Ted Cruz brings Islamic critics to advise
Ted Cruz, Donald Trump's closest rival in the Republican race for the White House, has named his national security advisers, including former staffers of president Ronald Reagan and members of a think tank that has been called an anti-Muslim "hate group" by a civil rights organisation.
Announcing the team in a statement on Thursday (local time), Mr Cruz said he would reverse what he described as the weakening of the US in a dangerous world, singling out militant Islamist groups in the Middle East and North Africa as his focus.
Among the most recognisable names on the US senator's list of 23 advisers was Elliott Abrams, who served in the administrations of both Reagan and president George W. Bush and is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
But the list of advisers drew more attention for its inclusion of several critics of Muslims. Among those were Frank Gaffney, a former official in the Reagan administration, and at least two other members of a think tank Mr Gaffney founded, the Center for Security Policy.
The centre's reports argue that hundreds of thousands of American Muslims support Islamist violence in the US and that there is a conspiracy to erode the US legal system by elevating sharia, the Islamic legal code.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organisation that monitors US extremist groups, has labelled the Center for Security Policy a "hate group" and Mr Gaffney a "notorious Islamophobe".
A Mr Gaffney spokesman pointed to online essays where Mr Gaffney has rejected such criticism, saying his group is a defender of civil liberties against "Islamic supremacists".
"Do you mention any of the other 22 members of the advisory coalition?" Brian Phillips, a Mr Cruz spokesman, said in an email, declining to respond to questions about the criticisms made against Mr Gaffney and his think tank.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim rights group, urged Mr Cruz to reconsider having Mr Gaffney and others who have made anti-Muslim remarks as his advisers, saying it suggested the candidate entertained "anti-Muslim bigotry".
Besides Mr Gaffney and his think-tank colleagues, CAIR said Mr Cruz should drop William Boykin, a retired US Army lieutenant general who has said the government should be allowed to ignore the US Constitution to pass laws limiting Muslims' right to freedom of speech and religion.
Some of Mr Cruz's other advisers have been critical of anti-Islamic rhetoric, including Mr Abrams and Mary Habeck, another former Mr Bush adviser; both have said Islam should not be demonised.
Another adviser is Katherine Gorka, president of the Council on Global Security, a group that produces research on Islamist violence, who said in an email that Mr Cruz "understands the vital role that America's military strength plays across the globe but without wanting to engage the US in expensive democracy-building adventures".