepened concerns among Muslim Americans about an anti-Islamic White House.  

American civil rights organizations and Muslim leaders said Friday they were disturbed by Trump’s national security picks noted for harshly anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Some current and former US government officials are also concerned that Trump’s appointments could reinforce perceptions among Muslims that Washington is at war against the Islamic religion.

The news of the appointments come as the United States has seen a dramatic rise in hate crimes against Muslims and other minorities following Trump’s victory in the presidential election.

On Friday, retired US Army lieutenant general Michael Flynn accepted Trump’s offer to serve as national security adviser. Flynn has a history of making incendiary and Islamophobic statements that have drawn criticism from his own military peers.

US Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama and the president-elect’s designee for attorney general, has supported Trump’s call for a temporary halt on Muslim immigrants entering the country.

And Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Kansas and Trump’s pick for CIA director, has accused Muslim leaders across the US of not doing enough to stand up to terrorism. He has also been an outspoken critic of the nuclear agreement with Iran.

This AFP combination of pictures (L to R) US Representative from Kansas Mike Pompeo, Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and Senator Jeff Sessions.

The naming of Trump’s picks for CIA director, national security adviser and attorney general has drawn public condemnations from Muslim leaders and civil rights advocates.

“All Americans should be really concerned,” said Talib M. Shareef, who serves as imam and president of Washington’s Masjid Muhammad, the US capital’s oldest mosque, The Washington Post reported.

Shareef, a US Air Force veteran, said he worried that the appointments of Flynn, Sessions and Pompeo would alienate US allies as well as American Muslims serving in the military and in government.

Trump’s picks have largely echoed the views of the president-elect himself, who at various points in his presidential campaign used anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), likened such views to a “kind of raw bigotry that would disqualify anyone from serving in public office.”

“Why it’s okay to be an anti-Muslim bigot and have a powerful post in the administration is a mystery,” Hooper said.

Hooper described Flynn as “beyond the pale" who should not be in public office. "We can only imagine what policies will flow from the fact that he believes Islam is a cancer, and that he’s been at war with Islam.”

Human rights and civil rights groups have warned the rhetoric of Trump and his designees will drive support for extremist groups in the US and alienate US allies in the Middle East.

“The danger is that they’re going to pass legislation that not only alienates Muslim countries on which we depend for our security, but also it may alienate American Muslims and push them in the direction of our enemies,” said Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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