Muslim woman from Tampa asked by lawmaker if it was safe to ride in an elevator with her

click to enlarge CAIR Florida government affairs director Laila Abdelaziz. - Facebook
CAIR Florida government affairs director Laila Abdelaziz.

It's one thing to have a panel of legislators ignore your impassioned testimony on a proposed law that would give your state's governor the ability to use "military force" against refugees and migrants fleeing countries from which terrorists hail.

It's another thing to, after a lawmaker ignores your concerns about it being overtly racist, be asked, however jokingly, if it's safe to ride in an elevator with you — you know, because you're a Muslim and that whole conversation revolved around suspicion about people who hail from countries with large Muslim populations.

That happened Thursday to Laila Abdelaziz, state government affairs director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in the wake of a Florida House of Representatives State Affairs Committee hearing in which House Bill 1905 was passed.

Abdelaziz thought she had enough votes on the panel to kill the bill, but no dice.

Adding insult to injury were the comments of a committee member, Rep. Tom Goodson, in an elevator with Abdelaziz and a handful of other lawmakers.

She posted about the exchange on Facebook following the event.

Today, I was in an elevator with several members of the Florida House. We had just gotten out of a committee hearing that passed the ludicrously unconstitutional anti-refugee bill (whose premise, may I add, is entirely bigoted and Islamophobic) and a Representative that should damn well know better walked into the elevator and jokingly hesitated while looking at me, "Oh, is it safe to ride the elevator with you." Everyone laughed. Every single one of them laughed (Democrat, Republican, white, black, old, young) as I was belittled with a wildly inappropriate remark that because I'm a Muslim this Representative should be afraid to ride in an elevator with me. It's not funny. It hurts.

She said she didn't know what to say in response to the lawmaker, whom she identified as Rep. Tom Goodson (R—Titusville); she felt belittled and alone.

"I generally don't shy away from confrontation," she said. "I felt literally like I could do or say nothing."

Especially when you consider the context: Abdelaziz, descended from refugees herself, was in a room full of people who want to prevent people like her from having the same opportunities they had because of their country of origin.

"Elected officials have been doing Islamaphobic things for year," she said. "This is the state literally, in masked words, saying we're going to force our entire law enforcement system to profile Muslims and it's okay we're talking about it, we're doing the right things."

On Friday, presumably after multiple inquiries from media and activists, Goodson defended himself on Facebook.

Yesterday, in an attempt at levity regarding a very serious topic, I made what I thought was a harmless comment to a group of people that included Laila Abdelaziz. Unfortunately, Laila took it the wrong way. Laila is well-known as a passionate and active lobbyist working for the Council for Islamic-American Relations. While others in the group who know me recognized my humor for what it was, I regret that my comment caused hurt to Laila.

With that being said, the national “politically correct” police are now trying to make more out of this than what it is or was.

Rather than spend all day harassing a legislator for a joking comment gone awry, they might consider spending more time bashing the terrorists who are responsible for the tension and emotional strain being placed on the good citizens of this country.

So, there you have it. Pretty much proves the point.


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