DETROIT — State Sen. Patrick Colbeck, a Republican candidate for Michigan governor from Canton, told a group earlier this month that he believes one of his Democratic rivals is part of a Muslim plot to take on positions of influence in America and start a “civilization jihad.”
Giving a presentation to a group that was videotaped and posted last week on the website of United West, an anti-Muslim organization based in Florida, Colbeck repeated the conspiracy theory that is popular in some far right segments of the Republican Party — that Muslims are trying to take over the country and implement Sharia law in the United States.
First reported by BuzzFeed, Colbeck specifically targeted Abdul El-Sayed, a Democratic candidate for governor from Shelby Township, who says in nearly every speech that people tell him that he’s probably “a little too young, a little too brown and a little too Muslim” to be a viable candidate for governor.
“There are a lot of pressures being applied in our society right now. You’re seeing Muslim legislators in the state Legislature and you’re seeing a push at the local level. Hamtramck is the first Muslim-majority city council,” Colbeck said in the video. “But we also have somebody that I will be likely running against in the general election, Dr. Abdul El Sayed, whose parents apparently have ties to Muslim Brotherhood back in Egypt. This is scary stuff.”
El-Sayed’s father immigrated to the U.S. from Egypt in 1978 before he was born and he’s now an engineering professor at Eastern Michigan University.
Colbeck’s statements drew a quick rebuke from El-Sayed, the former health department director for the City of Detroit, as well as Democrats and Republicans.
“Of course, I knew that in choosing to run for governor as an unapologetic, proud Muslim and American, I was going to contend with the ugly face of white supremacy that Donald Trump and his friends have sanctioned,” El-Sayed said in a statement. “Michiganders are not asking how I pray, but what I pray for and what I care about.”
Sarah Anderson, spokeswoman for the Michigan Republican Party, said Colbeck’s pronouncements have no place in the party.
“The party isn’t interested in peddling any conspiracy theories and anything he said was not on behalf of the party,” she said. “We categorically condemn any sort of hate speech, regardless of the source.”
Brandon Dillon, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, called Colbeck “a pathetic, bigoted fool.”
“Michigan is blessed to have a thriving Muslim community and my party is glad that Dr. El Sayed is a Democrat,” he said in a tweet.
Colbeck stood by his presentation and his beliefs that El-Sayed had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization formed in 1928 to promote Islamic charity work and political activism. He cited El-Sayed’s father-in-law, who sits on the board of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and El-Sayed’s membership in the Muslim Student Association at the University of Michigan.
“I’m not casting aspersions on all Muslims, just those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood,” Colbeck said.
Dawud Walid, the executive director of CAIR, said it’s shameful but not surprising that Colbeck would attack El-Sayed in such a manner.
“Since the last presidential election, Mr. Trump has let the proverbial genie out of the bottle and now candidates have seen that invoking xenophobia worked for him to get to the Oval Office,” he said. “So they think it’s a winning strategy.”
United West is categorized as an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Its website has several references to El-Sayed and the group’s belief that he’s a “Trojan horse” for a “stealth jihad.”
Colbeck is one of the most conservative members of the state Senate, and his views are shared by some other Republicans, including former state Representative Dave Agema, of Grandville, who also served as a member of the Republican National Committee and has endorsed Colbeck’s candidacy. The Republican Party pressured him to resign from the RNC over his anti-Muslim and homophobic posts on social media.
On Wednesday, Agema posted on his Facebook page that “the goal of Islam is destruction of America via immigration demanded by the Quran-called Hijrah. They take over America via force like 911/ terrorism and via civilization jihad ( immigration), which is peacefully at first, then aggressively once their numbers increase.”
El-Sayed said he holds the ideals and constitution of the state and country dear and can inspire others with his run for governor.
“I know how much this means to so many people of color who feel locked out of political representation and government decisions,” he said.
The issue arose on the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on Trump’s ban on travel from majority Muslim countries that was imposed early on in his administration, but has been stymied by federal courts.