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Text: CAIR Georgia's Letter To Rep. Jason Spencer After Anti-Muslim Remarks

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(ATLANTA, GA - 1/4/17) The Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations sent the following letter to Rep. Jason Spencer after the state legislator accused one of his constituents, a college student, of treason because the young man criticized House Bill 3, Spencer's withdrawn proposal to ban women from wearing niqabs, and donated $10 to support CAIR Georgia's civil rights work.

Dear Rep. Spencer:

     I am Edward Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, our nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organization. As you know, our organization promotes justice by engaging in interfaith dialogue, countering illegal discrimination, and building coalitions with our fellow Americans.

     I write to express concern about a Dec. 30th letter in which you accused one of your constituents, Mr. Dana Sweeney, of engaging in criminal activity—specifically, treason and terrorism—because he donated to CAIR Georgia and criticized House Bill 3, your withdrawn proposal to ban Georgia women from choosing to wear niqabs in public.

 

     As Mr. Sweeney (who is not a Muslim) said after receiving your letter in the mail: “Contrary to Representative Spencer's suggestion, I consider these donations to be essential acts of loving my neighbor and my country in a time when the safety and civil liberties of Muslim Georgians are under threat. That makes me an unapologetic opponent of Representative Spencer's absolutist vision for America, which he seems to have confused for making me an "enemy of America."”

 

     Indeed, Mr. Sweeney has the right to donate to CAIR Georgia or any other civil rights group he so chooses. As a former prosecutor, I can personally assure you that our government does not and cannot target Americans for donating to registered non-profit organizations.

 

     As such, no politician should accuse his own constituent of treason for exercising his constitutional right to free speech. Nor should a politician slander American Muslim civil rights groups as terrorist organizations. Such bigotry is not only disappointing, but dangerous. Indeed, anti-Muslim bigots have threatened me and other American Muslim leaders because of debunked conspiracy theories like those you shared in your letter to Mr. Sweeney.

 

     Your criticism of CAIR Georgia also resembles an old smear tactic used during the Civil Rights Movement. Just as racists sought to undermine African-American civil rights groups like the NAACP by accusing them of ties to communism, anti-Muslim bigots now seek to marginalize American Muslim civil rights groups like CAIR by accusing us of ties to terrorism.

 

     This despite the fact that CAIR Georgia and other American Muslim organizations have repeatedly, publicly and robustly condemned terrorism, including the homicidal lunacy of ISIS. In the wake of the Orlando massacre, CAIR chapters across our nation also organized blood drives in solidarity with the victims. But American Muslims do not only condemn terrorism after it happens. We also work to prevent terrorism by reporting suspicious activity[1] to law enforcement and countering extremist propaganda[2].

 

     Here in Georgia, we even hosted an anti-extremism seminar at our state's largest mosque last year. During the event, CAIR-GA spoke alongside a Muslim official from The Carter Center as well as a local imam who once survived a terrorist attack. Together, we engaged in a point-by-point rebuttal of terrorist propaganda in order to protect our community, especially youth.

 

     In fact, CAIR speaks out against terrorism so forcefully that Daesh (ISIS) has criticized our civil rights work and threatened to assassinate our leader[3].

 

     Additionally, our support for democracy in the Middle East led a foreign dictatorship to, quite ironically, label us a terrorist organization. This is no surprise. CAIR always expects bigots, terrorists and dictators to attack us. However, we do not expect our political leaders in Georgia to do the same.

 

      Although you referred to Islam as a “malignant political ideology” online on Jan. 3rd, our faith teaches us to respond to such injustice with goodness. The Quran says, “Good and evil cannot be equal. Respond to (wrong) with something better, and then the person with whom you had enmity will become like a close friend.”[4]

 

     With this in mind, I once again invite you to meet with us so that we can clear the air, build bridges, and dialogue. As you know, this is the third time that CAIR Georgia has invited you to meet and greet your Georgia Muslim neighbors since you introduced House Bill 3. We hope that you will accept this, our latest invitation. As Georgians, Americans, and human beings, we need not agree with each other in order to show respect for each other.

 

     Thank you for your consideration as well as for your service to the State of Georgia. We hope to hear from you soon, and we wish you and your family a Happy New Year.

 

With thanks,

Edward Ahmed Mitchell

Attorney & Executive Director

Council on American-Islamic Relations

Georgia Chapter


[1] “U.S. Officials Say American Muslims Do Report Terrorist Threats,” Reuters. 16 July 2016.

[2] “Musim Scholars Release Letter To ISIS…Blasting Its Ideology,” The Huffington Post. 24 September 2014.

[3] “CAIR Leader Pictured on ISIS Hit List of Western Muslims,” Council on American-Islamic Relations. 13 Apri 2016.

[4] Surah Fussilat, Chapter 41, Verse 34. The Holy Quran.