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News from Progress Michigan
January 12, 2014
Michigan Tea Party ‘Powwow’: Bigotry on Parade
Keynote speeches at Michigan Tea Party gathering filled with blatant fear-mongering
MICHIGAN — “The problem is, the only [Muslims] in Dearborn or anywhere else in America that have a voice are the ones who want to destroy this country and they want Sharia to be the law of the land,” said Lt. General William “Jerry” Boykin to a gathering of the Michigan Tea Party on Saturday in Mount Pleasant.
That was just one of many Islamophobic and xenophobic rants made over the weekend by speakers at a gathering of state Tea Party leaders, including incoming State Representatives Cindy Gamrat and Todd Courser, who spoke and helped emcee the event. IncomingRep. Gary Glenn was also in attendance, as was Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, who swore in Gamrat to her position.
Boykin, who has an “extremist file” on the Southern Poverty Law Center website and is classified as having “Anti-Muslim” ideology, went on a tirade about Muslims in Dearborn — and Islam in general — during his hour-long speech. He also claimed that the Council on American and Islamic Relations was a “terrorist group.”
“When a president stands up and says, ‘ISIS is not Islam.’ You gotta look at him and say, ‘Either you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about, or you’re just lying.’ [Applause] Of course it’s Islam.”
“Most of the Muslims in Dearborn don’t want Sharia and they don’t want to be part of jihad. The problem is, the only ones in Dearborn or anywhere else in America that have a voice are the ones who want to destroy this country and they want Sharia to be the law of the land. They want jihad to be their raison d’etre — their reason to exist. You’ve got organizations like the Council on American and Islamic Relations, which by the way, is a terrorist group.” [Applause]
“I’m not afraid of Muslims. I actually want to try to do something to help them like, bring the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” [Applause]
Boykin also touched on the U.S./Mexican border and claimed that terrorists are streaming across the border. He even touted a thoroughly debunked right-wing talking point about prayer rugs and terrorist manuals being found at the border.
“I don’t care about the Mexican day worker. What I care about is ISIS and Al Qaeda and Boko Haram, and all the other terrorist organizations that are coming across the border.”
“They are finding Korans, pray rugs, terrorist training manuals…on the American side of the border.”
RNC Committeeman Dave Agema, who was the keynote speaker on Friday, compared modern day America to Rome through a xenophobic lens, saying that “loss of loyalty” — among other things — would lead America down a Rome-like path to destruction. One of the problems, Agema said was that Rome, like America, “had a military that was infiltrated by foreigners.”
“We have a loss of loyalty to America because many have dual loyalties. ‘I’m from Afghanistan, I’m here. I really like Afghanistan, but I live in America.’ Well, which one do you really want to live in and where do your loyalties lie?”
“Communism and Islam have four things that they try to destroy in a country because they know that this is what made America great. One is patriotism. If they can destroy your patriotism, they can destroy your country. Two, is your religion and your faith because they know that’s what our country is founded on. And three, is loyalty to the United States. No dual loyalty. And fourth one is morals. Those are the four things they know they have to destroy. And they’re doing a pretty good job.”
These comments come on the heels of what was already a controversial week for the embattled RNC Committeeman regarding his online statements about African Americans and Islam. Progress Michigan called on event organizers to cancel Agema as a speaker, but instead he was promoted and defended.
“Listening and observing over the weekend, it’s clear that a main pillar of the Tea Party platform in Michigan is a right-wing, fundamentalist Christian ideology that stokes fear of Muslims and immigrants, undocumented or otherwise,” said Sam Inglot, a communications specialist at Progress Michigan. “Speakers like Boykin and Agema were treated like folk heroes and celebrities even while they attacked Muslims and immigrants. Men like these are looked to as leaders by the Tea Party because of these outlandish and far-right beliefs. It’s appalling to see that they’re defended and promoted by state lawmakers like Reps. Gamrat, Courser and Glenn. Boykin and Agema’s hateful views have no place in Michigan or state politics.”
Progress Michigan will release more information and findings from the Tea Party gathering over the coming days.