Hunting Huma: How Abedin’s support is a lesson in mutual understanding

The story of Huma Abedin should be a lesson to all American Muslims

Huma Abedin with Hilary Clinton
Khurram Dara
On 20 July 2012 10:20

Last week Michele Bachmann, along with four other members of Congress, submitted a letter to the inspector general asking for an investigation of Secretary of State Clinton’s longtime aide and deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin, and her alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The foundation for the claims came from the fact that Abedin’s father, a professor at a university in Saudia Arabia, had started an organization that had been supported by another organization, which had leaders that were affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

These links are attenuated at best, but the accusations go even further. Not only is it that her family may have had some uncorroborated connection to an organization supported by the Muslim Brotherhood, it’s that she is using her position to influence U.S. policy. Yet, there’s not a shred of evidence that Abedin herself, who was born in Michigan and has lived here without interruption since she started college, has any ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

And for the first time in recent memory, this event is not being looked at as one with two sides to it.

Immediately, there was swift condemnation from Bachmann’s own party. Sen. John McCain and Bachmann’s former campaign manager, Ed Rollins, have slammed Bachmann for her comments. Universally, her position has been rejected and criticized, the only exception being the likes of Robert Spencer, Frank Gaffney, and other fringe fear-peddlers whose book sales hinge on continuing to perpetuate fear of Islam in America.

What’s most intriguing about this story is why Abedin is getting the support she has received. I can say pretty assuredly that John McCain, Ed Rollins, and all the other Washington insiders who are throwing themselves in front of the rhetorical bullets shot at Abedin, are not experts in Islam. They have probably not studied it thoroughly, nor is it likely that they understand the cultural foundation for much of the religion.

I bring up this point because for years the conventional wisdom among the religiously tolerant has been that a better understanding is needed of Islam; that if people only knew what Islam was really about, they wouldn’t assume that all Muslims want to see the destruction of America. Yet for Abedin’s Washington supporters, it’s their relationship with her that seems to be making the difference.

It’s because they know her, have worked with her, and respect her as a colleague. A graduate of George Washington University, she began her professional career in 1996 as a White House intern, assigned to Hilary Clinton. She served as an aide to Clinton and stood in her shadow for years as Clinton perused the American political landscape, which included a stint in the United States Senate and a run for the White House.

Named in Time Magazine’s 40 under 40 list, Abedin now serves as the deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Clinton. The daughter of immigrants, Abedin’s sparkling Washington career embodies the American dream in every sense of the phrase. She has worked hard and is very good at what she does. And all along the way she has forged relationships with many people.

Abedin doesn’t have to tell people where her loyalties lie, she’s shown us all. And as the old adage goes, actions speak louder than words. For her supporters, the reality of their personal relationship with Abedin supersedes what they may hear about her. 

Abedin’s story should be a lesson to all American Muslims that if you take an active role in your community, engaging with your friends, neighbours, and coworkers, in true American fashion, they’ll have your back.

Khurram Dara is the author of The Crescent Directive: An essay on improving the image of Islam in America. He tweets at @KhurramDara

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