WASHINGTON - US President-elect Donald Trump's choices for top posts so far in his administration represent a “troubling Islamophobic trend”, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a prominent Muslim civil rights group, has said.

On Friday, Trump nominated Senator Jeff Sessions for the post of attorney general, Congressman Mike Pompeo to head the CIA, and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as the national security advisor.

“President-elect Trump’s first appointments and nominations display a troubling Islamophobic trend that is of concern to American Muslims and should be of concern to all Americans,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement amid similar comments by some other civil rights leaders. “We urge President-elect Trump to staff his administration with those who will serve to unite, not divide the nation.

 Personnel is policy,” Awad added. The general reaction among civil rights advocates has been that comments attributed to Trump's picks, also including alt-right architect Stephen Bannon as senior adviser and chief strategist, serve to embolden everyday Americans to lash out at members of minority groups. Senator Sessions was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 after hearings in which he was accused of making racially charged remarks as a US attorney.

 According to transcripts, Sessions was accused, among other things, of joking that he thought the Ku Klux Klan "was OK" until he learned they smoked marijuana, and of calling a black assistant US attorney "boy." During the hearing, Sessions denied making some of the comments and said others were jokes taken out of context.

"Every American should be concerned about the direction of the US Department of Justice and oppose any nominee who threatens to turn back the clock on civil rights by 50 years," said National Urban League President Marc Morial.

Bannon led the Breitbart website, which has widely condemned as racist, sexist and anti-Semitic.

Awad of CAIR said that Bannon’s appointment adds fuel to the growing fire of racial and ethnic hatred and division in America.

Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway has called the accusations against Bannon "very unfair."

Civil rights leaders are calling on Trump to rescind Senator Sessions' nomination or for the Senate to reject him. Sessions requires Senate confirmation as attorney general, as does Congressman Mike Pompeo for CIA director, but Bannon and Flynn do not.

In August, Gen. Flynn spoke at an event in Dallas for the anti-Islamist group Act for America, calling Islam, a religion with 1.6 billion adherents, "a political ideology" and "a cancer."

Aside from comments and actions attributed to the nominees, their lack of diversity worries civil rights leaders. Trump has said he planned to reward loyalty, and demonstrated such with his nomination of Sessions, who was the first senator to endorse him.

Washington attorney Scott Bolden said Trump is "0 for 4" on diversity. All four of his picks so far are white men.

"The scariest part of his potential administration will be how his political debts to the alt-right will manifest itself in his administration and policies," Bolden said. "Jeff Sessions is one of those manifestations ... to be in control not only of justice in America, but really to bring injustice to America."

In Congress, Senator Sessions is seen as an immigration hardliner — an issue that connected him with Trump early in the campaign — and his policies stand in opposition to the Latino community, said Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, an advocacy group.

"These divisive individuals belie Trump's statement that he wants to unite Americans," she said.

The Rev. Jeffrey Brown, associate pastor of the Twelfth Baptist Church in Boston, said he is not happy with Trump's choices so far, particularly Sessions.

"I hear people complaining that we should give the Trump administration a chance," Brown said. "It's very clear by his appointments that he's not going to give a lot of communities in the United States that same chance."