Anti-Muslim activists are once again taking their fight to Idaho.
On Thursday, two anti-Muslim activists will hold a forum for Idaho legislators at an auditorium in the Capitol building in Boise. The speakers slated to address lawmakers are Christopher Holton, vice president of the anti-Muslim think tank Center for Security Policy (CSP) and Shahram Hadian, a Christian pastor known for labeling Islam “demonic.”
Hadian is a major player in the anti-Muslim movement in Idaho who made headlines last year by playing a key role in a fight in the Idaho Legislature over funding for child support enforcement services. In the Magic Valley, he jumped into the debate over the refugee center by demanding that it be closed.
"The refugee program needs to be halted. So what I said was immigration, lawful immigration needs to be limited, particularly from Muslim countries," Hadian said.
CSP is one of the most active anti-Muslim groups in the United States today. Its founder and president Frank Gaffney is well known on the anti-Muslim circuit, but last year was marked by a sizeable increase in its anti-Muslim and anti-refugee rhetoric.
In 2015, CSP published a pamphlet calling for a ban on all Muslim immigration to the U.S. and Frank Gaffney invited white nationalist Jared Taylor on his radio show to discuss the “threat” of Syrian refugees. CSP is also working to create model legislation at the county level aiming to ban the relocation of Syrian refugees. The Southern Poverty Law Center will label CSP an anti-Muslim hate group when its annual hate list is released next month.
For some time, Idaho and, more specifically, the town of Twin Falls has been one of the epicenters of anti-refugee/anti-Muslim organizing and sentiment in the United States. It is also home to the College of Southern (CSI) Idaho’s Refugee Center.
Twin Falls became the focal point of refugee panic when a group of local citizens – fueled by paranoid fears of the looming imposition of “Sharia law” and the spread of ISIS-affiliated terrorism – began organizing against its operations, demanding that the college divest itself of the program and petitioning Idaho Gov. Butch Otter to cease refugee-relocation programs.
The group, organized as the Committee to End the CSI Refugee Center, began showing up at college board meetings in June to demand the center be closed after the federal government announced in April 2015 that Syrian refugees would soon be processed by the center.
Jan Reeves, the director of the Idaho Office for Refugees in Boise, this week voiced concerns about Thursday’s forum in an interview with the Spokesman-Review this week.
“I’m concerned that their objective might be to influence legislators against Muslims and the dangers of Sharia law, but they’re using refugee resettlement as some form of attraction,” Reeves said. “I’m very concerned that the information that may be presented will not be objective, factual information about refugee resettlement.”
Idaho lawmakers should not be fooled by outside anti-Muslim activists trying influence the refugee debate in their state. Hadian has already helped create and unwelcoming and toxic environment for refugees and Muslims in Idaho. And adding the vice president of an anti-Muslim hate group to that mix is only going to make things worse.