Two Republican lawmakers from Minnesota, Cindy Pugh and Kathy Lohmer, along with a local GOP official, are facing intense scrutiny over a controversial social media post that warned about Muslims “infiltrating” their precinct caucuses.
The now-deleted Facebook post was reportedly created by Minnesota's 4th Congressional District Chair Dave Sina. The Republican claimed a friend of his attended a caucus training session held at a mosque by the Muslim American Society (MAS), according to the Star Tribune.
For those unaware, MAS is a nonpartisan organization that promotes civic engagement among American Muslims with local chapters across the U.S.
Sina reportedly wrote about Muslims trying to “infiltrate (our) republican caucuses on Feb. 6.”
“They didn’t talk about the general election but I am sure they are ahead of us in that as well,” he added.
The conspiracy theory implied American-Muslims are foreigners who want to enter the U.S. politics only to harm the country and have a hidden agenda to enact their own law.
As it turns out, the training session Sina was talking about was actually a harmonious workshop led by Laura Johnson, the lead organizer at Christian faith-based coalition ISAIAH, meant to bring together Muslim and Christian congregants, educate their religious communities and work on civic engagement, according to reports.
The meeting, which was recorded on Facebook Live, explained how citizens could participate in the political system, how the caucuses work and how to get chosen to be a delegate at the parties’ state conventions in June.
Johnson also explained it was important for the American-Muslim community to get involved in the U.S politics so their voices can be heard.
However, the Republicans were terrified of a harmless meeting, which has been reportedly held for more than 14 years.
"This notion to infiltrate — this word that's getting thrown around, that Muslim people want to infiltrate the political system — I would just challenge people to really consider, what is the difference between infiltrating and participating in the political arena?" said ISAIAH spokesperson Minister JaNaé Bates. "We need to really talk about what we're saying and what we mean. Because words do have power, but the reality is, you can't infiltrate a system that's open to the public."
The absurd post that had nothing in common with the meeting drew criticism from not only the Muslim community but also other Republicans, human rights activists and religious groups.
Minnesota GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan said Muslim Americans are welcome to the caucus and that she believes “there is no religious test to participate in the Republican caucus.”
But a Republican candidate for Minnesota Senate, Jeff Johnson, defended the post and said, “There are some here who are trying to change what America is. And we can’t allow that.”
Chairman of the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party, Ken Martin, called out Johnson for not condemning the Republican lawmakers.
“The fact that the leading Republican gubernatorial candidate would not only fail to denounce these bigoted comments, but go so far as to defend them as a ‘good thing’ is deeply troubling,” he exclaimed.
Meanwhile, Pugh responded to the criticism by claiming she didn’t support what she had shared.
“I hoped to inspire Minnesotans to participate in the caucus process, in no way did I endorse what was written,” she told Star Tribune.
Sina, upon realizing the meeting had no such agenda, said he might have been referring to another video in a futile attempt to do some damage control.
What happens when Muslim-Americans participate in their civic duty and get involved politically? Their politicians accuse them of "infiltrating," cause hysteria and then Islamophobes attack them. All for wanting to be engaged Americans. Report with @srl https://t.co/AOLMCbOmLx— ????? ????????? (@Rowaida_Abdel) February 2, 2018