By Dawud Walid, CAIR-MI Executive Director
Michigan, which contains one of the largest concentrations of Muslims in America, is also home to aggressive Islamophobic and xenophobic elements that unfortunately include some elected representatives.
Michigan State Representative Dave Agema (R-Grandville) plans to hold an “Anti-Sharia Rally” at the state capital this Thursday in order to push copy-cat restriction of foreign laws legislation, which has been promoted nationwide by a cottage industry of Islamophobes. Agema, who introduced this legislation last year but failed to get it out of the Michigan House Judiciary Committee, hopes that his “rally” will encourage his legislative colleagues and the public to jump on his extremist and un-American bandwagon.
In recent past, Agema also sponsored an Arizona immigration copy-cat bill that would have justified racial profiling in practice for local and state law enforcement. During a hearing a few months ago, he trotted out fake ex-terrorist Kamal Saleem
to testify as to how E –Verify would keep Michigan safe from undocumented boogeyman Muslims, who have plans to infiltrate our nation. He has even endorsed making changes to the 14th
Amendment, which grants
birthright citizenship to all born in America to wanting to make Michigan an “English-only” state.
Besides the fact that his intolerant bill will have a negative impact on Jews, Catholics and others whose religious codes are considered in Michigan courts pertaining to congregational and marital arbitration, hate simply hurts Michigan.
Michigan is the only state in the past decade that suffered population atrophy. In addition, Metro Detroit is one of the most segregated major cities in America, and Michigan in general has one of the worse economies in our land. Wisdom should dictate that a climate of inclusion, not division, should be cultivated by politicians and religious leaders to help attract migration to Michigan both in persons of various ethnicities and faiths as well as businesses. Agema and his supporters truly do not comprehend that propagating hate is not simply immoral, but also has negative economic consequences in chilling growth.
Although Michigan Governor Rick Synder, who is a Republican, has clearly stated
that immigration is a key to bolstering our economy and he has friendly relations with Michigan Muslims, we have not heard from him nor our state’s GOP leadership a clear repudiation of Agema’s anti-Islam message. Our politicians simply cannot hide on the sidelines and be silent while their colleagues foment division. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously stated, “A time comes when silence is betrayal,” and that betrayal is to the values that we as a state and a nation claim to represent.
A coalition ranging from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee – Michigan (ADC-MI) and the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) to the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ) and Jewish Voices for Peace – Detroit stand in solidarity against Agema’s fear-mongering in favor of a more inclusive Michigan. It is our hope that our elected officials will also join this same spirit and speak out strongly against Agema’s anti-Muslim antics. At the end of the day, we must all recognize that hate hurts Michigan.
Dawud Walid is the Exec. Director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI), and a board member of the Metropolitan Detroit Interfaith Workers’ Rights Committee. A decorated US Navy veteran, Dawud has presented about Islam/interfaith dialogue at over twenty institutions of higher learning, on panels with int’l leaders and academics, and in media outlets including Al-Jazeera, CNN, BBC Radio, FOX, NPR, the New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal.