Politics

Pompeo’s new role reignites Muslims’ worries

Mike Pompeo.
Al Drago/The New York Times
Mike Pompeo.

WASHINGTON — In 2013, when he was a congressman from Kansas, Mike Pompeo said that Muslim religious leaders were “potentially complicit” in the Boston Marathon attack because they had not forcefully condemned the bombing.

Those comments, among several others, are again triggering concern among Muslims after President Trump named Pompeo on Tuesday as his pick to take over as the nation’s chief diplomat. The announcement from Trump came after he fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a dramatic shakeup of his top diplomatic staff.

Pompeo’s nomination as director of the CIA just after Trump’s election victory caused similar concern among Muslim leaders. But those are heightened now, as he potentially takes on a much more elevated and public role in which he would regularly deal with leaders from Muslim countries.

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“This announcement should concern every congressmember and American who values religious freedom,” Scott Simpson, public advocacy director at Muslim Advocates, a Washington-based legal advocacy group, said in a statement. “This [is] not a man who can be trusted in the Cabinet, and we urge members of the Senate to speak up against this announcement.”

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Pompeo’s comments about the Boston Marathon came several months after the bombings, when he went to the House floor and criticized Muslim leaders for not condemning the attacks, saying “the silence of Muslim leaders has been deafening.”

“When the most devastating terrorist attacks on America in the last 20 years come overwhelmingly from people of a single faith, and are performed in the name of that faith, a special obligation falls on those that are the leaders of that faith,” Pompeo said during a five-minute speech.

“Instead of responding, silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts, and more importantly still, in those that may well follow.”

He called on Muslim leaders to use the Koran and its teachings to condemn violence.

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“Every Muslim leader must unequivocally proclaim that terror committed in the name of Islam violates the core tenants of the Prophet Mohammed. And they must do so repeatedly. Period.”

He also referenced how adherents of his own Christian faith had occasionally used religion to justify violence, but he pointed to leaders speaking out against it.

“Just as these religious leaders have called out those who have killed and acted brutally in the name of their faith, so too must Muslim religious leaders refute terrorist theology,” he said.

“We’re now two decades into Islamic radicals attacking Americans on US soil. I know that not every Muslim supports these actions,” he said, referencing several who spoke out.

“But the silence in the face of extremism coming form the best-funded Islamic advocacy organizations and many mosques across America is absolutely deafening,” he added. “It casts doubt upon the commitment to peace by adherents of the Muslim faith. This is utterly unacceptable, it’s dangerous. It must end.”

Matt Viser can be reached at matt.viser@globe.com.