Sen. Joyce Elliott issued the following statement on Facebook regarding Sen. Jason Rapert’s recent posts about Muslims:
As an American, Arkansan, legislator and a human being, I want to make it clear that I in no way agree with smearing or even hinting at smearing Muslims for their religion. To do so is unacceptable. Full stop. My religious belief is not superior to that of the the Muslim faith. As a person, I am not superior to anyone.
One of the most rewarding parts of doing my job as a legislator is the honor of serving all kinds of peoples. All means All. I know some folks have issues with religious diversity and other kinds of diversity. I do not. To my great delight, Muslims live in my Senate district. There is a mosque near where I live in the University District. We are a diverse, international part of our city. Life here smells good, tastes good, feels good, is good and growing better. One of the best ways to grow together is for everyone to vote. That includes every Muslims. There is no such thing as too many of any “group” voting, not even with the totally, demonstrably unneeded Voter ID with which we have sadly amended our state constitution.
See below the post by Rapert that started the controversy; regarding high turnout among Muslim voters, he asked, “Do you want them ruling everything in America?”
Rapert says he was just asking a question and quoting an article. The article in question, from a conspiracy website, argued that the “high percentage of Muslims voting” is “concerning.” Running down the list of Muslim candidates who won office in November, and data on Muslim participation in the political process, the article concludes, “If you don’t think they have an agenda to conform America to Islam, you really do need to pull your head out of the sand.”
Rapert’s take? “If you read this article and don’t see real political concerns then you have a problem perceiving news,” he opined.
Here’s another response to Rapert’s post, from outgoing state Rep. Clarke Tucker, who ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic candidate for the Second Congressional District this year:
When officials make statements like this, it poses a threat to the fundamental American values of freedom, democracy & security. Our nation’s diversity is to be celebrated—not feared. I’d welcome constructive conversation, with @jasonrapert or anyone, on ways we can do that #arpx pic.twitter.com/4b09mtcP00
— Clarke Tucker (@clarketucker) December 3, 2018
Rapert hasn’t replied to Tucker’s tweet. Perhaps that’s because Rapert was temporarily barred from using his Twitter account. Twitter issued the time-out after finding that Rapert had violated the company’s “hateful conduct policy” — due to a separate tweet, in which Rapert offered his view of what Muslims believe and asked, “Who would want to elect someone who believes this?” That tweet has apparently been removed by Twitter.
The Democratic Party of Arkansas also issued multiple responses, stating, “Arkansas Democrats believe all people and faiths have value and are worthy of respect.” Here’s the full statement from Rev. Steve Copley, the chair of the Arkansas Faith Caucus of the Democratic Party of Arkansas:
Our nation was formed with the wisdom that our Creator has endowed all people with certain inalienable rights. When Arkansans and Americans are attacked for their religious beliefs our moral compass compels us to speak up. It is especially disheartening when those who attack religious freedom are the very people who profess its importance and are elected to protect it. The Faith Caucus and the Democratic Party stand with Arkansas’s religious communities, especially those who are routinely targeted. All people have the right to Democracy and to their faith.
Republican leadership in the legislature, on the other hand, has been silent.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), that nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group, called for the Arkansas legislature to censure Rapert. Asked for comment, Senate President Pro Tem Jim Hendren said, “I don’t have a comment at this time.”
Through a spokesperson, House Speaker Matthew Shepherd said, “the Senate is a separate legislative body and this would not be a matter for the House.”