STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — August 16, 2010. What do angry labor leaders, frustrated health care recipients, disgusted anti-war activists, stunned “Jewish money” donors and now — protesters decrying an “Islamophobic Witchhunt” — have in common? Mike McMahon.
In a statement released last week a “diverse group of activists” said that, “As the elected representative of the 13th District, Congressman McMahon is encharged with upholding the principle of equal treatment for ALL, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. When he called for federal information on the Muslim religious organization MAS, he violated that core principle, and in so doing, pandered to the worst forces of bigotry. Would he have made the same request if it were a Christian or Jewish organization that wanted to build a house of worship? Is Representative McMahon prepared to investigate the anti-Muslim hate groups that breed a growing atmosphere of intolerance and racism from coast to coast?”
The statement was issued prior to a demonstration that the aggrieved activists held at McMahon’s Staten Island office on Friday the 13th. One version of the statement went out with the headline Protest Rep. McMahon Islamophobic Witchhunt
What made the protesters mad?
ALLEGED AFFILIATIONS AND FBI INVESTIGATIONS
The Muslim American Society wanted to build a mosque on Staten Island. Some local community members claimed that the group had ties to a U.S. branch of the “Muslim Brotherhood.” The “U.S. Muslim Brotherhood” is apparently an organization so secret that one on can prove it exists, except in the extreme right wing of the blogosphere where it is mentioned constantly.
Rather than meet with the MAS, to determine their intentions and ask about their affiliations, McMahon told the Staten Island Advance he would do a check on the group. He then asked the FBI to investigate. The Bureau, according to McMahon, eventually told the Congressman that the MAS “appears harmless.” But the furor and the investigation caused the Catholic Archdiocese to cancel the sale of its closed convent to the MAS — and without a property to build on, the mosque plan was scrapped. Protesters accused McMahon of pandering, of using Islamophobia as an election year ploy.
An initial protest, against Islamophobia, was held at the site of the proposed mosque. But protesters, angry with their congressman, decided that they needed to put a finer point on his behavior, and they called a second protest. This time the protest was held outside the congressman’s office.
As the sun set on Friday, a dozen protesters holding signs were watched by two cops from the 122 Precinct as drivers passing by honked in support — while others hurled the occasional epithet. One driver called the protesters “a bunch of Muslims.” The protesters were a mix of faiths — with a couple of atheists thrown in.
The protesters argued that “McMahon should have stood up for the Muslim community. Instead he chose to disrespect them by appeasing those who use anti-Islamic hysteria as a political tool. By calling the Federal government, he a gave a nod to those who make it their life’s work to point an accusing finger at American Muslims, and engaged in an Islamophobic witchhunt. He played enabler to a movement of anti-Mosque fear and bigotry that now sweeps the country and demands national headlines.”
MCMAHON’S ALIENATED CONSTITUENTS — AND THE “JEWISH MONEY” BLUNDER
Mike McMahon, known for his non-committal, “centrist,” rhetoric and conservative voting record angered labor leaders when he voted against President Obama’s hhealth care reform package. Earlier today several news services reported that the AFL-CIO decided not to endorse McMahon “at this time.” SEIU1199 and the Working Families Party have made less equivocal decisions to yank their endorsements of the conservative Democrat.
Peace groups are also frustrated with McMahon’s support for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
In perhaps what is the most damaging blow to McMahon’s re-election effort, his former campaign spokesperson, Jennifer Nelson, released a list of “Jewish money” — i.e. campaign donors to McMahon’s rival Michael Grimm — to the New York Observer. McMahon fired the staffer but the news went viral and googling for “McMahon Jewish Donors” turns up over 1 million hits.
Can McMahon survive labor troubles, a pro-war voting record, and the “Jewish money” flap? Perhaps…perhaps his “Islamophobic Witchhunt” is an effort pander to those voters who haven’t yet jumped ship.