Freedom to Boycott Israel, Buy Property Top Priorities at Texas Muslim Capitol Day

Rallyers father in first year Texas has two Muslim lawmakers in Lege

Muslims from across Texas gathered at the Capitol March 7 to discuss legislative priorities (photo by Jana Birchum)

Before listing their action items at the steps of the Capitol March 7, a member of the 20th annual Texas Muslim Capitol Day rally came forward to say a prayer and thank the crowd that had trekked from Houston and Dallas. Then they delved into this session's legislative priorities, including making the Muslim holidays of Eid-al-Fitr and Eid-al-Adha official state holidays, freedom of speech for state employees and contractors, and property rights for immigrants.

"Muslims are targeted quite a lot when it comes to civil rights," said Shakeel Rashed, one of organizers of the rally and member of the Austin chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "This year is really special – this is the first year that we have two Muslims elected to the Texas Legislature: Rep. Salman Bhojani out of Euless, Texas, which is just east of Dallas, and Rep. Suleman Lalani outside of the Houston area."

Both Democrats spoke at the rally. The first Muslim elected to Austin City Council, Zo Qadri, was also recognized. "You [all] are here to tell your story and your elected representatives are here to hear it," said Rawan Harirah, leader of the CAIR Houston chapter and the first woman in CAIR's Texas leadership. "Do not walk away ashamed."

Harirah said after she was kicked out of a water park years ago for wearing her hijab, she became an activist so that Muslim women would not be wrongfully prevented from comfortably living in Texas. She urges Muslim Texans to voice their concerns to CAIR and directly to their legislators rather than accept substandard treatment.

State Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, spoke to the group about Senate Bill 147, which would forbid those holding Chinese, Russian, Iranian, or North Korean citizenship from owning property in Texas. "I am not Muslim American, but I am your brother," said Wu, whose district just west of Bellaire is 85% non-Anglo. "I stand with you in good times and in bad times. And that is because many of you in your community have stood with me. Right now, we are in the middle of a fight with anti-Chinese and anti-Asian legislation."

A bill CAIR supports is House Bill 1090 by Rep. Jon Rosenthal, D-Cypress, known as the Freedom of Speech Act, which eliminates the current requirement that state contractors sign anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) clauses that prevent them from opposing Israel. In 2019, Pflugerville speech pathologist Bahia Amawi sued the state after she could not renew her school district contracts without signing the anti-BDS clause; others have since filed similar suits.

Harirah said it is unnecessary to involve foreign states and entities in what are contracts for Texas residents and emphasized that such actions also end up wasting taxpayer dollars in lawsuits. "We are Texan first, we are American, and overall we are human and we are Muslim," Harirah said. "[We want] to represent the next generation."

* Editor's note Thursday, March 9, 3:54pm: This story has been updated to correct two errors. Zo Qadri was recognized but not present. Also, Rep. Suleman Lalani is a Democrat.

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