Karen Sawyer, Alaskan legislative aid, resigns over links to hate group
According to the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the summer of 2012 saw one of the “worst spikes of anti-Muslim incidents in over a decade.” The FBI and Southern Poverty Law Center also recently noted that anti-Muslim hate crimes remain near a decade high.
Politically, several representatives have been vocal about their prejudice toward people of the Islamic faith. Rep. Peter King, a Joseph McCarthy for a new generation, is well noted for holding congressional hearings on the “threat” and “radicalization” of Muslims and his strong opposition to the people of the Islamic faith.
Former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh stated, with immense fervor, in a town hall meeting that, “One thing I’m sure of is that there are people in this country – there is a radical strain of Islam in this country – it’s not just over there – trying to kill Americans every week. It is a real threat, and it is a threat that is much more at home now than it was after 9/11” and that radical Muslims are “trying to kill Americans every week.”
An Arkansas representative stated that, “All Muslims should be expelled out of the United States.” Minnesota representative Michele Bachmann, notoriously urged a “Muslim witch hunt” to prevent a Muslim takeover of the U.S. government.
With these factual accounts it is safe to say that the U.S. almost seems like a less than ideal place for the ordinary Muslim.
However, a recent incident tolerance exceeded the reality of anti-Muslim animosity in the U.S.
This past week, a possible ethical lapse in judgment occurred when a legislative staffer blended her work for a Republican in the Alaskan House of Representatives with an anti-Sharia bill and the work with the anti-Islamic organization called Stop the Islamization of America, or SIOA.
SIOA is notably linked with Pamela Geller, who is also well-known for displaying the anti-Islam ads in major metropolitan transit systems. The SIOA is deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Karen Sawyer was the legislative aide for the late 13th District Alaskan Rep. Carl Gatto, who prominently proposed the House Bill HB88. The bill would restrain courts from recognizing Sharia, an Islamic code that many Muslims live by. Now, it has been revealed that she has taken her predisposed work against Muslims and went one step further to work with SIOA.
As reported be the San Francisco Chronicle, Sawyer allowed members of SIOA to use equipment and the legislative information office in Wasilla to do work related to SIOA. Furthermore, it was reported that she also allowed the organization to “plan activities related to a 2011 group conference, and that she failed to file a timely disclosure showing she was a member of the group’s board in 2011 and 2012.”
To make matters worse, she perhaps tried to push her biased agenda during the time when she did not update Rep. Gatto on a regularly basis about the activities of the bill or SIOA, or specifically the use of the resources by SIOA at the legislative office.
In light of the scandalous information, one could see the legislatures sweeping this under the rug as a lapse of judgment, especially with the well-noted accounts of Islamaphobia in America; more specifically in the government and political arena.
However, ethical concerns were raised by the House, and The Alaskan House of Representatives Subcommittee of the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics put forth a recommendation that Sawyer be fired, and moreover, that she never be considered for the Legislature again.
This is undoubtedly standing up for justice in the name of ethics. It shows that not only are ethics an important aspect of the political atmosphere in Alaska, but that they would not tolerate the prejudice and unethical behavior in the state where almost 0.5% of the Alaskan population identifies with Islam.
Additionally, a Pew Research Center Study revealed that Alaska is one of the less religious states in the country and many citizens of the state identify themselves as “free thinkers,” which could affirm the actions of the legislature in Alaska. If that sentiment is coupled with the ethics of the political structure, it is no wonder that someone like Sawyer could not, and will not, find a place for her anti-Islam prejudices.
Maybe this will be—for now—a grandiose scheme of tolerance overpowering prejudice.