President Joe Biden has appointed a new liaison who will act as the White House spokesperson to the Muslim American community. Mazen Basrawi will pull double duties as Director of Partnerships and Global Engagement at the National Security Council (NSC), and Muslim-American Liaison in the White House Office of Public Engagement.
Basrawi’s appointment represents a tendency by the Biden administration to staff important administrative posts with Muslim American bureaucrats who are involved with Islamist organizations and extremist causes.
An April 13 article by Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, documents Basrawi’s attendance at an Islamic Society of North America conference in 2010 that featured some of the most radical figures in American Islamism. Then a member of the Obama administration’s Justice Department, Basrawi’s appearance was a tacit endorsement of Imam Siraj Wahhaj, a possible unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing who was honored at ISNA’s event.
ISNA was founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and federal prosecutors alleged the nonprofit was involved in a nationwide scheme to funnel millions of dollars to Hamas, a designated terrorist entity. A year prior to Basrawi’s appearance, ISNA’s annual convention included panelists who expressed extreme anti-Semitic positions and praised the terrorist group Hezbollah.
Greenfield’s short biography of Basrawi details his beginnings as a young activist who denounced the War on Terror, referring to it as an effort to demonize and criminalize Muslims. Later, he joined the Bay Area Association of Muslim Lawyers, a group established in the days following 9/11 to undermine counter-terrorism investigations.
“In a little over a decade, Basrawi has gone from attending an Islamist conference that featured some of the worst of the worst to a role at the National Security Council,” Greenfield wrote.
Biden pledged to staff his administration with Muslim Americans in a bid to establish one of the most diverse cabinets in U.S. history. Besides Basrawi, his hand-picked staff among the Muslim community have been fraught with controversial appointments.
The first of these was Reema Dodin, the Palestinian-American deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. As a young activist involved in the boycott movement targeting Israel, Dodin once sympathized with Palestinian “suicide bombers.” Sameera Fazili, deputy director of the National Economic Council, is deeply entangled with Kashmiri separatist groups such as Stand With Kashmir, an international network of radical intellectuals which openly praises and defends jihadist militants.
As for Basrawi, Greenfield offered a theory about why the White House would choose a member of the National Security Council to represent American Muslims. He argued that the Biden administration “sees Muslims in America as an adjunct of the foreign Muslim governments and Islamist entities whose cooperation it is trying to solicit.”
Islamist organizations around the country have praised the appointment, while pledging to work with Basrawi to fight “institutional Islamophobia” among federal law enforcement.
Benjamin Baird is the Director of MEF Action, a project of the Middle East Forum.