Gloves come off at Capitol ‘Homeland Security Summit’

State Rep. Kyle Biedermann (KXAN Photo)
State Rep. Kyle Biedermann (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order this week, suspending the nation’s refugee program for at least 120 days. The order would also suspend visas from people in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

On Thursday, that debate over protecting our nation from foreign threats was front and center at the Texas Capitol.

Republican State Rep. Kyle Biedermann, R-New Braunfels, hosted a “Homeland Security Summit” Thursday morning, hoping to understand what he calls “the critical threat of radical Islamic terrorism in Texas.”

Biedermann stirred up controversy earlier this month after sending a letter to mosque leaders and Muslim student associations across the state. In the letter, recipients were asked to fill out a poll indicating whether they support efforts to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist group.

“This is all about finding out the threat of Islamic radical terrorism in the state of Texas,” Biedermann said. “As we see what is going on on the national level, our president is putting it at the forefront of his agenda. So we are not the one’s starting this, we are the one’s that want to be upfront and find the information to protect the citizens of Texas.”

On Thursday, members of the Texas Muslim community held a press conference, also at the Capitol, denouncing Biedermann’s survey, calling it “an attack on their religion”.

“This is not what we expect from our Texas government. We want to remind Rep. Biedermann that it is common decency of all elected officials to respect the people of all faiths and no faiths,” Sarwat Husain, president of the San Antonio chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations said. “Muslims feel this Neo-Nazi type of letter is reminiscent of McCarthyism, is very misleading, humiliating, intimidating, disgusting and downright offensive.”

Husain says the letter is part of the freshman lawmaker’s agenda to disrupt the pre-planned “Texas Muslim Capitol Day” scheduled for next Tuesday.

“It is very clear by the timing of this letter, that it was sent to disrupt our Texas Muslim Capitol Day,” Husain said. “When hundreds of Muslims come from all over the state to the Capitol to learn the political system and meet the politicians, we’ve been doing this since 2003.”

Biedermann said he hopes to draft legislation in the near future regarding the safety of the citizens of Texas. He said Thursday’s summit along with the poll he mailed out earlier this month was not intended to “attack” any individual Muslim person.

“Don’t try and pit us against Muslims, because that is now what this is about,” State Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, said at the summit. “This is about groups and organizations that want to overturn the government in the United States of America for their purposes. This is not about the individual Muslim people. This is not about that, this is the groups that want to do these harmful things.”

Biedermann says there is no timeline, as of right now, on when that legislation will be introduced.

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