Why Muslims have so little clout

The heart of Byron's and my story on Muslim worry about Pete King's coming hearings was the hard-to-explain political weakness of American Muslims, a decade after 9/11 brought a lot of discussion about galvanizing it. It's a slice of a long, complicated, and interesting story:

...community leaders who spoke to POLITICO are afraid that their fragmented community is not ready for this fight.

“This could be a very damaging hearing. It really could be something that spreads a lot of vitriol and poison, and I’m worried about it, and I don’t understand why the community has decided to allow itself to be so unorganized,” said Hussein Ibish, former communications director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee who is now a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine.

“Nearly all Muslim organizations need ... new political leadership, simply because most of the leadership continues to be from the immigrant community. English continues to be not their first language, and their primary education was obtained elsewhere, before they came to the United States,” said Fadl. “Eventually, they’ll learn.”

One group that is ready to debate the likes of King and Jasser on cable — CAIR — has not been invited to testify.

“If I saw the hearings were sober and objective, I’d have no concerns,” said Corey Saylor, CAIR’s legislative director. “But King is opting for a political circus approach.”

The group, which has roots in the Hamas-allied Islamic Association for Palestine in the 1980s, was named as an unindicted cohort in the federal prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development for allegedly conspiring to aid Hamas.

And though it fiercely denies any affinity to radicalism — and while the latter designation was formally lifted last year — those two facts have put it largely beyond the political pale.

“No one in Washington will deal with CAIR except the [American Civil Liberties Union] — which deals with everyone,” lamented a prominent official at one putatively allied group, adding that the group’s past makes it “radioactive.”

Saylor dismissed the alleged Hamas link as a “smear,” as well as the claim that community leaders don’t encourage cooperation with the authorities.

“We consistently advise constitutionally informed cooperation with law enforcement. That is pretty standard for a civil rights group,” he said in an e-mail.

But between CAIR on one end and Jasser and Hirsi Ali on the other is a wide abyss in terms of organized political activity — despite the efforts of half of a dozen small groups.

Organizations like the Islamic Society of North America represent, in theory, hundreds of thousands of American Muslims. But many of those Muslims have little interest in political activity and little ability to project themselves on the political stage. Officials of the society declined to comment on the King hearings.

And the community remains defined as much by sectarian, ethnic and political divisions between groups as by what they have in common.

The community's most prominent figure at the moment, Ground Zero mosque planner Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, is a Sufi, whose ties to interfaith leaders are stronger than those to his fellow Muslim leaders.