Lancaster city councilwoman Sherry Marquez has dug in on her essentialist remarks on the true nature of Islam (it is a violent religion dominated by violent people who are properly exemplified by the recent beheading of a woman by her Muslim husband in New York), and it appears that she won’t be apologizing to her Muslim constituents anytime soon. Here is how her local paper in northern Los Angeles County, the Antelope Valley Press (January 27, 2010), reported the exact words that she wrote this past week:
LANCASTER—Councilwoman Sherry Marquez is under fire from a Los Angeles Islamic organization and from the Antelope Valley Muslims for comments she posted on her personal Internet page concerning a Muslim man charged with beheading his wife in New York.
“This is what the Muslim religion is all about—the beheading, honor killings are just the beginning of what is to come in the U.S.A,” Marquez wrote on her Facebook page.
“We are told this is a small majority (sic) of Muslims in America but it is truly what they are all about,” she said.
Of course, Sherry Marquez has the right to say anything that she wants to, and to essentialize and reduce to a cultural stereotype a billion individual adherents to one particular religion, and to blow off the Muslim vote in her community. But what is alarming to me is how much sympathy her remarks have received from Antelope Valley residents. There was even a small turnout on Friday of about a dozen people outside of Lancaster City Hall, not to express disagreement with her statements, but to support them. One of those who came out to support her was Audie Yancey, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Quartz Hill. And on Saturday, January 30, 2010, the Antelope Valley Press published his letter to the editor, which said in part (on page A13):
Beating wives (Surah 4:34) and killing is only a small part of the horrors of Islam. These are not only justified, but commanded in the Quran.
You [Sherry Marquez] are right. Beheadings and honor killings are only the beginning.
Research by the Christian Action Network of Forest, Va., uncovers Islam’s goal to take over, not only the United States, but the entire world, by the year 2020.
Of course, all proselytizing religions have fantasies of one day seeing whole nations—and even the world—uniting under their particular religious banner—including Christianity—but Audie Yancey apparently is not thrilled by the competition. And as the letter proceeded, he elaborated on his conspiracy theory for a few more paragraphs, then concluded with this utterly paranoid admonition:
Beware of the Muslims who are meeting with interfaith organizations. This is a direct violation of the Quran, Surah 5:51, “O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies.”
They might be only liberals, but they might be covert operatives.
The Republican Party is the only party with a majority still standing for America’s Judeo-Christian values and for the Constitution of the United States of America. It would be an affront to the party [i]f they repudiate the statement of Councilwoman Marquez.
Ironically, Audie Yancey, by quoting the Quran in absolutist terms, is inadvertently inviting local moderate and liberal Muslims to engage in the very practices of decontextualized scriptural literalism and reductio ad absurdum rationality that he professes to be alarmed about in the first place. He is saying, in effect, that it is not moderate and liberal Muslims, but the most fanatical and literalist zealots among them, who properly represent Islam’s future. Perhaps Audie Yancey, in the grip of his own scriptural literalism and reductio ad absurdum rationality, is confusing Islam’s future with that of the Republican Party.
And so perhaps Audie Yancey is someone that Sherry Marquez is unhappy to have as an ally, but if so, she has yet to repudiate his comments. Instead, on the day that Audie Yancey stood with others outside of City Hall to support Sherry Marquez, the Antelope Valley Press reported that she “briefly came out to greet the crowd,” and said to them (Jan. 30, 2010, A4):
You don’t know how humbled I am that you all would come out to support me.
Humbled, indeed. If you make an intemperate and prejudicial overgeneralization about a whole group of your fellow human beings—and then people come out to cheer you on for it—you ought to be more than humbled: you should be humiliated. Sherry Marquez might have done well to tell her supporters that she had said something uncivil and stupid in the emotional heat of having read a news article that had upset her, and that she did not, in calm retrospect, really think that most Muslims are characteristically violent people.
But she didn’t do that, did she?
Instead, she came out of City Hall and encouraged Audie Yancey and the others gathered on her behalf, telling them that she was humbled to have their support. Maybe she could engage in such a shameless act, not because she is cynical, but because she actually shares Audie Yancey’s views concerning Muslim people. And if she doesn’t, then as a public official maybe she should at least tell us so. It would be informative to know whether a person sitting on the Lancaster City Council thinks in Audie Yancey’s terms about a whole class of people. And it would be informative, not just to voters, but to businesses contemplating a move to the city.