Senator Ted Cruz announced his team of national security advisers on Thursday, including a prominent anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist and several members of an organization that has been described as a hate group.
Cruz's list includes Frank Gaffney, the founder of the Center for Security Policy, a think tank notorious for having extreme views on Islam. The center argues, among other things, that hundreds of thousands of American Muslims support Islamist violence in the US and that Muslim-Americans are engaging in a conspiracy to replace our current legal system with Sharia law. Gaffney is known for peddling many of these ideas himself, including that President Obama is a secret Muslim who was elected in part thanks to the "Jihadist vote" and that Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the US.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization that monitors white nationalism in the US, plans to label the Center for Security Policy a "hate group" and has called Gaffney a "noted Islamophobe."
Gaffney has not only accused Obama of being a secret Muslim, he also said that both Grover Norquist, the anti-tax conservative hero, and former CIA director General David Petraeus, were "submitting" to Sharia law.
Even conservative voices have said Gaffney and his ideas are extreme. Mitt Romney has criticized Gaffney's assertions that Sharia law is spreading in the US.
Some other members of Cruz's new national security team agree and oppose Gaffney's views. Cruz also named Mary Habeck as an advisor. Habeck is expert on jihadist groups and a former member of George Bush's national security team, who has warned against demonizing the entire religion of Islam as having the same ideology as extremist groups. Elliott Abrams, who served in both President Ronald Reagan's and George Bush's administrations, has also said that Muslims should not be universally vilified.
Another figure on Cruz's list of advisors is Michael Ledeen, a scholar at the neoconservative think tank Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Ledeen, too, has made some controversial comments in the past, including admiringly quoting the Italian writer Luigi Barzini on the importance of America to "efficiently dominate subject peoples."
In a statement announcing his team of advisors, Cruz said he was proud to have a "range of respected voices" in the national security community to help advise him. Cruz added that the 23 advisors on his list were a group of "trusted friends."
"After two terms of a failed Obama-Clinton foreign policy, our allies are confused and frightened, and our enemies are looking for opportunities," Cruz's statement read.
Cruz is not the only Republican candidate leaning on Gaffney and his views of Islam. When Trump proposed temporarily banning Muslims from entering the US last year, he cited research by Gaffney's group. He said a quarter of Muslims in the US supported violent jihad, a figure that came from a 2015 survey of Muslims conducted by the Center for Security Policy, but isn't supported by other polling.
Cruz said at the time that "everyone understands" Trump's proposed Muslim ban. But he did not support it himself, saying there are millions of Muslims who are not murderous. Instead, Cruz has introduced legislation in the Senate to stop refugees from some predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.
Trump has largely rebuffed journalists' inquiries about whether he will name a formal team of foreign policy and national security advisers and the few policy proposals he has put forth have been widely criticized by national security experts. Trump recently said that one of his main advisers for foreign policy and national security matters is himself.
Additional reporting from Reuters News Agency.
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