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US civil groups raise concerns over congressional committee chair's anti-Muslim comments

Mark Green, who was appointed chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, previously called for a ban on Syrian refugees
Congressman Mark Green speaks to reporters after being elected to be the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee on 9 January 2023.
Congressman Mark Green speaks to reporters after being elected chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, on 9 January 2023 (AFP)

Muslim advocacy groups are raising concerns over the appointment of Congressman Mark Green to the chair of the House's Homeland Security Committee, saying the lawmaker has a history of anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Green, a physician, Iraq War veteran and former GOP state senator in Tennessee, is set to lead the committee after being selected by House Republicans earlier this week.

Muslim organisations, however, have stated the lawmaker is unfit to serve on the committee, given his previous statements on Muslims and the Islamic faith.

“Rep. Green’s well-documented history of hate speech against Muslims, LGBTQ people, and immigrants made him unfit to be Secretary of the Army, and that history makes him unfit to chair the House Homeland Security Committee,” Sumayyah Waheed, senior policy counsel at Muslim Advocates, a national civil rights group based in Washington, told the Huffington Post.

“As chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, Mark Green is a threat to Muslims - especially to those that live at the intersections of the communities he has gleefully attacked for political gain.”

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At a 2016 meeting of the Tea Party - a conservative political movement within the Republican Party that began in 2009 - Green told an audience that he did not want public school students in Tennessee to learn about Islam.

During that meeting, one audience member said that “we need to take a stand on the indoctrination of Islam in our public schools”. To which Green responded, “I agree.”

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“We have to teach the history of the Ottoman Empire, Mecca, Medina, and all of the assault of Islam out into the Levant and North Africa, and Constantinople,” he said, using the phrase “Muslim horde” to describe the spread of Islam.

“But, when you start teaching the pillars of Islam, when you start teaching how to pray as a Muslim, that is over the top and we will not tolerate that in this state.”

In 2015, during his time as a Tennessee state senator, Green also called for a ban on Syrian refugees entering his state.

“If you hold stereotypes about communities, how can you effectively move on issues that are really nuanced and require a greater understanding of the issues?” Sabina Mohyuddin, the executive director of the American Muslim Advisory Council, a Tennessee-based civic engagement group, told the Huffington Post.

 Rachel Del Guidice, Green's communications director, told Middle East Eye that some media outlets "cut and spliced his words about terrorism and ISIS, falsifying what Rep. Green said". 

"Rep. Green has not, and will not ever, force his religion on anyone. He believes that every American has a right to defend their country," Del Guidice said. "Vilifying people of faith because they don’t agree with progressive policies is against America’s founding principles - the very principles he fought to protect," she added. 

In 2017, Green had similarly been scrutinised by Muslim organisations after he was nominated by then-President Donald Trump to be the secretary of the army. He ended up withdrawing from consideration.

In addition to Green, House Republican leadership has been accused of Islamophobia after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said that he was sticking to his promise about removing Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from her position on the foreign affairs committee.

Omar, who is Muslim, has a history of facing Islamophobic attacks and death threats since being elected to office in 2018.

“I do not actually think that he has a reason outside of me being Muslim and thinking I should not be,” Omar told the Huffington Post on Wednesday. “If you look at the comments from Republicans, it’s precisely for only that reason.”

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