Texas

Republican Lawmaker Wants to Poll Texas Muslims About Their Beliefs

To counter the anti-Muslim rhetoric politicians have directed at Muslims, organizers held supportive signs and gave out hugs and flowers at a gathering last month.
To counter the anti-Muslim rhetoric politicians have directed at Muslims, organizers held supportive signs and gave out hugs and flowers at a gathering last month. Meagan Flynn
To counter the anti-Muslim rhetoric politicians have directed at Muslims, organizers held supportive signs and gave out hugs and flowers at a gathering last month. - MEAGAN FLYNN
To counter the anti-Muslim rhetoric politicians have directed at Muslims, organizers held supportive signs and gave out hugs and flowers at a gathering last month.
Meagan Flynn
For questionable purposes, a freshman Republican lawmaker sent out a poll to mosque imams and Muslim student associations across the state to measure their beliefs.

Rep. Kyle Biedermann of Fredericksburg sent the three-question survey ahead of the Homeland Security Summit he's hosting this week, where he will discuss "defending against radical Islamic terrorism in Texas," as he described in it a release.

Yet Musfafaa Carroll, executive director of the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is urging the Muslim community not to respond out of concern that their responses will be used against them no matter what they say. Carroll said it was though the lawmaker was asking Muslims to prove they don't support terrorism.

"What they're doing is they're misinterpreting what Sharia law is, or some of our tenets are, to fit the profile of what terrorists believe," Carroll said.


The questions include: Whether the Muslim person supports the "Muslim Reform Movement," which, according to information Biedermann provided to the mosques, is a group that denounces any Islamic states or caliphates such as ISIS stands for a "respectful, merciful and inclusive interpretation of Islam."

Secondly, Biedermannn would like to know whether the mosques support the Muslim Pledge for Religious Freedom and Safety from Harm for Former Muslims. According to a document Biedermann gave them for review, this pledge denounces executing Muslim men for leaving Islam and beating Muslim women who leave the faith "five times a day until she repents or dies."

And lastly, Biedermann wants to know if the Muslims support U.S. Senator Ted Cruz's bill asking Congress to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

Carroll said the lawmaker's poll showed a basic misunderstanding of the religion. Firstly, he said, the assumption that Muslims who believe in Sharia law believe in chopping off people's heads if they leave Islam is insulting. For most Muslims, Sharia is akin to Christians' Ten Commandments in that it is a way of life: how to treat your parents and your neighbors, he said. In the same way, it is not an alternative to following the Constitution and the law of the land in the U.S., Carroll said.

"That's mainstream Islam," Carroll said. "What they've done instead is given so much credit to these terrorist groups. They're using their definition of what your religion is to satisfy a fear that they have or prejudice that they have. It's like me telling you that the Ten Commandments were designed to oppress women and children and then asking, do you believe in the Ten Commandments?"

According to an email statement that Biedermann sent to various news outlets late last week, Biedermann says the reason he was asking these questions is because of the Homeland Security Summit, effectively explaining nothing. "When I took office, I assembled a Law Enforcement & Homeland Security Advisory Council," he wrote."The number one priority of the advisory council has been border security, and keeping Texas strong and secure."
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Meagan Flynn is a staff writer at the Houston Press who, despite covering criminal justice and other political squabbles in Harris County, drinks only one small cup of coffee per day.
Contact: Meagan Flynn