xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement

Criticism for sharing Islamophobic posts prompts Howard County Board of Education candidate to withdraw from race

Howard County Board of Education candidate Gian Alfeo withdrew from the race Thursday after facing criticism earlier this week for Islamophobic Facebook posts he shared prior to announcing his bid.

Despite withdrawing from the race, Alfeo’s name has already been printed on the ballots as one of the three school board candidates in District 3. The June 2 primary election is underway due to the vote-by-mail system enacted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Advertisement

Alfeo told the Howard County Times on Thursday that if he finishes in the top two in the District 3 primary, he will remain out of the race for the general election in November.

Alfeo declined to comment further and referred to the statement published on his Board of Education candidacy website.

Advertisement

“After reviewing my past, I have decided that I am not the best candidate for such a position,” Alfeo wrote in the statement posted Thursday. “It is with sincerity that I apologize to any community member that has been offended by my transgressions. I am embarrassed by the (Facebook) posts that were mined from my account. I regret that I have lost the respect of many friends and community members during this process. It is my hope that over time I will be able to rebuild the trust and respect that has been lost during this campaign.”

The shared posts, of which others took screenshots and reposted online, show Alfeo sharing — and sometimes commenting with his approval of — Islamophobic memes and other incendiary posts regarding topics of race, sex and gender identity. Several of the posts were in 2015, while others were as recent as last year.

Prior to his withdrawal, District 3 County Council member Christiana Mercer Rigby, Del. Jessica Feldmark, D-Howard, and several of the other 16 Board of Education candidates have released statements against the views portrayed in the Facebook posts Alfeo shared.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, prior to his announcement to withdraw, also released a statement Tuesday denouncing Alfeo’s shared posts. While CAIR does not opine on whether candidates should run for elected office, CAIR’s Maryland Director Zainab Chaudry said the nonprofit organization does encourage leaders to promote "tolerance and inclusivity.”

“While people might have different ideas on how to move our county forward, we can express these ideas without resorting to bigotry that only harms others and causes more hatred and divisiveness in society,” Chaudry said.

While the posts Alfeo shared range in scope, the most provocative ones were those regarding Islam. One photo he shared in 2015 was of a quote that stated: “Islam, as practiced by most Muslims, is not a religion of peace.” Another from 2015 had a picture of bacon with the words, “Refugee test. If they eat it ... let them in,” on which Alfeo commented “funny.”

"I strongly denounce the xenophobic, hateful and anti-Muslim views and content shared by a candidate for the Board of Education. Prejudice has no place in public office,” Rigby said in a statement Tuesday.

Chaudry said many members in the community had contacted CAIR this week concerned about Alfeo’s Facebook activity. As someone who has nieces and nephews in the Howard school system, Chaudry said finding out about the posts Alfeo had shared was “deeply alarming.”

“Every child within the school system deserves to have leaders who equally and fairly represent them without harboring any bias against them because of how they practice their religion,” Chaudry said. “Bigotry doesn’t belong in our school systems.”

The Howard County Republican Club had previously listed Alfeo as one of several school board candidates who shared the group’s “conservative values." In a statement on Facebook on Thursday, the club, which claims it does not endorse candidates running for the nonpartisan Board of Education race, called Alfeo’s actions “indefensible” and said the club does not “condone what Gian Alfeo has done or said.”

Howard County Republican Club representatives couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

Since he can’t officially withdraw from the race until after the primary, if Alfeo finishes in the top two and declines the nomination, the third-place finisher will take his spot. The other two candidates in District 3 are Tom Heffner and Jolene Mosley.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement