The No. 2 official at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., is scheduled to speak Sunday at an event co-hosted by Concerned Women for America — a group with a long history of fermenting the “creeping Sharia” conspiracy theory.
Reuven Azar, the deputy head of mission at the Israeli embassy, is listed as a confirmed speaker, along with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and CWA CEO and president Penny Nance, for Sunday’s Rally for Israel at Upper Senate Park near the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
One of CWA’s core issues is support for Israel — but another pet project for the group has been fighting the alleged specter of Sharia law that is threatening to undermine American values and, ultimately, the existence of the United States.
Azar’s participation in the event drew criticism from Matt Duss, formerly of the liberal Center for American Progress and now the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, a non-profit that advocates for a two-state solution.
“They bring a lot of anti-Muslim baggage. It’s obviously fine for them to be pro-Israel, but they’ve got many examples that show a real hostility to Islam and trafficking in this conspiracy theory,” Duss told TPM on Friday. “There’s a real problem with a representative of the Israeli government showing up and simply by virtue of appearing there giving the official Israeli government imprimatur to an event with a group like this.”
A brochure posted on the CWA website, entitled “Sharia Law: A Threat To American As We Know It,” is typical of the genre. It warns that “Sharia is a comprehensive system governing all life,” under which women become second-class citizens and people can be executed for blasphemy.
“Wall Street is becoming enmeshed in sharia,” the brochure, uploaded in 2013, says. “For those who believe Islamist ideology, ‘Islam is not merely a religious doctrine, but a comprehensive socio-economic and political system,'” it explains, quoting other anti-Sharia literature.
Tom Lynch, director of mission advancement for the Thomas More Law Center, encapsulated the conspiracy in an April 26, 2012, podcast with CWA. In it, Islam, not just radical Islam or Islamic extremism, is portrayed as a fundamental and very real threat to the American way of life.
Lynch said that “an internal subversion, or what we call a stealth jihad” is already underway.
“Today, the Trojan Horse here in America in Islam. It’s entered America disguised as a religion,” he said. “Its ultimate objective is political, and that’s to destroy America and establish an Islamic nation under Allah and Sharia law.”
Duss reported in 2013 for Think Progress that CWA has been one of the groups advancing anti-Sharia legislation in states like North Carolina, which they claim would “protect the infiltration of Radical Islamic Sharia Law into North Carolina’s public policy and judicial system.”
As recently as this week, the group’s legislative action committee has posted items warning about Sharia law on its Facebook page.
CWA confirmed to TPM on Friday that Azar was still scheduled as a speaker, but did not respond to follow up questions regarding its position on Sharia. The Israeli embassy did not respond to TPM’s requests for comment.
Dylan Williams, director of government relations at J Street, a non-profit that advocates for a two-state solution, told TPM that the Israeli embassy was free to send Azar to the event, but criticized CWA’s views on Islam.
“I’m not going to comment on the propriety of the Israeli embassy sending an official to this event,” Williams said. “But with respect to the views of the group, it’s troubling to see anybody stoking the fires of hate and intolerance no matter what. It’s especially troubling to us as pro-Israel advocates that any group which claims to be pro-Israel would be doing that to further their aims.”