Islamic council calls for Grasso's resignation after 'hate-filled' Facebook posts

Selene San Felice
Contact Reporterssanfelice@capgaznews.com

The Council on American-Islamic Relations called Tuesday for County Councilman John Grasso to resign after he shared a series of “hate-filled, Islamophobic and xenophobic” posts about Muslims on his Facebook page.

Zainab Chaudry, the Maryland representative for the national group, said several community members reached out to the council with concern after Grasso shared posts on his personal page including “One nation under God, not Allah” and statements that Muslims should not be allowed in the United States.

Chaudry said that after the center reached out to Grasso asking him to take down the posts and apologize to constituents, she got a call from the councilman. Instead of apologizing as she expected, Chaudry said, “He doubled down on his sentiments.”

“It was very clear that he harbored animosity toward Muslims and towards Islam. I tried to talk to him to help address some of his concerns and comments about Muslims specifically but he didn’t want to hear anything I had to say,” Chaudry said.

Asked about the posts and the exchange with Chaudry’s group, the Republican from Glen Burnie said his Facebook posts had been misinterpreted, that he didn’t make the comments Chaudry attributed to him and refused to disavow or remove the posts.

“Screw CAIR. I don’t give a crap about them,” Grasso said.

Grasso is currently campaigning for state Senate in District 32, where he faces Del. Pam Beidle, D-Linthicum in November. Beidle declined to comment.

In addition to calling for Grasso to resign and apologize, CAIR also called for Gov. Larry Hogan and other public officials to denounce Grasso. Pictures of Grasso’s campaign signs on his Facebook page say “Team Hogan.”

But a spokesman for the governor’s campaign said there is nothing to disavow.

“The governor has not and will never endorse John Grasso for anything,” Scott Sloofman said. “The governor has consistently stood up and spoken out against hate of all kinds and will continue to do so.”

Grasso’s series of posts started on Sept. 14 when he shared a photo that read, “One nation under God, Not Allah. America is not a Muslim nation. America is not an Islamic nation. America is a Christian nation.”

Two days later, he shared another photo that read, “Let this sink in … The same state department that found it impossible to rescue 4 Americans in Benghazi now tells us they will rescue 200,000 muslims and give them our benefits and housing free of charge. Your government no longer has your best interest in mind.”

Grasso confirmed he posted the image and said he agreed with the sentiment. “It’s pretty amazing how we can let four Americans die, but then we can go and rescue a bunch of other people.”

On Sept. 26, he shared a link to a Cambodian website titled “Share if you think President Trump should ban Islam in American Schools.” Many of those who commented on Grasso’s post agreed with the idea.

One commentator who disagreed was Rudwan Abu-Rumman, president of the Anne Arundel County Muslim Council. He posted links to videos about Islam as a peaceful religion and noted that Grasso’s campaign website was designed by a Muslim person.

Tuesday, Grasso responded to one of Abu-Rumman’s comments, saying: “I don't think any religion should be in public schools.”

Grasso said in an interview that he is not Islamaphobic, and has attended events at the Makkah Learning Center in Gambrills. He said he considers Abu-Rumman a friend.

Abu-Rumman could not be reached for coment.

In addition to the calls for Grasso to step down, CAIR also called on members of the Anne Arundel County Council to denounce the councilman. Council Chairman Michael Peroutka, R-Millersvile, and Councilman Derek Fink, R-Pasadena, declined to comment.

Councilman Chris Trumbauer, D-Annapolis, said that Grasso only has one meeting left as a councilman.

“He’s not going to be around much longer anyway,” Trumbauer said. “I have no tolerance for discrimination at all, so I hope that he will explain himself.”

Councilman Pete Smith, D-Severn, encouraged Glen Burnie residents to vote in the race for state Senate.

“The good thing about being in America is that we celebrate people’s individualism and religious beliefs. That’s what makes us great,” he said. “In November, District 32 citizens will see that and they will do what’s right.”

Other members of the council could not be reached for comment.

County Executive Steve Schuh, who has endorsed Grasso’s bid for the General Assembly, also could not be reached for comment.

Grasso has a long history of making outrageous statements and has a frequently combative attitude toward critics.

That was on display Tuesday during an interview with The Capital, in which he criticized the paper and his Democratic opponent.

He accused the newspaper of trying to run “a hit piece” on him, “so that crazy liberal Beidle can get a one up on me.” He warned the newspaper about the consequences of publishing an unfair story.

“I’m telling you right now as a promise, you will regret it,” Grasso said.

Grasso later said the statement was not intended as a threat and that it was indicating that he would stop talking to reporters for The Capital if he were treated unfairly.

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