FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 9, 2022
Faith Leaders Condemn Sen. Amanda Chase’s
Inciting Islamophobic Remarks
RICHMOND, Va – We, the undersigned faith leaders and organizations from different religious traditions in Virginia, stand together in solidarity with our Muslim friends and partners – and all people of faith and goodwill – to condemn Senator Amanda Chase’s recent Islamophobic remarks, and call for her to apologize.
Sen. Chase posted the following public post on Jan. 9, 2022, at 8:26 AM on her Facebook:
“Think about it
DID YOU KNOW THAT… 2300 years ago, long before Islam, Arabs discovered that forcing people to cover their nose and mouths, broke their will and individuality, and depersonalized them. It made them submissive. That’s why they imposed on every woman the mandatory use of a fabric over her face. Then Islam turned it into the woman’s symbol of submission to Alah, the man owner of the Harem, and the King. Modern psychology explains it: without face we don’t exist as independent beings. The child looks in the mirror between the ages of two and three and is discovered as an independent being. The mask is the beginning of deleting individuality. He who does not know his history is condemned to repeat it…”
“I’m introducing legislation this week in Virginia to stop the covid mandates to include mandatory masking. Educate. Not mandate. It’s time to save face.”
The post included a photo of a woman with long blonde hair wearing a surgical mask, with a metal chain in place of ear loops, and a lock dangling from the chain. Update: As of 12:30 pm on Jan. 10, the post had been shared on Facebook 261 times. (An updated screenshot image of Sen. Chase’s post is shared at the end of this release.)
“Virginia prides itself on freedom of religion – allowing people to worship and practice their faith as they choose,” said Hurunnessa Fariad, who is a Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP) Board member and Head of Outreach/PR & Interfaith at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS Center). “Senator Chase’s disrespectful statements demean Muslims and Islam, the chosen faith of many in her district and across the Commonwealth. The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy urges the Senator to learn more about Islam and apologize for her hurtful inciting comments.”
The Jewish Community Federation of Richmond made the following statement:
“Whether criticism of a mask mandate is used to diminish the Holocaust or to insult and demean the Muslim faith and tradition – a line is crossed into hate and bigotry that must be called out and confronted. To have these comments made by an elected official is even more a violation of the public trust and their sworn obligation to represent all the citizens of the Commonwealth.”
The Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities echoed the sentiment.
“Elected officials have a responsibility to represent all of their constituents, especially in our increasingly diverse Commonwealth. No Virginian should have to feel that their elected representative thinks less of them because of who they are. Senator Chase’s social media post is not only factually incorrect, but it irresponsibly marginalizes our Muslim neighbors.”
Sen. Chase’s comments about veils and Islam are factually incorrect. Two prominent Muslim women experts offered historical context.
“Traditional women of all faiths wear some form of veil,” said Dr. Basma Abdelgafar, academician, public policy expert, author, and Muslim scholar. “Some wear it consistently like nuns, Jewish women after marriage, and many Muslim women, among others from different religious communities. Generally, the head cover or hijab is a custom of modesty. In Islam, men and women must dress with modesty. Women are requested to use ‘their veils to cover their chest area,’ but nothing in Islam requires a face veil.”
Samina Ali, award-winning author and speaker, whose Tedx talk on the Muslim veil has eight million views, noted that in pre-Islamic Arabia, the veil was also a symbol of status.
“The veil was only available to wealthy women at the time who didn’t need to work out in the fields or in houses as servants. Most poor women didn’t veil because their economics didn’t allow them the opportunity. They had to work. In that society, the veil was a symbol of wealth, prosperity, and elitism.”
Many Muslim American women wear a head-covering or veil by their own choice for many reasons, whether as a symbol of devotion, piety, religious identity, or self-expression.
Imam Ammar Amonette, Imam of the Islamic Center of Virginia in Chesterfield, expressed his outrage and grave concerns over the Senator’s statement:
“This is not history. The misguided and dishonest references to Arabs, Islam, ‘Alah,’ and ‘the Harem’ have nothing to do with wearing a mask to protect oneself and others from infectious diseases.” He added that “the discussion on masks should be based on health, safety and collective responsibilities and should not incite disunity and hatred in our community.”
We, the undersigned faith leaders and organizations, join in inviting our leaders and officials to promote understanding and the common good in these challenging times. Sen. Chase must know and do better.
The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy advocates economic, racial, and social justice in Virginia’s policies and practices through education, prayer, and action. VICPP is a non-partisan coalition of 750 faith communities working for a more just society.
The Islamic Center of Virginia is the largest mosque in the Richmond region. Located in Senator Chase’s district, the mosque regularly invites community leaders to visit the mosque and join them for prayers or meals. The mosque is known for its community engagement. Currently, the mosque is helping support Afghan refugees by collecting donated money and supplies.
Jewish Community Federation of Richmond and Richmond Council of Congregational Rabbis
For more than 86 years, the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond has been a unifying force for Jewish community-building, amplifying our collective strength to make the world a better place — for everyone. We strive to create a community which is vibrant, inclusive, accessible, and unified.
The Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities works with schools, businesses, and communities to achieve success by addressing prejudices, in all forms, in order to improve academic achievement, increase workplace productivity, and enhance local trust. Through workshops, retreats, and customized programs that raise knowledge, motivation, and skills, VCIC develops leaders who work together to achieve success throughout the Commonwealth.
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Screenshot image (captured on Jan. 10, 12:30 PM) of Sen. Chase’s post are shared at the end of this release. Scroll down to view.
Ayesha Gilani Taylor
Director of Communications
Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy