Trump taps Texas mayor with history of Islamophobia for local HUD position
Beth Van Duyne, mayor of Irving, Texas, announced Monday she would be leaving her post to accept a position as regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Although rumored for months, the news has Muslim advocates and allies concerned over Van Duyne's history of alarmist Facebook posts about Sharia Law and her role in stirring up Islamophobic sentiment — in the same city where Ahmed Mohamed, then 14 years old, was arrested by police for bringing a homemade clock to school in 2015.
In February 2015, months before Mohamed was arrested, Van Duyne posted a Facebook status about a supposed "Sharia court" that had been started by a local mosque. "I will not stand idle and will fight with every fiber of my being against this action," she wrote. "Our nation cannot be so overly sensitive in defending other cultures that we stop protecting our own."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations — which now includes Van Duyne on its running list of individuals in the Trump administration who have a demonstrated history of anti-Muslim statements — said there were a number of issues with Van Duyne's "inflammatory post," namely that what she called a "Sharia Law Court" was actually a religious tribunal.
"In fact, the tribunal is a panel of arbitrators which issues non-binding decisions on matters such as religious divorces, and is parallel to Jewish rabbinical courts and Catholic tribunals," CAIR's website reads.
But Van Duyne continued to defend her comments, including in an interview with Glenn Beck when she claimed imams were "bypassing American courts," the Dallas Morning News reported in 2015.
"It fuels anti-Islamic hysteria," Zia Sheikh, imam at the Islamic Center of Irving, told the Morning News. "Her whole point was to rile up her supporters."
Van Duyne even tried, unsuccessfully, to advocate for a bill that would forbid Texas judges from making rulings based on foreign laws, the Morning News reported.
It was amid that climate that Mohamed, who became known in the media as "Clock Boy," was arrested for bringing his homemade project to school.
At the time, despite nationwide outrage at the teen's arrest, Van Duyne wrote on Facebook that she did "not fault the school or the police for looking into what they saw as a potential threat. They have procedures to run when a possible threat or criminal act is discovered."
Mohamed's family later included Van Duyne in a civil lawsuit that claimed "Van Duyne and others were libelous in their statements about Ahmed Mohamed after he brought the clock to school in 2015," but she was later dropped as a defendant, the Associated Press reported in February.
Van Duyne has now found a place in the Trump administration. In a Facebook post announcing her new position, she wrote "It's official! I have joined the Trump Administration and will be working with Secretary Ben Carson for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. ... I look forward to continuing to serve the people in my community and country."