Deconstructing Rep. Sue Myrick's War on Terror
Charlotte Congresswoman Sue Myrick is emerging as a leading voice in America's fight against terror. Her focus is the home front, where she is convinced radical Islamists are infiltrating society. She is widely praised and criticized for her efforts. Mostly, though, she says her message is being misunderstood. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: September 11th, 2001, was a turning point for many people. For Congresswoman Sue Myrick, that was the day she decided to focus her energy on fighting homegrown terrorism. "I'm very, very concerned about our national security," says Myrick. "The first job of the federal government is to protect the American people." Myrick had only a basic knowledge of Islam and one Congressional trip to the Middle East under her belt, so she started reading books. Soon she was convinced that radical Islamists in the U.S. were plotting to replace the Constitution with Sharia law. "I went to the President, I went to the Vice President - I went to everybody I could think of and said, 'You need to explain to the American people what this is about, because the American people need to be educated on this,'" recalls Myrick. "The answer I got from them, very frankly, was 'We don't want to frighten the American people.'" So Myrick took it upon herself. She organized the House anti-terror caucus. She frequently sends out ominous statements warning of "Islamo-fascist infiltrators trying to take over our nation from the inside." She's written the foreword to a controversial new book called "Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld that's Trying to Islamize America." The book attacks the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which many Muslims view as a kind of NAACP. And to her great satisfaction, Myrick recently got herself appointed to the House Intelligence Committee where she now receives classified briefs that have her convinced homegrown terrorism is, "more of a problem than I thought it was, very frankly." Myrick is alternately vilified as a racist and praised as a hero for daring to say the things she says most people are afraid to say. "It's not a matter of trying to instill fear in people that they should look at every Arab or every Muslim or everybody who looks different than they do with suspicion or fear," says Myrick. "We're just saying 'Hey, you need to be aware there are terror cells here, that there are people operating who do want to do us harm in our country.'" If more people were aware, Myrick thinks maybe they'd pick up on warning signs earlier and call the police. She's also very quick to point out in conversation that she's not talking about all Muslims - just a small radical element. But that message isn't getting through in Charlotte's mosques. Salahudin Hasan doesn't like Myrick's choice of words. "Muslim Mafia? Come on now," says Hasan. "Just stop using that language. That language needs to be canned." Hasan and the half a dozen men gathered at Charlotte's Mosque of the Witness on a recent morning are not the radical Muslims Myrick is worried about. But they wish she wouldn't be so quick to fixate on the Muslim connection in incidents like Fort Hood. They say all her talk of Islamo-Fascist infiltrators and homegrown terrorists only makes their lives harder. "Because I'm a Muslim, and we all have been lumped together now," says Hasan. "I got the kufi on in the grocery store. You look at me out of the corner of your eye when you see me. 'What's this guy got a bomb? This guy might have something.' That's what they're thinking. This is not good." The frustrating thing for Sue Myrick is that she sees herself as a champion for Muslims like Hasan. She has a list of 10 or so moderate Muslim leaders - mostly in Washington - and she's trying to put them forward as an alternate voice in the media. Hedieh Mirahmadi is one of them. She runs a nonprofit that teaches young Muslims about the dangers of radical Islam. "I think Sue is doing an excellent job," says Mirahmadi. "She's trying to say there's a problem but yet there's alternatives and it's not the entire community." Trouble is Mirahmadi and the others working with Sue Myrick don't have much name recognition - even in the Muslim community. Jibril Hough hasn't heard of any of them, and he's well-connected as a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Charlotte. "I'm not trying to degrade them or disrespect them," says Hough. "But I don't get the feeling they're really connected with the grassroots and everyday Muslims." Here's another problem: Myrick's allies have been embraced by conservative talk shows. That makes a lot of mainstream Muslims suspicious. For example, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser is on Sue Myrick's list - and Glenn Beck's. Jasser is the chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and on one program, Glenn Beck introduced him as "One of the good guys." Myrick says she struggles to get her moderate allies on the air anywhere but Fox. And so far her attempts to start a national conversation aren't getting much traction. Jibril Hough thinks she should start locally. During a meeting with the Congresswoman this week, he offered to bring Charlotte-area Muslim leaders like himself together for a town hall meeting. Myrick agreed. And though Hough has accused Myrick of running a McCarthy-like fear campaign in the past, he left the meeting with a new tone. "Sitting with her, you really get the feeling that she really means," says Hough, a bit tentatively. "She really means well . . . I think." He's just waiting for her to prove it.