When I joined the University of Texas at Arlington in 1981, the latest wave of hostility was pointed toward all foreign students who were lumped together as Iranians. This was, of course, the post Iranian-Revolution era. I was a Muslim student from Bangladesh and it didn’t matter whether one was from Iran, Pakistan, India, or even China.
To the Texans, we were all Iranians and definitely supporters of Khomeini. The snack shop at the Student Union, called “Sweet Stop” was nicknamed “Camel Stop.” But apart from a few confrontations, in general, things were relatively peaceful on campus and in fact it seemed to be so throughout the country. In the 80’s, when Texas was not as diverse and people were not exposed to many cultures, there was still as sense of tolerance that exuded from most people.
But the news on Thursday about freshman Texas Representative Molly White’s anti-Muslim comment is upsetting to say the least. Referring to the Texas Muslim Capitol Day, Rep. White wrote on her Facebook page that though she won’t be in Austin, she left instructions for her staff to ask the Muslim representatives to “renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws.”
She also boasted about placing an Israeli flag on her receptionist’s desk. It was unclear if she also wanted Muslims to swear allegiance to the flag of Israel or if she thought the flag of Israel was more important than our own star and stripes? In any event, her statement on Facebook generated a slew of comments and I must say I was pleasantly surprised that most of these were criticisms of White’s anti-Muslim post.
The rally at the Texas Capitol sponsored by the Muslim advocacy group, Council on American-Islamic Relations, was a gathering organized as an opportunity for the Muslims to learn about the democratic political process and how to be advocates for various issues that are important to the community. Rep. White had also posted another anti-Muslim comment, in which she wrote, “Remember, in the Koran, it is ok to lie for the purpose of advancing Islam. Texans must never allow fringe groups of people to come here so that they can advance their own culture instead of becoming an American and assimilating into the American way of life."
I don’t know which Qur’an White was reading because her claim that Islam supports fabrication of truth is in itself a lie because Qur’an surely does not advocate lying in any shape or form for any reason whatsoever (2:42). Moreover, the Muslims who were at the rally have already assimilated into the American society which is why they want to be part of the political process in the first place. Perhaps White has forgotten that she and many others are transplants from foreign nations and cultures. In her opinion what is the “American way of life”? Can one not be an American and hold on to their cultural or religious heritage?
Muslims are here to stay in America whether anyone likes it or not. Angry protesters may still keep shouting, “Go back home and take Obama with you” but the reality is Muslims in America are integrated and a fast growing active community. In fact, after the Charlie Hebdo incident, President Obama, at a White House press conference with British Prime Minister, David Cameron said, "Our biggest advantage... is that our Muslim populations feel themselves to be Americans and there is this incredible process of immigration and assimilation that is part of our tradition."
Ms. White needs to engage in introspection about her own biases and prejudices and see if she is fit to represent her constituents. By making discriminatory remarks, she is violating the conduct or the standard to which the elected officials should be held. If she wishes to continue in her office she would be better off not alienating those members of her constituency whose support she needs.
Shahina Bashir is the chairperson of the Ahmadi Muslim Women Writer's Guild, USA. She is a free lance writer for the Examiner.com. Her letters have been published in several newspapers including Washington Post, NY Times, and LA Times. Follow her on Twitter @shabashir
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