Okaloosa County, Florida, Commissioner Graham Fountain has made numerous social media posts promoting anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, including the belief that American Muslims currently running for elected office in the United States intend to replace our current system of laws with “sharia law.”
Fountain, who was elected to the Okaloosa County Commission District 1 seat on November 8, 2016, has referred on Facebook to “the colonization of Islam and sharia law take over of America” and promoted the idea that Muslims immigrating to the United States hate its political system and are opposed to the U.S. Constitution.
Fountain’s comments on Facebook were posted as more American Muslims are running for public office. The idea that American Muslims are part of a secret plot to advance Islamic religious law, or sharia, in America is a staple of the radical right. Anti-sharia bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the U.S. Critics contend the main purpose of this legislation is to spread fear about American Muslims.
When challenged by fellow Facebook users to provide evidence of an Islamic conspiracy to spread sharia law across America, Fountain provides no proof to support these claims.
Hatewatch contacted Fountain with several questions for this story. Although he refused to be interviewed over the phone, he did provide written responses to several questions. Fountain re-affirmed his belief about American Muslims running for office, saying that “Having actually read the Koran many times it is clear they must fight to convert, or enslave or kill non-believers and also establish Sharia as that is the number one goal of their Political Based Religion.”
Fountain, who retired after holding a variety of state and local law enforcement positions, has also used rhetoric commonly found in the anti-government Patriot movement, including “fighting the corrupt FBI, Justice, and the IRS.” Fountain restated that conviction in his emailed response, writing, “The upper leadership of the FBI and Justice Department is filled with President Obama’s Cronies and folks who lie to congress, impede lawful inquiries of congress and the executive branch.”
Fountain has also promoted the idea that state authorities can ignore federal courts. After the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June 2015 to guarantee the right to same-sex marriage, Fountain decried the decision, stating, “It’s a sad day in the USA. The Supremes have lost their minds and have done the best to destroy the souls of God-fearing Americans.” He later went on to say, “The States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, even those that offend the esteemed Justices’ ‘reasoned judgment.’’’
When asked by Hatewatch if he believed states have the right to ignore federal law, Fountain replied, “Generally speaking no. I wish the government would get out of the marriage business, Period. The license fees are just taxes on the people. Let’s churches and whatnots deal with the holy ordinance of marriage. But states should be able to weigh in legally when citizen’s free speech and practicing of faith are being challenged.”
Khurrum Wahid, a partner at Wahid Vizcaino LLP in Miami, Florida, and National Chairperson of Emgage Pac, was saddened but not surprised by the Facebook comments made by Fountain. He told Hatewatch, “You can tell where he is coming from. These are the same folks who have been pushing these ‘sharia bills’ for years and who refer to American Muslims as a bunch of ‘sleeper-cell jihadis’. He views himself as a protector of America.”
Wahid has seen this anti-Muslim hysteria grow significantly since 2008: “The election of President Obama raised their engagement ten-fold. And the peak of it was during the rise of the Tea Party and the election of Allen West in 2010.” [Allen West was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for Florida’s 22nd Congressional district but was defeated in his re-election bid in 2012.]
Regarding the trend of more American Muslims running for public office and the resulting backlash from some Americans, Wahid said, “Since the election of President Trump, a lot of American Muslims want to be more engaged. They feel a personal calling to serve in a broader way. We need to show that we are part of the broader fabric. And that is creating a reaction on the right.”