-By Timothy Bradberry, NFRA National Committeeman from Texas
On the morning of the first day at CPAC-2011, I was confronted by a major controversy that permeated the 38th annual gathering of conservative activists and wannabes. That is, the question of whether firstly moderate Muslims and secondly conservative gays are worthy of our embraced as fellow conservatives, assuming that they indeed are conservative on the major issues. Here’s my story:
The low down
I was walking into CPAC’s main meeting venue (the Marriott Ballroom) for the first time when a man handed me a goldenrod colored sheet(s) of paper with print on front and back (btw, I got the same offer every time I walked through that area and several other ingress/egress areas throughout the Washington Marriott Wardman Park hotel during the three day long conference). There were a number of questions on the sheet with two columns for answers (conveniently supplied), plus a bunch of paragraphs accusing the persons being targeted (sorry for the vitriol, but “target” is the best word to describe the purpose of this attack piece, this fatwa against assimilation). The first column, the “yes” column, had the first or last names of Grover Norquist and Suhail Khan. The second column, the “no” column, was headed “Reagan Republicans.” The questions were worded in such a way that all Reagan Republicans (as I joyfully confess to being among) would answer in the negative. In the Grover Norquist and Suhail Khan column all answers were listed as affirmative. Thus, these two American Conservative Union board members were presented as anything but “Reagan Republicans.” They were the primary targets of the fatwa (the severe denunciation).
Because it would be helpful to reference right now, I wish I had a copy of the fatwa in hand (here is a picture of the cover sheet) but I was a purest and refused to participate (in deference to Reagan’s 11th commandment) in the obvious character assassination of someone who has a long history as a staunch fiscal conservative and friend of the NFRA, Grover Norquist, along with his fellow American Conservative Union (ACU) board member, Suhail Khan. Instead, I gave my copy to Grover (who, upon me asking about them, denied the accusations) and at my own initiative I refused to accept additional copies offered to me during my many wanderings around CPAC. As I recall, the fatwa painted Grover, who serves on the Advisory Council to GOPride (a conservative gay Republican group), as sort of the conductor of an underground railroad transporting gay and Muslim (i.e. Muslim Brotherhood members and sharia law) sleeper cells into the ranks of the conservative movement and American society, thereby destroying the family through gay marriage and the imposition of a caliphate over our Judeo—Christian based society, via the radicalization of American Muslims.
But is that really GOPride’s and Grover/Khan’s agenda?
The heart murmur
I knew a bit about Grover, having met him at the 2007 National Federation of Republican Assemblies (NFRA) National Endorsement Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, but I had never heard of Khan. It didn’t help much that I could only attend CPAC on Thursday and then, after that, not again until Saturday afternoon (due to a research panel meeting on Friday that was unrelated to and displaced from CPAC, and due to an NFRA Board meeting on Saturday morning). So, I missed the opportunity to attend a session Khan chaired on Friday as well as the counter-insurgent session his opponents (the ones handing out the fatwa) held that day.
Having little or no information in hand I guess you could say I was flying blind by the seat of my heart, and my heart murmured to me that something did not add up about the fatwa. You see, Khan was identified widely as a moderate Muslim and I had spent the better part of Friday in a meeting facilitated and co-chaired by one such Muslim. I’ve known and worked/associated with many Muslims (from all over the world) throughout my over two decade career in structural engineering. I can only think of one that had a bad attitude about America (and he is long since gone—or been sent—back to his country). Actually, I am confident that there are many more Muslims I have associated with through my career whom I have not even tagged as Muslims (and even when I have so identify them, I forget their affiliation thereafter) because frankly the matter never comes up, unless they choose to explain why they can’t partake of the ham sandwich provided for lunch. :-) These Muslims are peace loving people like you and me who want to provide for their families and live their lives in freedom and prosperity (I do not mean to say that I think Islam is a religion of peace only that there are millions of moderate, peace loving Muslims in this world.)
By late Friday afternoon, though very exhausted, I was looking forward to the NFRA dinner at The Capitol Hill Club and had pretty much put the Grover-Khan controversy out of my very weary mind (weary from too little sleep on top of my day of research project oversight). I went back to the CPAC hotel (from the Courtyard Washington Convention Center where I was staying), only to lose my multi-day metro pass in the process :-(, and was once or twice again offered the goldenrod sheet of paper. After hanging out at CPAC a bit, I headed back to the metro (but not before being offered the goldenrod paper again) to buy a trip pass and take the metro from Wardman Park to the Capitol South station (right across the street from The Capitol Hill Club). I entered the club around 7:00 pm—excited to have the privilege—found the right room and sat down and began to socialize with the NFRA Board members and guests assembled. After a somewhat stilted conversation (stilted on my part) with a former legislator from South Carolina (very animated and quick witted man), who was sitting to my left, about why we should back the liberals in Taiwan (as the conservatives—the KMT—there were busy compromising Taiwan’s sovereignty and otherwise sucking up to China) I overheard my neighbors to my right talking trash about Muslims and how none of them could be trusted.
I did not think about the effects of the CPAC panel sessions that had been held earlier in the day since I was quite unaware of them—I have a bad habit of not reading meeting agendas, especially when I’m not planning to be in attendance. So, I don't blame them. I expect that my neighbors’ “fire in the belly” may have been stoked by this controversy at CPAC, perhaps by the aforementioned fatwa. As a Christian who has sutdied the world Christian movement (i.e., the spread of God's message of redemption throughout history through many different mechanisms by many different peoples), and as one who avoids conspiracy theories like the plague, I found myself at odds with my neighbor’s characterization of all Muslims as wanting to impose Sharia law on non-Muslims, though I’ve stumbled into that line of thinking myself before. I began to argue with my right wing neighbors (the ones on my right wing) over the question of “are there any moderate Muslims in the world?” I knew that there indeed are such Muslims because I have met, associated with, and collaborated professionally with many such before. I admitted that the Koran, if taken literally and in historical context, does not seem to leave open that possibility, but just as there are liberal Christians who read the Bible like it is some kind of allegory rather than as revelation (which is how I read it), there are Muslims who either don’t take the Jihadist and discriminatory aspects of the Koran literally or are simply cultural Muslims. But my arguments were of no avail. I could see that I had become anathema to my neighbors on the right. I imagined that in their minds they probably now view me as part of the Grover—Khan conspiracy, and that was before the resolution on GOPride was passed in the NFRA Board Meeting.
The board meeting
The dinner at The Capitol Hill Club did not end the seeming deconstruction of my conservative reputation, a reputation I risked for the sake of truth and in acknowledgment of a need to engage Muslim and gay conservatives who can partner with us on major issues, hopefully even socially conservative issues. Saturday morning, the NFRA Board Meeting was held in a sort of closet-like or cloakroom-like venue at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park hotel. After the presentations of the two bids for the NFRA National Endorsement Convention to be held in October or November of this year, and the selection of Des Moines, Iowa as the preferred location—over Rhode Island and Providence Plantations—it was time for resolutions. The first resolution up for considered had some vitriol that I felt was unnecessary and would make it difficult for the NFRA to effectively get our core social conservative message out—defending innocent life, traditional marriage and the family—because the media might caricature us as gay hating, like the America hating, American soldier funeral desecrating, un-Christian, so-called "Westboro Baptist Church" gay bashers, that the Supreme court nevertheless says have the right to their despicable behavior. After I basically lost it in the board meeting as the frustration of what I saw as unnecessary frothing over a trumped up fatwa against a known conservative and a host of wannabe conservatives who were being denied entrance out of fear rather than because of facts, the resolution was toned down a bit. The approved version is linked here.
The gay affirmation
I didn’t have to wait very long to hear someone who agreed with my take on the portion of the fatwa that was anti-gay. (I'm personally against gay sexual behavior and that has been my consistent position since College, but I'm not against gay people and what people do in private is none of my business.) Saturday afternoon, Ann Coulter, in response to a question from the floor about her friendliness with GOPride (from a GOPrider), explained that the group had agreed not to push for gay marriage after she challenged them on the issue, and that as an Evangelical Christian who is keenly aware that all are sinners, she sees no difference between gay sex and premarital hetero sex, as each act is in it’s own turn simply sin. She expressed great respect for gays who were chaste and who would make the sacrifice of remaining in that state for the sake of civilization (like the Apostle Paul remained unmarried for the sake of service to the Lord) because, as she put it elsewhere, “[traditional marriage is] a crucial linchpin of civilization that's already hanging by a thread.” She also joked, "I have a lot in common with the gays; we like the same music, the same cocktails, the same men..."
If you don’t believe gays can be conservatives, read this:
The debrief (what I am and am not saying)
Let me be clear here. I am not saying that I approve of CPAC allowing a self identified gay group to effectively sponsor the conference by paying for a booth and drawing attention to their status as gays. Like Ann Coulter, “[I] don't generally care for identity politics of any sort.” I am also not saying that I know for sure that Suhail Khan is a trustworthy conservative, no more radical than are the scores of moderate and otherwise peace-loving and freedom-loving Muslims I have encountered over the 27 years of my structural engineering career (starting in graduate school). I am also not saying that Grover Norquist’s Palestinian wife, Samah Alrayyes, who was born a Muslim, does not affect his outlook (I know she probably does, as my Taiwanese wife has fed my already established interest in advocating for Taiwan Independence—initially from a conservative based anti-communist stance and later out of a growing understanding of the suppression of and dilemma faced by the Taiwanese people).
Rather, I am simply saying that if politically active gays and Muslims who are vetted as conservatives (meaning they are found to be with us on the issues) are willing to go to the mat for our ideas, we should not issue a fatwa against them and so run them off into the open but death affirming arms of the left or of the Jihadists. As for the concern about a caliphate and the imposition of Sharia law in the United States, I have three words to offer, “Follow the Constitution”. It will not tolerate sharia law. Consider also these words from the Apostle Paul:
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.Therefore, I urge all conservatives to go out into the highways and byways, identify conservatives and compel them to join our efforts to advance conservative ideas. As you are going, be courageous and grow the conservative movement on a foundation of love, truth, freedom, liberty—in short the ideas and ideals of our Founders—rather than out of fear and prejudice.
—1 Corinthians 9:19-23