We know about the views of the two main presidential nominees on Islam and Islamism; but what about their vice presidential partners, Governor Mike Pence and Senator Tim Kaine? They see these issues in fundamentally different ways.
On July 17 in an interview with 60 Minutes, Pence said, “Our nation has been in a struggle with people inspired by radical Islam…They are attempting to build a Caliphate in Syria.” Although Pence has friendly relations with the Indiana Muslim community – he hosted an Iftar dinner in 2014 with the Muslim Alliance of Indiana - there are no records of him ever receiving campaign contributions from prominent Islamists.
In contrast, Kaine’s record and rhetoric leave much to be desired. For example, the Washington Post reported that on July 21, the day before Kaine would learn of his selection, he was “addressing a group of Muslim and other faith leaders at a Muslim center…he lamented how Muslims have been targeted by struggling Americans.”
What could have influenced Kaine to see anti-Muslim bigotry as a bigger problem than Islamist violence?
Money, for one thing. A recent review of Kaine's campaign donations by the Middle East Forum's Islamist Money in Politics project revealed that he received $3,500 from the Islamist advocate Dr. Hisham Altalib during his 2012 run for Senate. Other prominent Islamists who followed Altalib’s lead include leaders of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC,) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who together brought the total amount of Islamist money donated to Kaine to $7,800.
Kaine’s relationship with Islamist groups illustrates the effectiveness of a large-scale campaign by Islamists to influence our political system. To see the big picture, we need to understand the role played by Islamist communal organizer Dr. Jamal Barzinji, and his associates Altalib and M. Yaqub Mirza, in orchestrating a web of influence known as the SAAR Network.
Barzinji, who passed away in 2015, was an energetic builder of many prominent American Muslim community institutions. Among the influential organizations Barzinji helped found are the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a think tank formed in 1981; and the SAAR Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit created in 1983. Altalib and Mirza were also co-founders of both of these organizations. Altalib is one of the key officers of the IIIT, while Mirza is primarily a businessman and asset manager.
The SAAR Foundation, which was ostensibly a charitable organization, was in fact the nucleus of a vast web of purported charities, nonprofits, and financial firms, which law-enforcement officials called the “SAAR Network.” A federal affidavit detailed how Altalib, Mirza, Barzinji, and fellow collaborator Abdurahman Alamoudi (who was later convicted of trying to assassinate Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah) used their shared control over dozens of companies and nonprofits to funnel money to allied Islamist organizations.
Starting in 2009, people and organizations within the SAAR Network began making donations to the New Dominion PAC (NDP), the Arab-American PAC that had supported Kaine’s gubernatorial run in 2005. The NDP received $500 directly from Barzinji, $1,000 from Altalib, $2,000 from Mirza, $500 from the SAAR-Network firm Mar-Jac Investments, $1,000 from Sterling Management Group, $2000 each from the purported charities York Foundation and Sterling Charitable Fund, $4000 from Reston Investments, $6,000 from Mena Investments, and $10,000 from the IIIT itself. In total, known SAAR-Network entities provided nearly $30,000 to NDP, almost 10% of its total lifetime funding.
Given such “generosity,” it comes as no surprise that the NDP gave Barzinji a Lifetime Achievement Award during its “candidates' night” in 2011, at which Kaine spoke. Whatever the initial intentions of NDP during its earliest years, it seems that it has become aligned with the SAAR Network’s Islamist agenda—which is now able to influence Kaine directly.
What have the Islamists received in return for their support in lifting Kaine to the Senate? Consider Pence and Kaine’s differing positions on whether to accept Syrian refugees into the United States. Kaine has been one of the most outspoken U.S. senators calling for America to accept more refugees from the conflict in Syria, dismissing the argument that accepting more refugees will make Americans less safe. The threat comes from ISIS, not from the refugees, Kaine says, and to tar all refugees with the same brush is to fall prey to bigotry. Kaine does say that a vetting process is important to filter out dangerous refugees, but FBI Director James Comey has said that American agencies often lack the data to carry out effective vetting.
By contrast, Pence attempted to block the Federal funding of Syrian refugee resettlement in Indiana (though a Federal judge ruled against him in February).
Kaine, like many political leaders, has been dangerously complacent regarding the creeping normalization of Islamism. In his efforts to be inclusive of marginalized voices, Kaine has uncritically accepted the support of radicals who claim to speak for the broad Muslim community—allowing Islamists greater influence over his policies. Rather than fostering tolerance, this has actually held American Muslims hostage to radicalism. It is not fair to them, and it is not safe for the country.