Va. GOP official under fire for questioning Muslim contributions to U.S. history, society

Several Virginia Republican leaders called Wednesday for the resignation of a state GOP official who questioned in a Facebook post whether Muslim Americans have contributed to U.S. society.

The comment came in response to a statement by President Obama marking Eid al-Fitr, the celebration that concludes the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“In the United States, Eid also reminds us of the many achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy,” Obama said. “That is why we stand with people of all faiths, here at home and around the world, to protect and advance their rights to prosper, and we welcome their commitment to giving back to their communities.”

Bob FitzSimmonds, the state Republican Party treasurer, called the presidential statement “pure nonsense” in a public post on his Facebook page.

“Exactly what part of our nation’s fabric was woven by Muslims?” he wrote. “What about Sikhs, Animists, and Jainists? Should we be thanking them too?”


Bob FitzSimmonds (Courtesy of FitzSimmonds for State Senate )

FitzSimmonds, a resident of Nokesville who is the chief deputy clerk of the court in Prince William County, did not return calls and messages seeking comment about the post, which was first reported by the BlueVirginia blog.

He weathered calls for his resignation from state party leaders earlier this year after he posted a crude statement on Facebook about state Del. Barbara J. Comstock (R-Fairfax), and also in 2012 for a Facebook post predicting that Obama would blame George W. Bush when Obama “dies and goes to Hell.”

On Wednesday, the speaker of the House of Delegates, William Howell (R-Stafford), again said FitzSimmonds should step down: “Mr. FitzSimmonds should resign. The comments are reprehensible and not reflective of the values of the commonwealth or its citizens.”

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations called on the Virginia GOP to denounce the comments and asked for an apology.

“Anti-Muslim and anti-Sikh bigotry should have no place in the Republican Party, and those expressing such intolerant views should be held accountable,” said CAIR government affairs manager Robert McCaw.

The treasurer’s job is among the highest non-elected positions in the state GOP. The treasurer sits on the executive committee, a select group of the state central committee. But Del. David I. Ramadan (R-Loudoun) said Wednesday that FitzSimmonds “is not taken seriously” by state Republicans and was “stuck in an antiquated 18th-century mentality.”

“If Bob digs deep enough into his roots, he will find his ancestors came to this country looking for religious freedom,” said Ramadan, who was born into a Muslim family in Lebanon. “Yes, we should thank every loyal patriot American — Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus or any other religions — for their contributions to our United States, the greatest nation ever.”

John Scott, chairman of the Young Republican Federation of Virginia and a member of the party’s state central committee, also called on FitzSimmonds to resign.

The White House said in a statement Wednesday: “The President is proud to continue the tradition of recognizing Ramadan at the White House and the roles that Muslim Americans play in our country. The first White House Iftar was hosted by President Jefferson, and they have been held annually during this, President Clinton, and President George W. Bush’s administrations.”

Patricia Sullivan seeks out news about Alexandria and Arlington County for the Washington Post.
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