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An Open Letter to Main State Representative, John J Picchiotti (R)

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 2/11/2015 Yasmina Blackburn

Dear Main State Representative, John Picchiotti,
Who randomly shares chain Facebook rants without reading them? Hopefully not State Representatives of our United States of America. Apparently, that is what you did when you shared the following white supremacist post on your public Facebook page, later deleting it.

You then apologized saying you only read the beginning part assuming it was just a post about the contributions of Catholic Americans to society, not realizing the venomous, Islamophobic vitriol that followed.
If I were a State Representative, I would be darn sure everything I posted publicly with my name on it represented the values I hold dear and represent the best interests of my constituency not to mention, the core values of our U.S. Constitution. In fact, I am not in public office and I do this already as just a regular Muslim American mom and blogger.
It's that important to me.
When you are a public servant, you are responsible for the words you post on the internet. They are there forever even if you delete them as you can see from the above screen capture. I'm always one to see the silver lining in every cloud; and, there definitely is one here. You have shown your true colors to the world and now voters can choose to vote you out of office -- like we very systematically did here in the Midwest when we voted out the Islamophobic, homophobic, anti-woman congressional candidate, Joe Walsh (R), even though millions of dollars poured into the district on his behalf. If you think that being a representative in public office means you only serve old, white men, you're wrong. Your position is not a self-serving platform for your exclusivity and hate.
You should take lessons from MY State Representative in Illinois, Michelle Mussman. The Honorable Michelle Mussman invited me to a Women's History event so that I could speak about Islamophobia to people in my district. Education is the only answer to hate rooted in ignorance. I simply spoke from the heart about what it means to be a Muslim American and people hugged me afterwards and thanked me for speaking since they are so inundated with the type of garbage you posted online.
We are all just people. We're Americans trying to live our lives and create a positive experience for our children and contribute positively to society. We actually have more commonality than differences. This is most apparent when I read your bio on Ballotpedia.
You are a U.S. Navy Veteran. I'll be darned; my husband is a U.S. Navy Veteran too. You worked in the Human Resources industry. Me too! 28 years and counting. You were an insurance agent and a small business owner. So was I! I sold health insurance and have my own writing business. You apparently have a high reverence for Catholic people. I do too. The woman who gave birth to me is a devout Catholic. I am a Muslim woman that has probably been to more Catholic masses than some Catholics. And I was raised to not only see the similarities of Islam and Christianity, but to honor them. That's right. Honor them. The differences in our core beliefs actually come down to a few historical semantics. The rest of the Abrahamic teachings about life, justice and caring for the poor are almost boringly verbatim in our two faiths. You wouldn't know that though if you were raised to hate people that are different than you and are determined to hate Muslims. If you would ever like me to come to your district and speak to citizens in Maine about Islam and Muslims, I would be happy to do so.
So aside from the Islamic vitriol stuff, we have a lot in common.
A part of me does not want to address the finer points of the white supremacist chain post above because it seems not worthy of a response. I will do it anyway though for any person that might actually fall for this branding of hate. The opening itself speaks about America being a Judeo-Christian country. It is not. Sorry to burst your bubble; but, America truly is the melting pot that my 3rd grade, Chicago Public School social studies book taught me along with the School House Rock video I used to watch on Saturday mornings as a kid:
Credit: YouTube, US Chronicle
Sure, many people like you don't want our country to be a melting pot. Many people go out of their way to push public policies that marginalize certain people in said melting pot. Many people like you want to kick and scream and demand that America is a Judeo-Christian country for white people only; but, it simply is not the case. And when you infuse hatred into your public life and into your politics, it doesn't work. It is not going to magically make people go away that are not the race, religion and skin color that you desire.
As for the rants in your Facebook post about there being no Muslim hospitals, no Muslim charities, girl scouts or candy stripers or volunteers:
  • Approximately 10 percent of all U.S. physicians are Muslim.
  • Muslim Americans are well educated and contribute to society in not only medicine, but in law, engineering, teaching and research. We are less seen in Hollywood and political office, but strap yourself into your seat, Rep Picchiotti. We're getting into those things too.
  • There are hundreds of Muslim Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops in America and thousands of Muslim kids that partake in Scouting activities. I was a Girl Scout as a little Muslim girl in the 70s. I started a Girl Scout troop for my daughter and was a Girl Scout Leader for five years. My troop consisted of girls from every background and religion and we focused on public service primarily.
  • The mosques I have visited wave a U.S. flag. I wave one on my porch. Not sure that this is a pre-requisite to being American, but I'll have you know that Muslim Americans feel just as American as you -- minus the racial supremacy stuff.
  • Muslim Charities: There are thousands of Muslim charities in the United States that feed the poor both here and abroad, offer scholarships and contribute to emergency relief efforts. In fact, charity is a core Pillar of Islam and a huge part of the Muslim faith, as it is in Christianity. I am not only proud of the fact that I have raised my kids to take charitable giving very seriously in their lives, they did something amazing with this foundation of spirituality. My kids spent a year of Sunday School through the Webb Foundation raising funds to build a water well in Ghana. Children there were having to miss school as they were spending their entire days fetching (unclean) water for their families. Not only did they present the facts about the water situation to us parents, they did bake sales and held a movie day to raise the money. They even had a Skype spelling bee contest with the children in Ghana who are now the recipient of the well. We make a difference here in America and abroad. This is part and parcel to who Muslims are. You wouldn't know this if you simply believed bigoted Facebook posts about how uncharitable Muslim people are.
  • Candy striper is a term that is no longer used. Are you kidding me? I was a Certified Nurses Aid as a Senior in high school and even then, they were not calling us candy stripers. But I did take care of the sick and elderly, wiped their behinds, bathed them and held their hands in their last days of life as a young, Muslim American girl.

Representative Picchiotti, I implore you to step down from your public office and make room for a person who truly believes in the sanctity of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans regardless of race, religion or ethnic origin. I implore you to take a look at your inner values and see if they align with the people of your constituency and our U.S. Constitution. It's never too late to kick hate to the door and invite tolerance into your soul.
Yasmina Reality, Blogger

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