Hundreds of Texas Muslim Leaders Receive Alarming Survey Investigating Their Views on Islam

StoryJanuary 30, 2017
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In Texas, hundreds of Muslim leaders received letters this month ordering them to complete a survey stating their views on Islamic extremism. The inflammatory three-question survey asks leaders to state whether they believe the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization, whether they would sign a pledge for religious freedom and if they support the Muslim Reform Movement. It’s part of a campaign by Texas state Rep. Kyle Biedermann to expose what he calls “radical Islamic terrorism in Texas.” Muslim leaders say it’s the latest Islamophobic attack in a state that has seen a spike in hate crimes since the election of Donald Trump—including a weekend arson attack that destroyed a mosque in Victoria.

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AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go now to Texas, where hundreds of Muslim leaders recently received a highly inflammatory survey investigating their views on Islam. Joining us now, Sarwat Husain, the founding president of the San Antonio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. What happened? What letters did you receive? What were you being asked by a state legislator?

SARWAT HUSAIN: Well, from a state—first of all, the timing of the letter was to distract our upcoming state Texas—Texas Muslim Capitol Day, which we do every other year. We take about 800 to a thousand Muslims to the State Capitol to learn about the political process, meet their lawmakers, understand and have a dialogue with them. So, the timing of the letter was to distract us from going there. And this is not the first time. Two years ago, another representative, Molly White, did the same thing. So, we were shocked when we saw the letter. The letter was sent to me also. At the first glance, of course, you see that Representative Biedermann does not have any knowledge of Islam whatsoever.

AMY GOODMAN: This is the new—this is the new state legislator who sent this out.

SARWAT HUSAIN: He’s a freshman. He’s a freshman. And he, himself, does not have knowledge. And people that are advising him are not any expertise in the scholarly study of Islam, either. It is downright disgusting, offensive, intimidating. I mean, it hurts to see this coming from a lawmaker. You do not expect these kind of things from your government. You expect just common decency.

AMY GOODMAN: It said “urgent reply ASAP.” Did other legislators condemn this? Did the Legislature, overall, say no one has to answer this questionnaire?

SARWAT HUSAIN: Not the legislators, they did not. But when we held a press conference, that—the same day when he was having the hearing at the Capitol, we had the press conference. Some of the legislators did come out and join us. So, they are mostly Democrats, again. So none of the Republicans came out or even condemned the letter.

AMY GOODMAN: And very quickly, the mosque in Texas that went up in flames in Victoria this weekend?

SARWAT HUSAIN: Yes, yes. And we do not know who did that. This is not the first attack on the mosque. This is the fifth attack in the state of Texas in the last few months. Mosques have been torched. Feces have been spread all over the mosque. Pages from the Qur’an were ripped off and thrown outside. I mean, you name it. And then, of course, the hate—or, the hate emails or texts and, you know, calls are so very common for all Muslim leaders around Texas.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, Congressman Nadler, scores of Jewish community centers have also been attacked. We have 20 seconds. Congressman Beyer is calling this time a time of “constitutional crisis.” Do you agree?

REP. JERROLD NADLER: Well, yes. It’s a time of attacks on all minorities. And the president is fomenting that. The paranoia of Trump’s campaign and of his rhetoric now against Muslims, against others, just resonates against all minorities.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there. We thank you all for being with us, Congressmembers Jerrold Nadler and Pramila Jayapal, for joining us from New York and Seattle, Sarwat Husain joining us from San Antonio, Texas. And we want to hear from you. If you’ve experienced any kind of prejudice, write to us at stories@democracynow.org.

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