Ramon Mejia. Photo credit: Stephanie Arredondo of Studio Ten.
By Ramon Mejia
As a Muslim and former U.S. Marine, I am both deeply offended and disgusted by Rep. Molly White’s ignorant and bigoted comment made last Thursday, January 29th, via social media. White, a freshman Republican member of the Texas Legislature, had the audacity to write:
“Today is Texas Muslim Capital [sic] Day…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.”
To think that my patriotism is being questioned by a member of the Texas legislature, as a result of my Islamic faith, is not only an insult to my military service, but also to my fellow brothers and sisters in Islam who reside in the United States.
White isn’t the first legislator to use Islamophobic rhetoric. Her confusion of the term “capital” for “capitol” raises the question whether she believes that all Muslims are supporters of terrorist organizations and should “renounce” their affiliation, or if she meant “denounce”. However, a bigger problem still stands in her singling out Muslims and asking them to reaffirm their allegiance to their country—a suggestion that would be laughable were it directed at any other religious group. While it would be easy to dismiss White’s anti-Islamic comment as an outlier position in U.S. society, the reality is far more sinister.
This recent event only highlights a historical pattern of accepted systemic racism and marginalization of minority ethnic, racial, and/or religious groups in the United States. During World War I, the U.S. German population helplessly witnessed an attack on their civil liberties. Not only did police raid their homes, but the German language was seen as “promoting un-American values,” and was put under a teaching ban in several states. During World War II, approximately 120,000 people of Japanese descent residing in the U.S. were placed in internment camps, a forced mass relocation and incarceration program later blessed by the U.S. Supreme Court, under the guise of security, is one of the darkest stains in constitutional law. During the Cold War, McCarthyism and the Red Scare created an epidemic of fear leading to questioning the loyalties of citizens with dissenting and left-leaning political views. Ms. White, do you intend to lead a McCarthy-esque witch hunt in Texas against Muslims? Do we not contribute to the social fabric of our society?
In many ways the Second Red Scare, of the late 1940s-1950s, has led the way for a new community of “strangers” to have their 1st & 4th Amendment rights violated. We look back and clearly identify a long history of immoral and unconstitutional actions committed by U.S. politicians against communities seen as “foreign” or “different”. This history can only be characterized as racist and bigoted. What side of history will you be on, Ms. White?
White’s comments in reference to Texas Muslim Capitol Day, which I participated in, go against the morals and ideals that the United States is supposed to stand for. This day was an opportunity for both Muslim and non-Muslim community members, including school-age children, to visit our State Capitol to learn about the democratic political process. Advocating for or against specific legislation with our Senators and Representatives is a proud tradition and right of all Americans. This was a time to welcome and support the participation of community members, not to question their loyalty and ostracize them.
There is some significant irony in a U.S. politician demanding loyalty oaths from community members while displaying the flag of a foreign state on her desk. It is disturbing, not to mention irresponsible, that she would use her political platform to propagate fear and hate, and advance her career by pandering to specific, racist constituents. It is a slap in the face to the diverse, vibrant populace of Texas and the U.S., and in the face of my service and my family’s sacrifice, as well as the estimated 15,000 U.S. service members who identify as Muslim and their families.
Editor’s note: Ramon Mejia served in Supply Ops. while in the U.S. Marine Corps. Participating in the initial invasion of and deploying to Dhi Qar Province, Iraq in 2003. Ramon is a Social Studies teacher and community organizer. His views here are his own.