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US official who replaced 'Islamophobic' councilman denounced for anti-Muslim posts

Member of municipal council in Indiana resigned over accusations of Islamophobia; now his replacement is facing similar charge
Muslim-American protesters at the Women's March in Washington, 23 January 2019 (MEE/File photo)

If you're subscribed to the emailing list of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), it is common to receive statements calling for the resignation of officials who have made Islamophobic statements. 

But on Tuesday, the civil rights group sent out a press release with an additional dimension that demonstrates the rise of anti-Muslim bigotry around the country.

"CAIR calls for resignation of Islamophobic Indiana GOP official who replaced resigned Islamophobic official," the headline of the statement said. 

It all started in January, when Greg Jones, a Republican member of the Kokomo Common Council - the municipal body that runs the Indiana city of 57,000 people, resigned after an outcry by Muslim groups over his past Islamophobic posts on social media. 

It fell on the local Republican Party to find Jones replacement after the fallout. After a primary caucus, Roger Stewart, a 911 dispatcher with no previous political experience, was chosen to take up the seat.

Stewart was aware of the roots of Jones's ordeal and the ramifications of one's online behaviour. 

"It reminds me we need to be aware of what we say and do, and be careful how we express ourselves," he told the Kokomo Tribune earlier this month. 

But it appears that the newly appointed council member was not aware of some of his own past posts on Facebook.

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On Monday, the Kokomo Perspective, another local paper unearthed somewhat recent anti-Muslim statements that Stewart had shared.

"I refuse to bend, twist or change to make Muslims feel comfortable in MY COUNTRY," reads a "meme" he shared from a group called "Trump memes" last year. 

Weeks earlier, he had shared a post accusing Muslim elected officials who take the oath of office on the Quran of treason.

"Let me say about the QURAN, if you take the Oath of Office on a book recognising Sharia Law swearing to defend honour and uphold the United States Constitution, then you have committed treason," the post said.

Stewart has since deactivated his Facebook page, but the Perspective had captured screenshots of the posts.

He told the newspaper that he does not recall sharing those statements, disavowing the content.

"I don't feel that way as far as, I feel like everybody has the same rights as anybody else. Why I would have done that, I have no idea," Stewart said, according to the Tribune.

CAIR, which had welcomed Jones's resignation weeks ago, is now calling on Stewart to also step down.

"Just as we called for the resignation of the previous Islamophobic official, we urge Mr. Stewart to resign from his post and for a person who understands constitutionally-guaranteed religious freedoms to be appointed in his place," CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said in a statement. 

The Muslim-American group also noted the "spike in bigotry targeting American Muslims, immigrants and members of other minority groups since the election of Donald Trump as president."