Eva Ruth Moravec
AUSTIN — A small group of vitriolic hecklers and overt suspicion from one lawmaker greeted hundreds of Muslims who rallied Thursday during their biennial Texas Capitol lobbying day — the first time the event has drawn protesters.
As the Council on American-Islamic Relations opened the gathering on the Capitol steps, protester Christine Weick, who had been posing as a participant, grabbed the microphone.
“Islam will never dominate in the United States,” the 50-year-old from Michigan said, “and by the grace of God it will not dominate Texas.”
The microphone was quickly wrestled back and a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper led her back to the crowd. But throughout the hourlong rally, about two dozen protesters chanted things like, “No Sharia here,” ‘’One God,” and “Remember 9/11” while holding posters and flags.
Despite the hecklers, the nonprofit council continued the program. About 300 people, including dozens of middle and high school students, attended the rally and then met with lawmakers to share their concerns with several proposed bills.
Council Executive Director Mustafaa Carroll said the event began in 2003 and never drew opposition before, but that online threats prompted the council to contact the FBI. FBI spokeswoman Michelle Lee wouldn’t confirm or deny the FBI’s involvement, and there was a noticeable DPS and law enforcement presence.
Carroll said the group’s agenda in no way encouraged passage of Sharia law, the moral code and religious law of Islam.
“It’s not even logical,” he said. “It’s a shame that I even have to address that.”
Inside the Capitol, an Israeli flag — a symbol of support for the Jewish state — greeted visitors to Rep. Molly White’s office. On Facebook, the first-year Republican lawmaker posted that she was out of the office but gave her staff instructions to ask visiting Muslims “to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws.”
The council responded by sending a note to House Speaker Joe Straus asking if White violated the chamber’s rules by discriminating against religious minorities.
“Are House members prohibited from making constituents take oaths before meeting with their elected representatives or house staff?” the letter asks.
In a statement, Straus said only that all Capitol visitors should be treated respectfully, adding, “Anything else reflects poorly on the entire body and distracts from the very important work in front of us.”