Does a Muslim Belong in the Cabinet?
Mansoor Ijaz reports that Mitt Romney has announced he would not appoint a Muslim to the cabinet were he elected president. His reasoning is a mite peculiar:
I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that “jihadism” is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, “…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration.”
Romney, whose Mormon faith has become the subject of heated debate in Republican caucuses, wants America to be blind to his religious beliefs and judge him on merit instead. Yet he seems to accept excluding Muslims because of their religion, claiming they’re too much of a minority for a post in high-level policymaking. More ironic, that Islamic heritage is what qualifies them to best engage America’s Arab and Muslim communities and to help deter Islamist threats.
Certainly, this is intellectually inconsistent. Then again, Ijaz’ complaint is not that Romney is being hypocritical on ethnic quotas but rather that he should immediately announce his enthusiasm for them:
Imagine how a qualified American Muslim FBI director, sensitized to the genuine concerns among Arab and Muslim communities about civil rights violations, would be able to ensure that FBI actions and policies target the real bad guys, not communities as a whole. Imagine how an American Muslim CIA director or defense secretary whose understanding of cultural differences in places that breed Islamist violence would ensure that intelligence was not biased by bigotry or lack of understanding and that defense strategies were constructed on data acquired from authentic sources.
[Romney] and other candidates for the presidency from both political parties, should actively begin searching for American Muslims and Arab Americans who can serve in primary decisionmaking cabinet level posts. To do otherwise is to risk promulgating policies that once again put the US straight in the sights of the terrorists who seek to bring America down.
This is simply nonsensical. Muslim Americans are uniquely qualified to judge the culture of foreign lands? So, your average Arab-American construction worker has more expertise than, say, an Irish-American with a PhD in Middle East politics? Really?
Jim Henley similarly rejects Ijaz’ reasoning but thinks Romney likely to get a pass from the conservative intelligentsia for his quota talk, given that only Evil Muslims are harmed. We shall see, I guess.
Frankly, aside from polls in Iowa and New Hampshire — and Hugh Hewitt — I haven’t seen much conservative support for Romney thus far. He’s hardly the favorite of the conservative intelligentsia. To the extent they spill any ink (or pixels) on Romney at all, I doubt we’ll see a lot of defense of his reasoning here.
Now, had he justified his position with the equally absurd notion that we simply can’t trust any Muslims with important positions, he’d have likely found some defenders. But for this particular idiocy? Likely not.
As to the title question, there may well be a Muslim or three who belongs in the cabinet. But let’s pick them based on subject matter competence, executive experience, and coherence with the president’s policy preferences rather than on a need to fill ethnic quotas or because it would send a certain signal.
Image source: Townhall