When U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick canceled appearances at 9/11 events last weekend, she said intelligence sources had alerted her that her name had turned up in a threatening Iranian news agency article.
But opponents say the Charlotte Republican is making exaggerating claims for political gain.
The article, "U.S. Empire foments Islamophobia," was published on the website of Iran's state-financed news channel, Press TV. In addition to Myrick, the story lists more than 20 people and organizations, including the Rev. Franklin Graham, Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann as being part of the "Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America."
The Iranian report was based on another study written by the Washington, D.C.-based liberal think tank Center for American Progress and intended to combat fears of Islam. Some excerpts of the Iranian report appear to be taken almost word for word from the American Progress report.
The American Progress report named Myrick as part of a small, well-organized and financially backed group of individuals and organizations that has aggressively promoted a message of religious intolerance against American Muslims.
"This is our general issue with Rep. Myrick," said Faiz Shakir, co-author of the center study. "She frequently exaggerates the threat of Muslim terrorism by making outlandish claims like this one. And this is why we listed her in the report."
Faiz said he thought the Press TV article was a fair summation of the study. He said he did not find the Iranian report threatening and accused Myrick of drumming up controversy by highlighting that Press TV is a state-sponsored news organization.
Myrick, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, has long argued about the dangers of Islamic extremists and warned that terrorist groups could recruit young people through American mosques. Her activism has earned her praise from some conservatives, but criticism from Muslim groups who say she dangerously stirs up fears against the U.S. Muslim community.
In response to the Center for American Progress, her staff said Myrick and the center have "a fundamental difference of opinion" when it comes to this issue.
Myrick is no stranger to threats on her life, she said. She told the Observer on Sunday that her decision to cancel 9/11 appearances was difficult, but she made it after getting advice from people she respected. She said she felt the Press TV article implicitly encouraged readers to harm those on the list.
One conservative group, Family Security Matters, referred to the list of politicians, activists, religious organizations and media companies as a "hit piece."
To read the complete article, visit www.charlotteobserver.com.