As hundreds of Muslim Texans faced a barrage of protesters during a rally, a state lawmaker sparked a storm by demanding that the Islamic community "publicly announce allegiance to America."
Thursday's gathering in Austin, called the Texas Muslim Capital Day, was organized by the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to encourage Muslims to speak with their state representatives about their issues, according to USA Today
But two dozen sign-wielding demonstrators disrupted the meeting, while freshman state Rep. Molly White ignited a furor by calling for Muslim attendees to declare their allegiance to the U.S. "and our laws."
"We will see how long they stay in my office," she said, referring to the Muslims who attended the meeting, The Hill
White posted a message on her Facebook page, saying that she wouldn't be in her legislative office in the state capitol to receive delegates from the gathering because the legislature was on break.
But she added, "I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws."
The Facebook post drew an angry reaction from CAIR’s government affairs manager Robert McCraw, who sent a letter to Frank Battle, ethics adviser to Texas Speaker Joe Straus, demanding to know whether White had crossed a line.
McCraw wrote, "Has Rep. White violated any House rules in creating such an internal office policy that is selectively being enforced to discriminate against certain religious minorities trying to meet with her or her staff?
"Are House members prohibited from making constituents take oaths before meeting with their elected representatives or house staff? Or, are you aware of any other ethical breaches that may have occurred because of these statements?"
According to USA Today, Straus later released a statement, saying, "The Texas Capitol belongs to all the people of this state, and legislators have a responsibility to treat all visitors just as we expect to be treated — with dignity and respect.
"Anything else reflects poorly on the entire body and distracts from the very important work in front of us."
During the rally, protesters tried to shout down the Muslim speakers. One demonstrator even grabbed the microphone and began ranting against Islam before he was escorted away by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper.
A group of young girls reportedly sang "The Star-Spangled Banner," and continued to repeat the song for the majority of the 90-minute event, USA Today reported.
CAIR’s Houston executive director Mustafaa Carroll said that peaceful Muslims in America are unfairly having to pay the price for the violent actions of Islamic extremists.
"If you want a denunciation, ask those people who did it," said Carroll. "We stand against them. They're not our friends, because more Muslims are killed by terrorists than anyone else."
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