Muslims are uniquely qualified to help deter Islamist threats.
Mitt Romney tells good jokes. I had the chance to hear a few of them this month at a political fundraiser in Las Vegas, where the Republican presidential contender gave his audience a few good chuckles before going into his domestic and foreign policy agenda.
His platform seemed sound enough analytically – until he demonstrated an aggravating hypocrisy in his reply to my query on one of his key foreign policy positions. It's a stance that should give pause to all Americans who are considering voting for him.
I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, "…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration."
Romney, whose Mormon faith has become the subject of heated debate in Republican caucuses, wants America to be blind to his religious beliefs and judge him on merit instead. Yet he seems to accept excluding Muslims because of their religion, claiming they're too much of a minority for a post in high-level policymaking. More ironic, that Islamic heritage is what qualifies them to best engage America's Arab and Muslim communities and to help deter Islamist threats.
I am an American-born citizen of the Islamic faith. I stand as a living symbol of all that America offers in its system of liberty, justice, and, most of all, opportunity. I am also proud of my Muslim heritage and beliefs, and, true to the American work ethic, I have worked tirelessly to raise up the voices of disaffected Muslims everywhere and help them, too, share in America's promise.
As a private American citizen, I negotiated Sudan's offer of counterterrorism assistance to the Clinton administration in 1997 when the US government had no relations with that country's leaders. I felt there was still an opportunity at that time to unravel the metastasizing terror network being organized by Osama bin Laden and his followers.
I later initiated dialogue with an Arab counterintelligence official in the summer of 2000 that could have resulted in the extradition of Mr. bin Laden to a friendly Muslim country and neutralized Al Qaeda's pre-9/11 planning. That summer, I also helped negotiate a cease fire in Kashmir, which brought peace to a region that has known constant conflict since partition between India and Pakistan.