Following Up to Clarify on Farouk Shami's Religious Statements

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Earlier this week, I posted on an disappointing attack made by one of the minor Democratic gubernatorial candidates on Farouk Shami's faith. A number of other Texas media outlets wrote about some confusion and apparent backtracking by Shami as to whether he was Quaker, Muslim, or none of the above. In talking with representatives from Shami's campaign, I promised earlier this week to write a follow up with the campaign's statements which I have been delayed in posted until now for which I apologize.

First, the following release from the campaign director Vince Liebowitz in reaction to the media hoopla over the issue.

“With record unemployment rates, skyrocketing utility rates, and all of the other problems facing Texans today, it is beyond our comprehension why the media refuses to focus on actual issues and substantive public policy and instead chooses to swamp an entire media cycle with garbage process stories about whether Farouk Shami practices the religion of Mohammad or William Penn.”

“Instead of focusing on what matters to everyday Texans, such as where their next mortgage payment will come from or if their jobs are about to be outsourced to China or Mexico, the media has made its primary concern something that is intensely private to most individuals, including Farouk Shami,” he continued. “More bandwith and newsprint has been expended on this issue than has been dedicated to any of Farouk Shami's policy ideas since he got into the race.”

“The economy, job creation, transportation, and the environment are all more worthy issues for discourse. The media, however, shies away from discussing real issues because 'gotcha' journalism' is more amusing. Ask the 800,000 unemployed Texans which is more important: how many times a day Farouk Shami prays or whether we can lift our economy out of the toilet it has been flushed following nearly two decades of iron-fisted, pro-special interest, Republican rule.”

Farouk Shami is an unconventional candidate with new and innovative ideas. The media ignores that in favor of trying to parse statements about his religion. The media has done a disservice to Texas Democrats. Texas Democrats want a meaningful dialogue in this primary, not an election cycle driven by process stories on subjects with no bearing on how Farouk Shami will run the state as Governor. It is enough to make one wonder if Shami's religious beliefs are the issue here, or if there is something darker and racially motivated underlying the recent media attention to whether or not our candidate is a Christian. “This is the same line of questions and attack people made against Barack Obama during the election for President,” says Leibowitz. “Apparently, if you're not lily white, some people will require you to pass a religious test in order to run for office in this country.”

I was a little disappointed at first that the release addressing the issue didn't answer the question which was raised as to what the actual response should be to attacks on Shami's faith- simply, what does he identify as? Thankfully, that has now been addressed with an official statement from Farouk Shami posted on this website.

“I want to clarify what has been reported in the press concerning my religion. I was born in the land of Abraham, believing in Moses, Jesus and Mohammad, and believing in one God. I grew up with members of my family and friends practicing multiple faiths: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. I was also educated at a Quaker school. All of these things contributes to my relationship with God. To say simply 'I'm a Muslim' or 'I'm a Quaker' is to ignore major parts of my faith. I know it seems complicated that I do not have a pat answer to questions about what religion I am, but without my exposure to many different cultures and religious beliefs I wouldn't be the person I am today.

Although I'm not a member of any specific religious tradition, I do begin every day with prayer and meditation and have a strong personal relationship with God. I respect those who practice all faiths because I believe God gave us life to help one another, the poor, the sick and the oppressed. It is through God we can achieve peace, freedom and bring justice to the world. As Governor, I know, with God's help and guidance, I will be able to help every Texan have access to the American Dream just like I did-a good job, access to healthcare, and an excellent education for their children. That's why I feel called to run for office.”

I hope that answers people's questions. To address the points made in Vince's first statement, I've posted Shami's Transportation and Border Policy plan releases in the extended entry.Farouk Shami Says Border Communities Important to Texas' Future



Mexico is not a threat, it is an opportunity. We must continue to foster trade and embrace the jobs it brings to our state.

EL PASO- Farouk Shami believes we need to build successful communities on the border with Mexico. “The current politics of Governor Perry and Mayor White have pursued that are making our border a war zone aren't working.” Shami says in his statement on border policy Wednesday at his campaign office in El Paso.

“We cannot continue to treat all undocumented workers as criminals. We must narrowly target the gangs that threaten our safety and to do that, undocumented workers must become our allies. Furthermore, we must give them incentives, beyond making their community safer, to come forward. That's why I want to work with the federal government to give legal status to anyone who contributes to the capture of gang members,” he adds.

Farouk's policy on border relations includes promoting industry cluster development along the border, increasing educational opportunities on the border, building new infrastructure along the border, and ensuring all Texans living along the border have access to healthcare and educational resources.

In describing the “industry cluster development” along the border, Farouk explains, “Industry cluster development is my plan to work with local officials on each side of the border to build high-skill, capital-intensive factories on the U.S. side of the border and have them partner with low-skill, labor-intensive facilities on the Mexican side of the border. This lowers the cost of manufacturing and allows companies to build products at a low price while ensuring the highest quality possible. Promoting these will eliminate any incentives to outsource to China and India.”

Mexico is not a threat, it is an opportunity. We must continue to foster trade and embrace the jobs it brings to our state.

Farouk Shami Proposes Overhaul in Transportation Policy

We must stop the Trans Texas Corridor and Eminent Domain Abuses

HOUSTON- Farouk Shami released his campaign's policy on transportation issues Thursday. Transportation issues are one the greatest challenges facing the State of Texas. Every hour spent stuck in traffic is an hour of time robbed from Texans.

“Governor Perry has continually misled our state on this issue and doesn't even address the critical issues of transportation in the state,” Shami said as he released the policy. He released his plan complete with a funding mechanism for the overhaul of the Texas Department of Transportation.

Farouk's plan to get Texas moving includes:

Reform the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Transportation Commission with elected positions and bans on lobbying the Legislature for pet projects.

Change TXDOT's focus to concentrate on repair and replacement with a focus on immediate needs for deficient bridges and overpasses.

Focus on mass transit and securing funding for plans to reduce traffic congestion.

Repeal HB3588 and kill the Trans Texas Corridor.

NO NEW TOLL PROJECTS

With the comprehensive attention paid to overhauling the transportation agencies in Texas, Farouk also released a position on how to pay for these new ideas. He is the only candidate offering up ways to pay for road projects other than through privatization or toll roads.

Farouk Shami proposed a one time increase in the gas tax of 8 cents and implementing automatic increases in the gas tax annually from 2012 forward based on increases in the Highway Cost Index. He also proposes to give the commission the authority to issue bonds backed by the gas tax.

Shami also believes these measures will encourage the use of electric and natural gas powered automobiles that would be exempt from the gas tax. “This will encourage people to buy cars powered by these technologies, which will help clean up Texas' air and bring us into compliance with federal standards while also decreasing our dependence on foreign oil,” Shami said.

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13 Comments

  1. Six paragraphs
    And all that awkward wrangling with the press.  Couldn't it just have been easier to say “I'm nondenominational” and follow with that one sentence in the last paragraph?  Sometimes for a campaign it's just not as complicated as it seems.  Issue the following brief statement and say you're done talking, then move on.  Case closed, no need to go to war with the press.

    “Although I'm not a member of any specific religious tradition, I do begin every day with prayer and meditation and have a strong personal relationship with God.” Bam. Next question.

    • Missed opportunity…
      Agreed.

      But, if you're going to be highminded by taking potshots at the press to cover your substance, why not pull some Jefferson off the shelf and beat them over the head with it?

      “We agree with Thomas Jefferson, the author of Virginia's Statute of Religious Freedom, that whether a man believes in one God, two Gods, or no God neither picks our pocket nor breaks our leg.  Meanwhile, Texas schoolchildren and average Texans have their pockets picked every day by a broken budget system, and workers have their legs cut out from under them as they lose their jobs.”

  2. Take him at his word
    I think the critical question for people who worry about Shami being a Muslim is, is he sympathetic in any way to the Muslim terrorist cause?  Because the history of Islam is war, not peace.  Forget about the Koran and look at the actions of Islam from the earliest days of Mohammad:  conversion by warmaking.  I have a map from the History Book Club that traces the conquest from its earliest days.

    I take Shami at his word, hoping and assuming he is not sympathetic to the causes of violence.  If he was a practicing Muslim, it would be heresy to embrace other religions as he has done.  I do not think he would do that publicly, in front of other Muslims, unless he meant it.  In the Middle East he could pay a stiff penalty for such speech, so I take him at his word.

    But the question is not irrelevant at a time when we are at war with an armed international Muslim cabal whose tentacles reach everywhere.

    • Take him at his word
      I think the critical question for people who worry about Shami being a Christian is, is he sympathetic in any way to the Christianist cause?  Because the history of Christianity is war, not peace.  Forget about the New Testament and look at the actions of Christianity from the earliest days of Theodosius:  conversion by warmaking.  I have a map from the History Book Club that traces the conquest from its earliest days.

      I take Shami at his word, hoping and assuming he is not sympathetic to the causes of violence.  If he was a practicing Christian, it would be heresy to embrace other religions as he has done.  I do not think he would do that publicly, in front of other Christian, unless he meant it.  In Texas politics he could pay a stiff penalty for such speech, so I take him at his word.

      But the question is not irrelevant at a time when we are at war with an armed international Christian cabal whose tentacles reach everywhere.

    • How the extremes are
      is not how all Muslims are.

      Are there some violent passages in the Koran?  Yes, but there are also some in the bible.  Like most Christians, most Muslims ignore those passages and don't practice them.  Most Muslims, just like most other people, just want to live peacefully and make a good living for themselves and their families.  There are 1.3 billion Muslims, only a small minority are a threat to us.  A significant enough minority to be a threat, but that doesn't change the fact that most Muslims are peaceful and good people.

      There are more Muslims fighting with us than against us: in the Iraqi and Afghan army, in the Pakistan military fighting against extremism.  Turkey has troops in Afghanistan.  We have friendly dealings with many predominantly Muslim countries.

      And as MsInformed points out, if you want to talk about history, the history of Christianity is hardly peaceful.

  3. Disappointed
    Instead of standing up for his religion (be it Society of Friends, Islam, or whatever), Shami skirted the issue.

    • Thomas Paine: “My own mind is my own church”
      I am satisfied with Farouk's statement on his religious beliefs.  Sometimes one's own convictions aren't as easily categorized as one might hope, but so what?  If he has what it takes to be a good Texas governor, that's what we're looking for.

    • Why does it matter?
      And really, would it make anyone feel better if he said he was a Pentecostal snake handler that believed the true word of Jesus H. Christ, but still had the name Farouk Shami? I am pretty sure it wouldn't. I think his answer, which he didn't have to provide in the first place, was to the point. I assume he didn't feel the need to defend his religion when he clearly said he really doesn't have a specific religion.

    • Eh
      Maybe he truly doesn't identify with one brand-name religion. Common enough sentiment. If there is a god, I doubt [he/she] only considers one brand to be correct.

      The more a candidate considers [his/her] brand to be the bestest religion of all, the less I like them.

  4. Religion
    A person's religious affiliation, or lack of same, is not relevant to their candidacy for governor. Progressives should emphasize this point, instead of joining the chorus of those who demand to know where a candidate worships. I recall a time in Texas when religious affiliation was a question on jury questionnaires — despite the First Amendment — and I know that an avowed atheist would likely have no chance to get elected, but inappropriate attitudes like that still don't make Shami's religious beliefs any of our damn business.  

  5. Perry and Religion in Texas
    A recent Pew opinion poll indicates that Texans are less religious and proportionately believe in God less than citizens of Oklahoma and Arkansas. We even trailed Md/DC on belief in God.

    Good Lord!  Four more years of Perry and we'll trail Louisiana and Massachusetts, too!

    Like relative economic growth, this happened on his watch, so he must be responsible for this lamentable situation.  

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