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CHICAGO — The Illinois State Police has revoked the appointment of the agency’s first Muslim chaplain, citing only information revealed during a background check. A national Muslim advocacy group Wednesday blamed the move on Islamophobia.
Kifah Mustapha, a Chicago-area imam, was appointed the agency’s first Muslim chaplain in December. Community groups had praised Mustapha’s appointment as a nod to the growing diversity among the agency’s nearly 2,000 officers.
But within days, the appointment came under criticism from the Investigative Project on Terrorism, a Washington-based think tank.
Mustapha’s appointment was rescinded Friday, but that action wasn’t publicly disclosed until late Tuesday after media inquiries.
The Council of American-Islamic Relations in Chicago, which is representing Mustapha, said the imam was told that was why his appointment was put on hold.
Ahmed Rehab, CAIR’s executive director in Chicago, called it discrimination against Muslims, especially since Mustapha hasn’t been formally accused of wrongdoing.
“The ISP is kowtowing to the run-of-the-mill fear-mongering that Islamophobes have devoted their careers in order to avoid a public relations controversy,” he said.
Steve Emerson, executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, on Wednesday defended the group’s original report, saying it merely published content linking Mustapha to fundraising for terrorists.
He said his group was prompted to investigate after news of the appointment was published on the website of the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, one of the Chicago area’s oldest and largest mosques. Mustapha is an imam and director there.
Emerson dismissed charges of Islamophobia as “empty diversions and without merit” in an e-mail.
CAIR planned to file a lawsuit and a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Mustapha’s behalf.
“He knows that he’s a good man and he’s a good leader and that he really wanted to serve in this capacity to help,” Rehab said. “He feels he was unfairly denied.”