When hecklers, such as those who protested during the Texas Muslim Capitol Day I attended, rant about Shariah law taking over the U.S., I hardly bat an eye.
These Islamophobes live in a world of ignorance, misinformation and fear that constricts them from seeing the truth (in this case, the unconstitutionality of Shariah, or any foreign law, to take precedence over U.S. law). However, when our elected officials make similar statements, I find myself downright embarrassed at the sheer lack of knowledge and hate these comments reflect.
In a Facebook post, Texas Rep. Molly White proudly proclaimed that she had left a little gift for any Muslims who happened to visit her office -- namely, an Israeli flag on her desk, along with instructions to renounce terrorism and announce allegiance to America. "We will see how long they stay in my office," she wrote. Such hateful, provocative, and downright bigoted speech is hardly fitting for a representative who has sworn to uphold the values contained in the United States and Texas constitutions.
These values include freedom of religion and speech, both which were being exercised by Muslims in Austin today. The Council on American Islamic Relations, which organized the day of advocacy, sent a letter to House Speaker Joe Straus inquiring as to whether Ms. White's post violated ethical rules through a policy that was "selectively being enforced to discriminate against certain religious minorities trying to meet with her or her staff." Straus responded with a statement of support for the Muslim American constituents, saying "The Texas Capitol belongs to all the people of this state, and legislators have a responsibility to treat all visitors just as we expect to be treated -- with dignity and respect."
Dignity and respect seem to be missing from the vocabulary of not only Ms. White, but quite a few of other of our representatives as well. Michelle Bachmann, Allen West, John Bennett and Peter King are just some of the far too many representatives who have made discriminatory and Islamophobic statements regarding Muslims in recent years. No American deserves to be treated in such a hateful manner, and that is certainly not something our Founding Fathers would have stood for. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson defended the rights of Muslims, along with Catholics and Jews, from religious persecution. Why, over two hundred years later, are Muslims the exceptions to the rule?
Americans of all faith and non-faith backgrounds must hold their elected officials to higher standards. There is simply no room or justification in our local or national dialogue for ignorant or vitriolic comments, which fuel the cycle of hate and ignorance, divide our country and endanger the lives of everyday Muslim Americans. And, in a nation that prides itself on guaranteeing liberty and justice for all, the double standards are very real.
To our lawmakers that are genuinely concerned about Islam in America, I urge them to become educated about the faith and its followers by speaking with legitimate Islamic scholars and educators, religious leaders and, of course, their own Muslim constituents. They will find that the vast majority of Muslim Americans love Jesus, denounce terrorism, are well-assimilated and greatly respect American laws and values. Any official that wants to claim otherwise should take a hard look in the mirror first.