The head of the Howard County Republican Party offered a personal apology to the Islamic Association of Kokomo Wednesday for anti-Islamic Facebook posts one of the party’s council members shared.
Party Chairwoman Jamie Bolser said she spoke to Dr. Kasem Kasem, a member of the Islamic Association and a professor of chemistry at Indiana University Kokomo, and “offered an apology on behalf of our organization.”
“I also assured him these are not my beliefs nor the beliefs of the party,” she said. “I am humbled by his forgiveness. I look forward to meeting him and working with him in the near future.”
Kasem told the Tribune Wednesday he wanted “clear assurance” from the Republican Party and 4th District Councilman Roger Stewart that they do not tolerate the types of Facebook posts that have generated controversy and led to the resignation of Stewart’s predecessor, Greg Jones.
“When you have members of this party that keep saying these inflaming statements against Muslism and against our beliefs, it can encourage bad things against the Islamic Center,” Kasem said, referencing past vandalism incidents the center was victim of, including in 2016 when someone fired a bullet through the center’s window.
Late Wednesday, Stewart said he and Kasem have spoken. “We have set a meeting to begin the healing process in which I hope to have a continuing relationship with him and the Muslim community, working together so that we can help with opening a dialog for understanding for all those concerned,” said Stewart.
Stewart faced calls for his resignation Tuesday from the national Muslim civil rights organization Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) after anti-Muslim posts he shared on Facebook.
In one of the posts, Stewart shared a meme in February 2019 that read: “I refuse to bend, twist or change to make Muslims feel comfortable in MY COUNTRY. They either adhere to our laws or leave! THIS IS MY COUNTRY! Understood???”
Stewart also shared a post that called anyone who took the Oath of Office on a Quran, the holy book of Islam, as a traitor, accompanied by a photo of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, who is Muslim.
In a statement released Tuesday, Stewart issued an apology, said he was not resigning and said that it was never his intention for the posts to come off as anti-Islamic. Rather, he said, he was reaffirming his belief that the founding of the United States was based on Judeo-Christian beliefs and that Sharia Law, Islamic religious law, is in direct conflict with U.S. constitutional law.
Kasem said he is not personally calling for Stewart to resign.
“We want to clear up any bad thinking about what we believe in and what we don’t,” Kasem said. “The United States is as much of my country as it is his country. ... We are useful citizens. We are doctors, professors and engineers. We contribute to this community. What we believe in encourages us to do good in the communities that we live in.”