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Dave Agema: an Islamophobe for Michigan

Imagine 2050 Staff • Aug 18, 2011

Anders Behring Breivik’s heinous terrorism that struck Norway last month brought world-wide Islamophobia out of its erstwhile latency, a sobering call to assess a movement that has inscribed itself de jure into the policies of Western governments.

In the context of this well-deserved scrutiny, organizations and legislators have begun to protest organized Islamophobia, such as the rally held on Monday by the Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR), the ACLU, and Michigan lawmakers against an anti-Muslim bill, HB 4769, proposed in June. The Michigan bill is just one of many across the country that serves to override “foreign law or culture” from legal considerations. In actuality, these bills together undermine the rightful presence of Muslim customs in the community—hence being branded “anti-Shariah” legislation.

But the bill’s chief sponsor, Michigan State Representative Dave Agema (R-74), defends the bill in a characteristic manner, claiming, “It’s not anti-Muslim at all […] You can be a Muslim here and it’s fine [….] But if you’re trying to insert Sharia law and subvert our Constitution, that’s an issue.” For legislators like Agema, the bills are about legality and juridical decorum, and they hope to appeal to the citizenry’s “common sense”—after all, shouldn’t American laws be the only consideration in an American court?

Agema and his cohorts, though making “sensible” arguments, actually appeal to a deep-seated fear based on myths about Muslim culture’s inherent incapacity to grasp Enlightenment values like “liberty” and proclivity in favor of flaunting a higher-than-the-law loyalty. As much as they’d like us to think they’re unbiased servants standing up for “our Constitution,” legislators like Agema belong to an insidious and largely unrecognized network that seeks to exclude immigrants from aspects of American life.

Dave Agema is not defending democracy; he has an axe to grind with immigrants, and is using this latest legislation as a platform for his frantically nationalist ideology. He belongs to the State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI), an organization that promulgates anti-immigrant legislation. SLLI was founded by Pennsylvania State Representative Daryl Metcalfe, who himself works closely with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that likes to populate for-profit prisons with immigrants.

Moreover, SLLI was founded under the auspices of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) as one of a number of anti-immigrant groups founded under the guidance of white nationalist John Tanton. Agema frequently utilizes FAIR’s irresponsible arguments and statistics about the purported ills of immigration, and has worked with FAIR state advisor Tamyra L. Murray. Murray remains well-connected within Tanton’s network, and has worked with its funding wing, U.S., Inc.

For its part, the Tanton network denigrates Muslims regularly:

  • A fellow at the Tanton-founded Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), James R. Edwards, has proposed “broader grounds for exclusion” when considering visa applicants, suggesting that “In-depth examination of visa applicants’ beliefs and attitudes toward Western democracy and liberty could be part of the screening process.”
  • CIS executive director Mark Krikorian has run the gamut of sneering chauvinisms, from stating that “Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough,” to vehemently asserting that “immigration is not a civil right,” and most recently claiming that “in the Islamic world democracy faces the problem of a vicious people.”
  • The Social Contract, a journal published by Tanton, frequently opposes Muslim immigration via paper-thin conspiracies, namely in an issue devoted to this topic entitled “The Menace of Islam.”

Agema’s ties to such unapologetic Islamophobes should arouse suspicion. While dissimulating loyalty to “our Constitution’s” ideals, he’s really just another ideologue plugging an exclusionary program.


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