The “Muslim American Advisory Council Act” (MAACA), signed by Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner last week permanently establishes a formal role for Muslims to influence the state’s policy:
The purposes of the Council is to advise the Governor and the General Assembly on policy issues impacting Muslim Americans and immigrants; to advance the role and civic participation of Muslim Americans in this State; to enhance trade and cooperation between Muslim-majority countries and this State; and to build relationships with and disseminate information to, in cooperation with State agencies, boards, and commissions, Muslim American and immigrant communities across this State.
In 2014, the Urban Muslim Minority Alliance endorsed Rauner over Democrat Governor Pat Quinn.
As written, the MAACA law claims that the state’s public policy is to “promote diversity and to ensure inclusion of all religious, racial, and ethnic groups within this State” even though there are no other legislatively sanctioned religious councils inside the state government.
The new law requires political appointments of twenty-one people to the Muslim council along with liaison personnel from multiple state agencies. Additional state government employees will provide administrative and technical support. A staffer from the Governor’s office will serve as the ethics officer. No fiscal note was posted with the bill on the state’s legislative website and no corresponding line item was found in the 2018 fiscal year budget.
This year, the Illinois legislature passed the largest permanent income tax increase “in state history” and a budget considered devoid of “any structural spending reforms to slow growth in the cost of government.” Opponents to the council questioned using scarce state resources on advisory councils in general.
Proponents of the bill, however, said it was necessary to “institutionalize” a voice for Muslims in the state government and to send a “welcoming message” to them even though year after year, Illinois hate crime statistics (which closely mimic Tennessee’s) show that more bias crimes are committed against Jews, blacks and gay men as opposed to Muslims.
While not created by legislation, Tennessee’s American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC) was organized with the help and support of the state’s Department of Homeland Security. The AMAC formed in opposition to an anti-terrorism bill aimed at homegrown terrorism like that committed by Memphian Carlos Bledsoe who said he was following the call to “jihad” when he shot and killed Pvt. Andrew Long at the Arkansas Army recruiting station.
Muslim advisory councils with almost identical names and mission statements have been established in several other states. The incubator for these councils began with a 2006 conference jointly sponsored by the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy (ICRD), the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT) and the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA). All three organizations are part of a larger alliance called American Muslims for Constructive Engagement (AMCE) which also includes CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the Muslim American Society (MAS).
The IIIT and ISNA were named as unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing prosecution. A document admitted into evidence during that trial titled “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the [Muslim] Brotherhood in North America,” includes the IIIT and ISNA in the list of “our [the Muslim Brotherhood] organizations and the organizations of our friends.”
CAIR is also a named unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation prosecution while MAS was identified in a different terrorism related case as “the overt arm” of the Muslim Brotherhood in America.
An earlier version of Illinois’ Muslim Advisory Council was established in 2011 by Governor Quinn through an executive order. His appointees included the Secretary-General of ISNA and the Executive Director of the Chicago chapter of CAIR. Before disbanding after Governor Rauner was elected, the advisory council issued a cultural sensitivity guide requesting distribution to all State agencies, departments, boards and commissions so that “appropriate religious accommodations” are provided to Muslims and “so that all state employees may better understand and respect our faith and traditions.”
Materials that provide information about Islamic practices such as the MAACA sensitivity guide are used in the proselytizing of Islam called “dawah” which is considered a religious obligation for Muslims.
Critics see the MAACA law as giving Muslims a privileged status over other religious groups, but Kareem Irfan, a Chicago lawyer who led the advisory council during Quinn’s administration sees MAACA differently -“So we’re not subject to the whims of each governor, it would be good to make this a lasting institutional body.”
There are approximately 500,000 Muslims living in Illinois making Muslims the third largest religious group in the State after Roman Catholics and independent Evangelical Christians.