State Rep. Molly White (R-Belton) drew criticism Thursday after asking Muslim visitors to the Capitol to “renounce Islamic terrorist groups” during an event UT students helped plan.
About 600 people attended Muslim Capitol Day, an annual event hosted by the Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, to voice their legislative priorities and advocate for religious tolerance.
Rep. White, who is out of town visiting her district, instructed her staff to tell Muslim visitors to publicly pledge allegiance to American law.
“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,” White wrote in a public Facebook post. “We will see how long they stay in my office.”
Government senior Usama Malik, vice president of UT’s Muslim Student Association, said Muslims should not have to work harder to prove their patriotism.
“It’s kind of a double standard,” said Malik, who organized the event. “Seeing her comments [does] not really enrage us. It just shows us that we have a lot of work to do in this country, and that this attitude of having to apologize for the actions of others needs to end once and for all.”
Shiyam Galyon, who graduated from UT in 2012, traveled from Houston with the Syrian-American Council for the rally. Galyon said people of all religions should have the right to assemble and voice their opinions.
“When a group wants to organize for their rights, we want to support that,” Galyon said.
While visitors from across Texas rallied for the seventh annual Muslim Capitol Day, protesters arrived holding signs with phrases such as, “Save America, Stop Islam,” and interrupted the rally speakers throughout the event.
Rick Ellis, a protester at the rally from Axtell, Texas, said he thinks Muslims should not practice their religion in America.
“If they want to come as Americans, fine,” Ellis said. “If they want to come and live as Muslims, go back to the Middle East.”
Muslim Student Association President Rawand Abdelghani, psychology junior, said she was disappointed that the protesters interrupted the rally, which was meant to be peaceful.
“Most Muslims, especially the younger generation, were born in the U.S., and they consider themselves Americans and part of the community,” Abdelghani said. “It was meant to be an event that brought the community together and brought Muslims together, Muslims and non-Muslims.”
Malik, the event co-planner, said it is university students’ responsibility to address people’s ignorance about Islam.
“It’s now imperative for us to take this to another level and defend Islam from these types of things,” Malik said. “Because we understand where the hatred is coming from and what the types of ignorance are — in light of this country’s history — and how to combat that.”