Freshman Texas Congressman Kyle Biedermann is sparking more controversy ahead of Texas Muslim Capitol Day, a community-building opportunity hosted by CAIR. Signed and dated the day after he was sworn into office, mosques and Muslim Student Associations across Texas received a letter branded “Urgent Reply ASAP” in bright red letters. The Republican congressman’s Capitol address as return. Accompanying the letter was a poll that asked mosque leaders to indicate whether they support the following three documents:
- Declaration of Muslim Reform Movement, co-founded by Islamophobe and Trump supporter Asra Nomani.
- Muslim Pledge for Religious Freedom and Safety from Harm for Former Muslims, created by Former Muslims United.
- Federal legislation that posits the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization.
To see the full text of the letter, click here.
The letter strongly points to Sharia law, not an uncommon topic of discussion in Texas apparently, and whether the Muslim leaders support it. The letter states that, “According to the Pew Research Center, large percentages of Muslims in 39 countries want Sharia law, a legal code based on the Quran and other authoritative Islamic writings, to be the official law of the land.” It continues to note that the European Court of Human Rights has “unequivocally ruled that Sharia law is absolutely incompatible with the fundamental principles of freedom and democracy.”
This parallels Biedermann’s personal and political stances. Religious Freedom is a primary campaign topic for the conservative congressman, as his website notes that “Our country was founded on Christian Principles which are clearly stated in our Constitution and in the writings of our founding fathers. We must never let foreign laws and legal doctrines such as Shariah law to infiltrate our legal system and our country.”
While Biedermann indicated in the letter that the results of the poll would be shared with Texas lawmakers in relations to Muslim Capitol Day, in fact the first line of the letter reads, “In connection with Texas Muslim Capitol Day 2017,” the poll is not in association with the community event or host in any way.
He later stated that the data would be shared with a Law Enforcement & Homeland Security Advisory Council that he created after he was elected into office. The Council is hosting a Homeland Security Summit on Jan. 26, as advertised on a flier with the sub-title “Defending Against Radical Islamic Terrorism in Texas.”
Speakers at the Summit will include the likes of:
- Zuhdi Jasser, Founder & President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy
- Nonie Darwish, Director of Former Muslims United and Founder of Arabs for Israel
- Chris Gaubatz, VP of Understanding the Threat and contributor to Breitbart
- Beth Van Duyne, Mayor of Irving, Texas, and of ‘there’s Sharia in them there hills’ fame
Biedermann’s impersonal approach at gauging where Muslims are on “the issues” reflects an unsophisticated lack of genuine interest, at best. The undetectable curiosity is reminiscent of the post-9/11 fear-mongering that ultimately entrenched us (the United States, in case my “American-ness” should be questioned as a result of my “Muslim-ness”) in what is approaching two-decades of bloodshed in the Middle East and at home, the resulting hyper-militarization of domestic police, and the economic instability which made even the whisper of President-elect Trump as a potential candidate possible.
Yet, this research is central to his political persona, as indicated by the fact that this survey and subsequent Summit are amongst the first projects undertaken once in office.
The Congressman is interested in whether Muslims are spending enough of their time denouncing extremism, but he does not understand that as Muslims, we have the most to gain from enforcing this distance. In the current climate, Muslims (or others who are perceived to be Muslim) truly have to fear for their lives and the nature of the survey only further serves to isolate in contrast to promoting community. So, perhaps the question should be pointed to Congressman Biedermann; what are you doing to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for Muslims and other minorities you represent?
What is your political office doing to denounce the white supremacy which underscores your need to “poll” Muslim leaders on their interpretation of documents drafted by Islamophobic opportunists?
An Austin Imam, Mohamed-Umer Esmail, stated that the letter “didn’t come as a shock because of the environment since the past one-and-a-half years, since the beginning of the Trump campaign.” Indeed, not surprising — as the FBI recently reported that incidences of anti-Muslim hate crimes spiked by 67% as a result of the Trump campaign’s hate-filled rhetoric.
Texas Impact, a statewide interfaith initiative, has branded the gesture as “disturbing” and “remarkably inhospitable” in a letter they sent the lawmaker. Reverend Whitney Bodman, President of Texas Impact, wrote “In our view, the letter accompanying your survey is misleading and intimidating.” The organization has advised Muslim leaders to not respond to the letter.
Policy Analyst for Texas Impact, Imaad Kahm, explained that “Sharia law is sort of this all-encompassing, confusing word that’s thrown out a lot…What it is is a belief system that all law is based on. And so you have a lot of different rulings based on how Muslims interpret God’s will…If you actually look at Sharia law, for Muslims living in other countries, according to that law they should actually obey the laws of that country.”
According to Bee Moorhead, Executive Director for Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy and Texas Impact, “There’s nothing official about it except that an official sent it.”
Moorhead highlights another significant aspect of Biedermann’s request. Aside from the misguided goal of the letter, perhaps the most troubling nuance is Biedermann’s overuse of his authority for the purpose of intimidation. The ethical question behind the manner in which he conducted his survey lies in the power he holds as a state representative at a national level. I suppose, however, that this behavior is along party lines if the presidency was partially claimed with promises of registering Muslims.
A note to the title: Congressman Biedermann is a Central Texas lawmaker who insisted no foul play when pictures surfaced of him in a “gay Hitler” costume, Nazi “sieg heil” salute and all.