The blue banner is 16 by 8 feet and hangs on the south side of the building at 2307 Hubbell Ave. The words were written with red spray paint, police said.The vandalism occurred sometime between 11:30 p.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. Thursday, when it was discovered, police reports show.
The same message was reportedly spray painted near the Iowa State Fairgrounds earlier in the week.
The damage was estimated at $500.
Dating back to his 2008 campaign, a faction of Americans have falsely believed that Obama is a Muslim, even though he has openly discussed his Christian faith. According to a poll released in July, 30 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of conservative Republicans identified the president as a Muslim.
Last week, Madonna created a stir when she told fans at a concert, “We have a black Muslim in the White House.” The singer later clarified that she was simply being ironic.
A request for comment was not immediately returned by the Obama campaign’s Iowa office.
A threatening letter containing a mysterious powder sent the Iowa Capitol into lockdown and delayed action in the House for several hours on Tuesday.
Ultimately, a hazardous materials team found the substance not to be dangerous and released a crowd of perhaps 300 lawmakers, staffers and observers who had been sequestered in the House chamber and elsewhere at the Statehouse.
The letter was received by Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines, late Tuesday afternoon and was opened on the House floor in the midst of debate.
Abdul-Samad told reporters Tuesday evening that the letter contained “very threatening” language but declined to describe it in detail, citing an investigation now under way by state police.
“I cannot talk about what was in the letter at this point, because it’s turned over now to the State Patrol and also to DCI, but it was a threatening letter,” he said, referring to the state Division of Criminal Investigation. “This has now become a very serious legal matter.”
Abdul-Samad’s clerk, Drake Law School student Michael McRae, opened the letter after retrieving it from the lawmaker’s mailbox in the Capitol rotunda. The powder billowed out, he said, covering the area around Abdul-Samad’s desk, McRae’s clothing and hands, and even being inhaled by Abdul-Samad.
Rep. Kevin Koester, R-Ankeny, who said he was sitting near Abdul-Samad after the letter was opened and saw a white powder spill from an envelope, said the substance looked like flour or powdered sugar. Others described it as resembling a powdered detergent.
Abdul-Samad and Iowa State Patrol Capt. Mark Logsdon declined to identify the substance.
The letter apparently was hand-delivered to the Capitol, Logsdon said.
House leaders paused the debate that was then under way at about 3:45 p.m. and directed Abdul-Samad and McRae to the vestibule separating the House chambers from the Capitol’s second-floor rotunda.
They remained there throughout the afternoon and early evening. The entire building was locked down shortly before 5 p.m.
A hazardous materials team — wearing bright yellow plastic suits with orange boots and breathing apparatus — arrived around 5:30, and appeared to collect samples both inside the vestibule with Abdul-Samad and McRae and at the lawmaker’s desk on the House floor.
The two-man team’s fluorescent safety garb and Darth Vader-like exhalations contrasted sharply with the crowd of lawmakers and staff, who milled about on the floor in shirt-sleeves. Some even stood within an arm’s reach of Abdul-Samad’s desk, snapping photos as the hazmat workers conducted their work.
At around 6 p.m., House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, reported that preliminary testing indicated the substance was not hazardous. Officials with the 71st Civil Service Team, an inter-agency cooperative responsible for dealing with potentially hazardous situations like this, completed further testing, finally giving an all-clear at 7:50 p.m.
“With the sensitivity of government, it’s a realistic threat,” said Brian O’Keefe with the Des Moines Fire Department. “That’s why we’re going to this level of security and testing.”
Lawmakers resumed considering legislation before the all-clear, and even before Abdul-Samad returned to the chamber, wrapping up debate and holding a final vote on a bill to bar cities from using traffic cameras. The decision to get back to business didn’t sit well with everyone in the chamber.
“Continuation of this debate tonight is dumb, disrespectful and in poor taste,” Rep. Nathan Willems, D-Lisbon said, addressing Paulsen from the floor.
Others criticized the manner in which the incident itself was handled.
The initial response was uncontrolled and overly dismissive, potentially exposing an unknown number of Iowans to highly lethal agents like anthrax, said Sen. Bill Dotzler, a Waterloo Democrat who is trained in toxic threats.
More than an hour after the powder was discovered, state representatives and others were moving freely out of the House chambers to other areas of the Capitol and outside the building. Some senators even joked that their House peers should be banned from the Senate chambers.
But Dotzler, who was a volunteer with the John Deere Fire Brigade and fully trained with the Waterloo hazmat team, said the situation was no laughing matter.
House members should have been immediately isolated and even removed from the chambers to an isolated area to avoid further possible exposure, he said, rather than allowed to move freely inside and outside the building.
“In the world we live in you have to take every case seriously,” he said. “People said, ‘Well, it smelled like soap.’ Well, you can mix toxic biological agents in with soap and it could be something that’s pretty bad.”
Law enforcement and Abdul-Samad himself, however, defended the way the situation played out.
“Everything was handled properly, and I’m really happy with how things were handled,” Abdul-Samad said.
Logsdon, the state patrol captain, said it was easier to second-guess the response than to manage a potentially dangerous situation in a crowded and public place.
“It’s easy to question and armchair quarterback people, but the fact of the matter is once the letter was open and the substance was airborne, then it literally contaminated everyone in there,” he said.
House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer said the situation was unprecedented for most, if not all, of the lawmakers now serving.
She said the response will be reviewed to determine if additional procedures are necessary for dealing with such situations.
“We’ll do a look back and make sure we have the systems in place that we need and the processes that make sure everyone gets here safe,” Upmeyer said.
Among the first people out of the Capitol were Michael Mericle and his grandparents, who had been visiting the building.
Mericle, who was visiting Des Moines from Omaha, said the ordeal wasn’t what he expected for his first visit to the Capitol.
“It was long,” he said. “We were walking out, and they told us to go back in. It was boring, but everyone is OK.”
Mericle passed the time by playing with his smartphone and sending text messages to friends, he said. He said he wasn’t nervous, and others in the Capitol didn’t seem to be either.
“But his mom was,” put in Julie Almquist, Mericle’s mother, who had been waiting outside the building for her son.
Almquist, who said she had interned at the Capitol while growing up in Des Moines, said she initially didn’t think the incident was a big deal, until the hours began dragging on.
They missed their dinner reservation at Splash, she said, but once they left the Capitol, they headed there anyway to try to get a table.
IOWA – The Muslim community in Iowa is frustrated and angry over FBI’s sending informants into mosques to spy on worshippers, seething with a sense of betrayal that has undermined trust between American Muslims and security agencies.
“That was really surprising, very sad that somebody would come or the FBI or Homeland Security would send somebody here to pretend to be Muslim and try to find out what goes on here,” Dr. Hamed Baig, president of the Islamic Center of Des Moines, told CNN on Friday, February 3.
“I feel there is no need for that.”
In Des Moines, Iowa, a small yet diverse Muslim community is divided into four mosques from Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Bangladesh, among other nations.
Frustration among members of the Muslim community began after 42 year-old Arvinder Singh, who has been attending their mosques over the past seven years, was revealed to be an FBI informant.
Charged with “selling or transferring precursor substances for an unlawful purpose” in March of 2002, Singh said he was approached by FBI officers who told him, “‘You look Middle Eastern, and we need your help for the war against terror.’”
Singh, currently in Hardin County Jail in Iowa, where he’s been awaiting deportation, said the FBI came to him with a simple tradeoff: We’ll help you get your citizenship if you help us get some terrorists.
Having no information about Islam, Indian-born Singh was surprised to be approached by FBI agents.
“I was surprised. I said, ‘Me? I have no idea about this’ And they said ‘We’ll train you. You’ll get used to it. We’ll make you go and do some work for us.’”
Later on, he assumed a Muslim identity, Rafik Alvi, and went into the mosques pretending to be interested in converting.
He says sometimes the FBI gave him pictures of persons of interest and he would confirm that they were at the mosque. On a few occasions, Singh says he taped his conversations with congregants.
“They wanted me to go investigate some people in the area,” Singh told CNN in a jailhouse interview.
“See what they’re doing, who they’re meeting. Who’s their family member, who’s attending them, what they are talking about. That kind of work.”
The mosque infiltration has angered Iowa Muslim community, saying that the FBI just took a step backwards in building trust with the Muslims in his community.
“To know that somebody made an intrusive entry into the masjid for purpose other than prayer, or other than socializing or taking care of anybody who is in need makes me very much nervous and embarrassed, too, that I belong to a community where we have a member who has come for some other purpose,” Anis Rehman, executive board treasurer of the Islamic Center of Des Moines and a college professor, told CNN.
“But later when we saw that he was not actually a member but a pretender then it made me more angry,” Rehman said.
Rehman says the idea of a FBI informant in their tiny mosque is not only offensive but baffling.
“I find that to send an impostor into our community which is so small where not only we know each other but (where) the law enforcement agents can perhaps pick each one of us by name and by family, I don’t think that the incident [on] 9/11 could warrant such action in a small community like ours.”
Since 9/11, Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
FBI tactic of sending informants into mosques have deteriorated relations with the US Muslim community over the past few years.
In 2009, Muslim groups threatened to suspend all contacts with the FBI over sending informants into mosques.
US Muslims are particularly wary of the FBI’s history of targeting members of their community.
Basim Bakri, another Iowa Muslim, noted that if Singh’s claims are true, the FBI has just destroyed any chances of building trust with the Muslims in his community.
“I think the FBI owe[s] us an apology because they did violate our civil rights,” Bakri said.
“It wasn’t right at all, it wasn’t right from the beginning and they have no right to do that.”
DAVENPORT, Iowa — Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said Friday the Obama administration is striking all references to Islam from Justice Department training manuals, exaggerating a directive from federal officials to evaluate procedures for religious and cultural sensitivity.
Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswoman and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, equated the effort to strike offensive references to Islam from material to removing suspicion of Islamic terrorism from department policy.
A conservative popular with tea party activists and evangelical conservatives, she later linked President Barack Obama with “4,400 American lives” lost in Iraq. However, the death toll in the 8-year-old war that began under President George W. Bush had already reached 4,229 when Obama was inaugurated in 2009. It now stands at no fewer than 4,481.
As she campaigned in Iowa, now the focus of her effort to win the Republican nomination, Bachmann accused the administration of making changes in training manuals under pressure from pro-Islam groups with terrorist links.
“And now Obama is allowing terror suspect groups to write the FBI’s terror training manual,” she told about 75 Republican activists in an eastern Iowa hotel conference room.
The FBI has not removed Islam from training material, said an FBI official who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and requested anonymity.
The FBI has been conducting a comprehensive review of its training materials after it was revealed that what officials termed an inaccurate description of Islam, one that linked the religion to terrorism, was being used in some of the bureau’s training programs. Last month, FBI officials said the agency was undertaking the review in light of an analyst’s criticism of Islam during a lecture last spring.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole said last week he had asked that all aspects of the department be broadly re-evaluated for “sensitivity for all peoples of faith” in its training efforts.
“Examples include the efforts of our law enforcement components to ensure that their interactions with the community – whether in responding to an attack on a mosque or arresting a suspect in a counter-terrorism investigation – convey a sense of basic respect to the rule of law and the rights of all who have made this nation their home,” Cole said.
In her remarks Friday, Bachmann broadly painted the effort as trying to remove the link between Islam and anti-American terrorism sponsored by radical Islamic extremists.
“And so now the White House has scrubbed all Islamic terms from the national counterterrorism strategy. The White House has removed all Islamic terms from the Pentagon’s report on the Fort Hood shooting. And now, Obama is allowing terror suspect groups to write the FBI’s terror training manual,” she said.
The White House declined to respond to Bachmann’s criticism.
In an interview with CNN on Friday, Bachmann said Obama’s foreign policies were worse than his economic ones and linked Obama to the war’s overall death toll as well as its cost.
“Under Barack Obama’s watch, we’ve expended $805 billion to liberate the people of Iraq and, more importantly, 4,400 American lives,” she said.
Bachmann is on the first leg of a three-day campaign trip to the leadoff caucus state.
Sullivan reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Pete Yost in Washington contributed to this report.
Denials come days before Cain’s Iowa appearance on arm of Vander Plaats
In less than two weeks, former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive Herman Cain will return to Iowa as a participant in a religious conservative group’s presidential lecture series. For now, however, he is traveling the nation as a GOP presidential candidate and speaking with conservative-friendly media outlets in hopes of lessening the damage his remarks concerning Muslims have caused.
“I immediately said, without thinking, ‘No, I would not be comfortable.’ I did not say that I would not have [Muslims] in my cabinet. If you look at my career, I have hired good people regardless of race, religion, sex gender, orientation and this kind of thing.”
… Would you be comfortable appointing a Muslim, either in your cabinet or as a federal judge?
Cain: “No, I would not. And here’s why. There is this creeping attempt, there is this attempted to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government. … The question that was asked that ‘raised some questions’ and, as my grandfather said, ‘I does not care, I feel the way I feel.’ … “
… When speaking about your battle with cancer at the Milner church, at one point, you indicate that you were a little uncomfortable when you found out that your surgeon’s name was Abdallah, until you found out he was a Lebanese Christian. So what’s your perspective on the role of Muslims in American society?
The role of Muslims in American society is for them to be allowed to practice their religion freely, which is part of our First Amendment. The role of Muslims in America is not to convert the rest of us to the Muslim religion. That I resent. Because we are a Judeo-Christian nation, from the fact that 85 percent of us are self-described Christians, or evangelicals, or practicing the Jewish faith. Eighty-five percent. One percent of the practicing religious believers in this country are Muslim.
And so I push back and reject them trying to convert the rest of us. And based upon the little knowledge that I have of the Muslim religion, you know, they have an objective to convert all infidels or kill them. Now, I know that there are some peaceful Muslims who don’t go around preaching or practicing that. Well, unfortunately, we can’t sit back and tolerate the radical ones simply because we know that there are some of them who don’t believe in that aspect of the Muslim religion. …
While referring to the “several crises facing this country,” Cain specifically took on what he perceives as a “moral” crisis, saying that such problems would need to “be solved in our families, our communities, and in our various religious institutions.” But then Cain clarified that he didn’t believe all religions had a role to play in combating the moral crisis by noting that “Christians, evangelicals, Jews, believers of all types when it comes to biblically-based religions, are going to have to step up more, and push back more, and not allow our Christian beliefs to be intimidated.”
And, roughly two weeks after speaking with Think Progress and the Christianity Today interview, Cain appeared on Bryan Fischer‘s radio program to further explain and assure the religious conservative talk show host and his audience that he was not afraid of being labeled a bigot for speaking the truth about his feelings regarding Muslims.
“I have been upfront, which ruffles some feathers, but remember, Bryan, being politically correct is not one of my strong points. I come at it straight from the heart and straight from the way I see it. And the comment that I made that became controversial, and that my staff keeps hoping will die, is that I wouldn’t have Muslims in my administration. And it’s real simple: The Constitution does not have room for sharia law. I want people who are going to believe and enforce the Constitution of the United States of America. And so I don’t have time, as President of the United States, to try and screen people based upon their religious beliefs — I really don’t care what your religious believes are, but I do know that most of the people of the Muslim faith, they believe in sharia law. And to introduce that element as part of an administration when we have all of these other issues, I think I have a right to say that I won’t.”
Watch the exchange with Fischer:
Fischer is the director of issue analysis for government and public policy for the controversial and anti-gay religious organization American Family Association, which was one of the key national organizations that bank-rolled the successful effort by Bob Vander Plaats, now heading The Family Leader, to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices up for retention who took part in a unanimous decision that found a legislative ban on same-sex marriage to be in violation of Iowa’s equal protection clause.
Most of us in America learned something about prejudice and stereotypes in school. We know it’s wrong to misrepresent whole groups of people by highlighting only the worst behavior amongst them. Anyone can easily “prove” their religion, ideology, or culture is the most supreme by cherry-picking the worst examples of their opponents and “comparing” it to their highest ideals. Stereotyping, quite frankly, is cheating in the discipline of comparative religion/ideology/culture. But for Robert Spencer, stereotyping isn’t a social evil to be resisted. It’s a career.
Earlier this month, Brent Girouex, 31, was arrested on 60 counts of suspicion of sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist, reported The Daily Nonpareil…
Court documents indicated Girouex told investigators the most sexual contact he had was with one teen over a four-year period, starting when the boy was 14 years old. Calling the contact “mutual,” he said it had occurred between “25 and 50 times” during that period…
“When they would ejaculate, they would be getting rid of the evil thoughts in their mind,” Girouex allegedly told detectives.
Truly a bizarre, counter-intuitive, and horribly disturbing account of a Christian leader exploiting his position of authority and trust to sexually gratify himself at the expense of innocent minors. This is certainly not the first time a priest or minister has abused children. If we were running an anti-Christian hate site (similar to Spencer’s anti-Muslim hate site), this incident would make a fine addition to our police blotter propaganda. We could make a strong case for the weak-minded that Christianity is a sex-with-boys religion. After all, Mr. Girouex appealed to Christian theology and scriptures to justify his misdeeds. This sort of thing happens all the time! What more evidence do you need? Case closed.
Or is it? We’re not running an anti-Christian hate site. We know the vast majority of Christians reject this kind of behavior. Neither does Mr. Girouex’s action agree with the spirit of Christianity. It’s common sense. Rather, we promote the American values of tolerance and pluralism. We have stated this repeatedly. Yet, if you’re Robert Spencer, whatever a Muslim does wrong, no matter how aberrant or outside the mainstream, it must have happened because of Islam and no other reason, even if the perpetrator is mentally ill.
So here’s my question, Mr. Spencer. Is it fair to label Christianity a religion of sexual perversion? Is it fair to blame Christian theology and texts for these crimes? Should we hold senate hearings to protect little boys from their Churches? Shouldn’t we stop being “politically correct”? Aren’t all Christians collectively guilty for not speaking out enough? Aren’t we justified if we gather together to shout obscenities outside the local church of the raping-boys religion?
Of course, Spencer won’t accept that any of these suggestions are fair, but when it comes to Islam there is a different standard. And this, as we learned in grade school, is the essence of stereotyping. Not only does Spencer consistently violate the Golden Rule (“do unto others what you would have done unto yourself”), in which he claims to believe, but also, as Senator Durbin recently said, his hateful rhetoric violates “the spirit of our Bill of Rights.”
Your Islamophobic House of Cards is falling, Bob. Keep working on that résumé.
Rep. Steve King who recently cast the sole vote against a memorial for slavery which unanimously passed the house believed that if Obama got elected AlQaeda would be dancing in the streets. He also believes that Obama’s middle name matters because Muslims will be dancing in the streets.