Last week, State Rep. Molly White (R-Belton) came under national scrutiny for her comments asking Muslims at the Capitol to pledge allegiance to the USA on Texas Muslim Capitol Day. Her original controversial Facebook post is below:
Her anti-Muslim comments sparked national outrage, as did protestors who stood outside the Capitol and heckled Muslim school children who were visiting the Capitol to learn.
This week, Rep. White spoke with the Texas Tribune to explain her remarks. She told the Tribune that she feels she has nothing to apologize for, and that she didn’t realize her comments would be seen by so many.
As she explained:
“Hindsight’s 20-20. … I never thought it was going to go viral. And I thought it was just to folks that were in my district. I didn’t know that there [were]fringe groups out there watching every word you say and things you do.”
White’s justification for her comments boils down to, “I thought I was only being bigoted to Muslims in my district, not everyone, so that should have made it okay.” In fact, the Tribune reports that she added that although “no one who visited her office on Texas Muslim Capitol Day was asked to say or do anything before speaking to her legislative staff,… had she been there, she said, ‘I would have asked them if they would renounce terrorism.'”
White also said that her comments were primarily directed at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nonprofit group who organizes Texas Muslim Capitol Day. The Muslim civil rights group has been designated as a terrorist group by the United Arab Emirates. CAIR has not been called a terrorist group by the United States, and the reasons for the UAE including it on its list of terrorist groups has been speculated to be more political than grounded in reality. Molly White noted that if she could change one thing about her actions last week, “she would have clarified her comments sooner so that everyone knew they were directed at CAIR, and not all Muslims.”
Nonetheless, Rep. White insisted that her comments were not offensive, claiming that “if [Muslims] have come here to America to follow the American dream and to pursue all the things that we all like about America, I don’t think they would be offended.” She doubled down on her ignorance of Islam, adding, “It’s not just a religion. It’s a whole ideology; it’s a whole way of life. And their belief system is so contrary to our American ideology of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of worship.”
Rep. Molly White’s attitude toward Muslims is indicative of a larger trend of the Capitol becoming increasingly inaccessible to the people who need it. Protestors and elected officials alike thought it was acceptable to harass and heckle Muslims who came to the Capitol solely because they were different. And who can forget the summer of 2013, when peaceful demonstrators were throw away their pads and tampons before entering the Senate gallery? Meanwhile, those with concealed handgun licenses who were carrying guns (an actual security threat) were permitted to bring those inside.
Fortunately, there are still legislators dedicated to promoting social justice and inclusion, like Rep. Mary Gonzalez, whose office we featured earlier this week. But these legislators’ offices shouldn’t have to serve as the only places in the Capitol where diversity is welcomed and celebrated. The number of lawmakers who prefer hate over inclusion is unfortunately growing, and that is troubling for the future of Texas. The Capitol should be the people’s house, open to all–a place where people can advocate for what is important to them instead of being turned away by those who were elected to represent them. As long as ideology like Molly White’s persists, Texas will continue to be a place where needs of many are overshadowed by political interests of the few.