On July 31, 2014, the Muslim Association of Virginia (MAV) issued an action alert to contact the Prince William county clerk Michele McQuigg's office and request for the resignation of deputy clerk Bob FitzSimmons.
According to MAV, FitzSimmons, who is also the Treasurer of the Republican Party of Virginia, made bigoted and intolerant remarks towards Muslims. He dismissed President Obama’s Eid-ul-Fitr greeting as “pure nonsense”. “Exactly what part of our nation’s fabric was woven by Muslims? What about Sikhs, Animists, and Jainists? Should we be thanking them too?” he wrote responding to the President’s message.
The association released a statement emphasizing that the Muslim residents of Prince William County serve the country everyday as soldiers in the U.S. military, public servants in federal agencies, and volunteers in community organizations. “To question the contributions of Muslims in America is to question the contributions of all patriotic Americans.”
“I follow him on Facebook and I saw his comments on Tuesday, I have known him for while, [and] didn't think he held those kind of feelings,” said Rafiuddin Ahmed, President of MAV.
FitzSimmons has visited the Dar al Noor masjid in the past when he endorsed candidate Faisal Gill in his run for State Senate (the same Gill that was spied by the National Security Agency) and campaigned there for his run for Virginia State Senate.
Ahmed says that the MAV is the largest Muslim organization in Prince William's and is very much engaged with local government and civic organizations.
“So far we have a goal of sending out a thousand emails to the clerk’s office; we are getting a good response from the community,” says Ahmed.
Ahmed sent an email to the court clerk Michèle McQuigg (an elected position) and relayed his concerns to her.
Initially she defended FitzSimmons and Ahmed said they agreed to disagree. FitzSimmonds reached out to MAV, and Ahmed insisted on an in person meeting at the Islamic center. “We jointly agreed to meet in person,” says Ahmed.
“[On Tuesday], we will meet them along with representatives from Dar al Hijrah, ADAMS, Amir Muhammad from the American Islamic Heritage Museum as well as board members including those of African American and Caucasian American descent,” says Ahmed. Primarily local Muslim leadership will be at the meeting.
FitzSimmons tried clarifying his remarks by writing that Muslims were not around in 1700s to ‘build the country’, disregarding the Muslim slave population forcibly brought over to build the country.
Ahmed thinks that ignorance plays a big role as many Americans are not aware that an estimated twenty percent of slaves brought to America were Muslims, that Thomas Jefferson had a copy of the Quran, and how Islam played a role as the founding fathers drafted the constitution of the country. “Morocco was the first country that recognized independence of the US from Great Britain,” said Ahmed.
Local politicians and elected officials often attend Friday and Eid prayers and are given two minutes to speak to the community and they know that the community is civically involved. Most elected officials shun extreme opinions.
Along with MAV, the Virginia Black Conservatives, Speaker of the House of Delegates William Howell (R-Stafford) and the Chairman of the Young Republican Federation of Virginia John Scott have also called for FitzSimmons to resign.
Speaker Howell said that the comments are reprehensible and not reflective of the values of the commonwealth or its citizens.
Many Muslims do not feel welcome by the Republican party despite sharing many conservative values. But Ahmed says that the community has support as “we have friends on both sides of the aisle.” When the Anti Foreign legislation (which was essentially the anti Shariah bill) was presented to state legislators, Republicans especially from Prince William County stood up against the bill, said Ahmed. Jackson Miller, the Majority Whip in Republican party, challenged Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) on the bill, he added.
The Association says that if FitzSimmons refuses to resign, then it is essential that Clerk of the Circuit Court Michèle McQuigg take decisive action by asking for his resignation. Otherwise, Muslims in Prince William County will not be able to trust that civil and criminal court cases are being fairly administered when a senior court official holds such blatantly discriminatory views towards such a large segment of the county's population. Northern Virginia has a significantly large Muslim population.
MAV has asked the Muslims in Prince William County to contact Michèle McQuigg at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and request that FitzSimmons be removed as her deputy.