If you’re anything like me, you watched French police stripping a Muslim woman of her burqini and thought, “Bigoted shenanigans by the sea? No way, buckaroos, that’s OUR job!” Texas has managed to field a rather impressive set of raging Islamophobes in our political sphere over the years, and today we’re going to point them out. Just in case you see some names on a ballot and wonder whether or not that’s who you want to represent you.
10. State Representative Molly White, District 55 (R)
Starting off the list is Representative Molly White, who chose to use 2015’s Texas Muslim Capitol Day to openly question the allegiance of Texas Muslims to America. In a message left on her Facebook page, she said, “I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws. We will see how long they stay in my office.” White was defeated in her primary this year in March by Hugh Shine, who criticized White for her remarks.
9. State Representative Dan Flynn, District 2 (R)
There's probably no more poorly understood term in America than "Sharia law," but whether it's understood or not, Texans apparently really hate it. In 2015 Flynn introduced House Bill 670, a law that rather pointedly didn't mention Sharia but that did make the already illegal practice of following laws other than domestic ones...doubly illegal, I guess. In an email to constituents, Flynn told Texans that Sharia was already supplanting laws in Britain, and that "There is no question the Judeo-Christian heritage we covet and aim to protect is under attack." He also added that "political correctness" kept people from even being able to question "extreme practices." All this, by the by, is turbo unconstitutional. The right of religious groups (including Christians and Jews) to use religious arbitration to settle disputes was established by the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1984.
8. State Representative Debbie Riddle, District 150 (R)
Representative Riddle is another Texas politician with an itchy Facebook posting finger, and it got her some flak in 2012. After reading an article about U.S. soldiers being given sensitivity training regarding the locals in Afghanistan, she took to social media with the following...
Our soldiers do NOT need to be taught how to be sensitive to radical Muslims. They do not need to be worried about blowing their nose wrong or using their left hand and offending someone. . . . They should not be bothered with being sensitive to people who want us all dead! We need a true leader in the White House — a vote for Obama is a vote to destroy our country.
When a young Houston law student named Abdul Pasha offered mild criticism in response, Riddle continued her rant...
Abdul, if you are so offended by our soldiers then you don’t need us or our money in Afghanistan. As an American I am greatly offended that we have had American soldiers killed by the very ones we were attempting to train and help — Afghanistan soldiers. Get a grip fellow — if you want to be an American act like one and be proud of our country and stand up for our military. If you can’t do that then go where people are sensative (sic) enough for you – I guess that would be Afghanistan – where they still live like they are in the Stone Age – but still very sensative.
And just to round out her bigotry, she suggested trans people's problems could be solved if they would look in a mirror after a shower. The good news is that, like White, she lost her primary this year. The bad news is that her opponent, Valoree Swanson, isn't much better on the question of Islam. We look forward to including her in an updated version of this list in the future.
7. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller (R)
At least Riddle and White were just offensive and condescending. Commissioner Miller, on the other hand, decided to take things to a whole new level online. To quote from CBS new coverage of an outrageous post on Miller's Facebook...
The post shows a mushroom cloud and says Japan has "been at peace" with the U.S. since the 1945 bombing of Nagasaki. The end of the caption reads, "It's time we made peace with the Muslim world."
It was subsequently deleted. Miller himself was in China at the time of the post, but declined to apologize or seek out the member of his staff who made the post, calling it "thought-provoking."
6. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R)
Well, you knew this was coming, though to be fair, Patrick's best work in the anti-Islam arts comes from his time as a state senator. In 2007 he boycotted the first Muslim prayer ever delivered in the Texas Senate, only to return at the end of the session to talk about how awesome freedom of religion was. Patrick was also apparently part of an investigation into Lumberton High School's allegedly teaching Islam to students, but a fair amount of digging has failed to turn up anything but far-right and alt-right conspiracy writings. Even in the Todd Starnes story for FOX linked in the previous sentence (and Starnes's problematic relations with the truth have been noted by both myself and The Atlantic), in which parents say a course on different cultures failed to mention Christianity, the picture that sparked a parent backlash clearly shows Christianity as one of many focuses. These days Patrick works mostly at offending the victims of LGBT hate crimes and mass shootings.
5. Houston Precinct Chair Trebor Gordon (R)
Gordon already had a long history of spewing anti-Islam hate on both Facebook and Twitter before landing on the national stage. A video of him railing against allowing a Muslim, Syed Ali, the chairman and founder of the Muslim Council of USA, to join the Republican Party went viral, eventually leading to Gordon's termination. A choice quote from the video: "If you believe that a person can practice Islam and agree to the foundational principles of the Republican Party, it's not right."
4. Mary Lou Bruner (R)
Bruner is the only politician on this list never to hold an actual position, as she was defeated in a primary runoff for a seat on the Texas State Board of Education. So, aside from the fact that she shaped young Texas minds as a teacher for 36 years, she didn't hold any real power. She made up for that by being one of the most out-to-lunch, offensive people ever to seek office. Her views on everything from LGBT people to climate change are so skewed they bend around to a circle. But since we're talking Muslim-specific bigotry, here's Bruner on that subject...
The Muslims use our own First Amendment against us. Islam is not a religion. Islam is an inhumane totalitarian political ideology with radical religious rules and laws and barbaric punishments for breaking the religious rules.
If Islam is a religion it is a cult religion. A group that forces people to join or die is not a real religion. A group that kills people who try to leave the group is not a real religion. A group that disfigures, dismembers, or mutilates bodies as punishment is not a real religion. A group that practices child sexual abuse or forced marriages of small girls to adult men is not a real religion.
The USA should ban Islam and stop all immigration. from Muslim countries because Islam’s stated goal is to conquer the USA and kill the infidels (nonbelievers).
And was she sure that Ahmed Mohamed actually was trying to build a time bomb (and was secretly funded by Obama to boot)? What do you think?
3. Representative Louie Gohmert, District 1 (R)
I'm not entirely certain why I'm bothering to label the party affiliations of the people on this list except that it's good practice. Representative Gohmert believes the Muslim Brotherhood has "influence" with the Obama administration. When Representative John Lewis (D-Georgia) led a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives to try to force a vote on gun control laws, Gohmert began yelling "radical Islam" at the protesting members. In an appearance on the Voice of Freedom show, he argued that lax gun laws were necessary to protect America from Sharia law (and that they're what protects all our other rights). If there's any way Gohmert can use blaming Muslims to shore up a Republican talking point, he, like life, finds a way.
2. Representative Brian Babin, District 36 (R)
The Syrian refugee crisis has been a wonderful opportunity for Republicans to use coded language so as to not appear bigoted, and Brian Babin is definitely on that train. When President Obama announced last year that he planned to take in 100,000 refugees, Babin wrote up a bill to suspend such action, arguing better screening was needed. Since our screening process is already pretty damned harsh, that seemed a little mean.
Babin went on The Laura Ingraham Show to explain himself (he shows up around the 49-minute mark). If you don't want to listen in, here's the gist...
The most persecuted religious minority in the world have been Christians, and of these 70,000, soon to be 100,000 per year coming in from the Middle East, less than four percent are Christian. The Christians are afraid, and do not go into these human refugee camps, and therefore they are not included by the U.N. to have refugee status to come into the states. This has got to be addressed as well.
For the record, Babin is correct that less than 4 percent of Syrian refugees are Christian, in a country where they make up 10 percent of the population. However, they are more generally aligned with the Alawites with the Assad regime, rather than with the Sunnis being targeted, hence why fewer Christians are among those fleeing.
1. Senator Ted Cruz (R)
And then there was the man who would be president, but wasn't even able to out-campaign a reality star with more bankruptcies than your average family Monopoly board game night sees in the course of play and a level of elective office experience that makes Jill Stein look like Joe Biden. Like Babin, he is certain that the most important thing in the Syrian refugee crisis is protecting Christians from Muslims through a process of segregation, and also like Babin, he believes the reason that more Christians aren't seen among the refugees is that Obama is prejudiced against Christians rather than the U.N.'s referring refugees here and the demographics of who is fleeing Syria.
Following the attacks in Paris, Cruz also said that we needed police to patrol Muslim neighborhoods for radicalized elements. "Political correctness" was also something he blamed on the country's not unilaterally deciding to start treating 3.3 million people like they might blow us up at any moment. Most frightening, and the reason Cruz ended up in the No. 1 spot, he appointed members of the extremist and conspiracy-theory-laden Center for Security Policy to his presidential campaign. Of everyone on this list, Cruz climbed the highest toward the ability to actually act on his Islamophobia in a way that would have horrified the last Republican president. Cruz, more than any other Texas politician, has made hating Muslims as mainstream as hating Nickelback. and all so he could fail to beat Donald Trump.
Nice job, Ted. </sarcasm>
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.