By Visi R. Tilak

Susan Walsh/Pool/Reuters

Pictured, Huma Abedin

Huma Abedin, longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was recently singled out by Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who said that three of Ms. Abedin’s family members — her late father, her mother and her brother – were connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The former Minnesota state senator and fellow Republicans Trent Franks (Arizona), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Thomas Rooney (Florida) and Lynn Westmoreland (Georgia) jointly signed letters sent to inspectors general of five government agencies responsible for national security, demanding that they investigate infiltration by the Muslim Brotherhood into the highest reaches of the federal government.

“The Muslim Brotherhood’s mission in the United States is ‘destroying the Western civilization from within’ – a practice the Muslim Brothers call ‘civilization jihad’ – we believe the apparent involvement of those with such ties raises serious security concerns that warrant your urgent attention,” the letter begins.

The second paragraph of the letter cites “The Muslim Brotherhood in America: The Enemy Within,” a 10-part online video course that looks at “civilization jihad,” which makes the claim that Ms. Abedin’s family had connections with the Muslim Brotherhood. “Her position affords her routine access to the Secretary [Mrs. Clinton] and to policy-making,” the letter says.

“Thankfully, we have been able to kill some dangerous bad guys. The sad truth of the matter is that, by almost any other measure, the prospect of victory is becoming more remote by the day,” the website of the online video course says.

High profile politicians, including Ms. Bachmann’s fellow Republican, Senator John McCain (Ariz.), were quick to criticize her and come to Ms. Abedin’s defense.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Pictured, Michele Bachmann.

In a speech in the Senate on July 18, Sen. McCain described the attacks on Ms. Abedin as an example of ignorance and fear that “defames the spirit of the nation.”

“Huma represents what is best about America: the daughter of immigrants, who has risen to the highest levels of our government on the basis of her substantial personal merit and her abiding commitment to the American ideals that she embodies so fully. I am proud to know Huma, and to call her my friend,” Sen. McCain added.

So who is Huma Abedin?

Ms. Abedin, a practicing Muslim, was born in 1976 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She had an Indian father, Syed Zainul Abedin, and a Pakistani mother, Saleha Mahmood Abedin. Both parents held doctorates from the University of Pennsylvania. Her father, who died when she was 17 years old, was an Islamic and Middle Eastern scholar. He founded his own institute devoted to Western-Eastern and interfaith understanding and reconciliation, and published a journal focusing on Muslim minorities. Her mother is a professor in Saudi Arabia.

The family moved to Saudi Arabia when Ms. Abedin was two years old. She lived there until she returned to the U.S. to go to college at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

In 1996, Ms. Abedin started working as an intern in then-First Lady Hillary Clinton’s office and was later hired as staff assistant to the First Lady’s chief of staff, Maggie Williams. She later took over as Mrs. Clinton’s aide and advisor, with the title “Traveling Chief of Staff.” She has been portrayed as indispensable to Mrs. Clinton.

“Hillary’s Secret Weapon; Huma Abedin oversees every minute of Senator Clinton’s day,” a 2007 spread in Vogue magazine said of the woman often seen accompanying Mrs. Clinton.

The article quotes Mrs. Clinton as saying, “Huma Abedin has the energy of a woman in her 20s, the confidence of a woman in her 30s, the experience of a woman in her 40s and the grace of a woman in her 50s… I am lucky to have had her on my team for a decade now.”

Time magazine included Ms. Abedin in a 2010 list of rising civic leaders, saying: “Hillary Clinton has two shadows: her own and Abedin, 35, a former Clinton White House intern who has trailed her boss from the U.S. Senate to the campaign trail to foreign capitals… [she] serves as a senior Clinton adviser as well as a friend and confidante.”

Ms. Abedin met Anthony Weiner, a Democratic Congressman from New York, in 2008 during Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign trail. They married on July 10, 2010, at Oheka Castle in Huntington, N.Y., in a ceremony officiated by former President Bill Clinton. Ms. Abedin wanted to look like an Indian bride. Her wedding dress was designed by Oscar de la Renta and had several Indian and Pakistani influences. The designer reportedly said it was like dressing Sheherezade, the beautiful queen from “One Thousand and One Nights.”

Ms. Abedin was commended by many for standing by her husband through a 2011 scandal that erupted after Mr. Weiner posted sexually suggestive photographs to women online.

On Dec. 21, 2011, Ms. Abedin gave birth to a baby boy, Jordan Zane.

In a recent joint interview with People magazine, the first one after the scandal, she said, “It took a lot of work to get to where we are today, but I want people to know we’re a normal family. Anthony has spent every day since [the scandal] trying to be the best dad and husband he can be… I’m proud to be married to him.”

Ms. Abedin was strong and composed throughout that scandal, and it looks like she’s taking the same approach now that the spotlight has been turned on her again, this time by Congresswoman Bachmann, who became a national figure when she was briefly in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Ms. Abedin is receiving support from many quarters, including even Ms. Bachmann’s former campaign chief, Ed Rollins, who wrote of Ms. Bachmann in a Fox News opinion piece: “I am fully aware that she sometimes has difficulty with her facts, but this is downright vicious and reaches the late Senator Joe McCarthy level.”

“I can assure Mrs. Bachmann that Ms. Abedin has been thru every top clearance available and would never have been given her position with any questions of her loyalty to this country. As a member of Congress, with a seat on the House Intelligence Committee, Mrs. Bachmann you know better. Shame on you, Michele! You should stand on the floor of the House and apologize to Huma Abedin and to Secretary Clinton and to the millions of hard working, loyal, Muslim Americans for your wild and unsubstantiated charges,” Mr. Rollins wrote.

Ms. Bachmann has tried to defend her stance, issuing a statement on July 18 that said the letters she and her colleagues sent out last month have been “distorted.” But the statement still made no direct mention of Ms. Abedin or contained a hint of an apology.

Ms. Abedin, meanwhile, is reportedly in need of extra police protection.

Visi R. Tilak is freelance writer with bylines in publications such as the Boston Globe, Indian Express, India Today and Tehelka.  She can be reached via email, her website or on Twitter @vtilak.

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