(TOPEKA, Kan.) — The Republican Party in Kansas is receiving criticism from Muslims over mailers that it distributed in legislative races around the state that depict what appears to be ISIS fighters ready to do battle in the state.
“Have you met the new neighbors?” the flier declares. “ISIS is not going away anytime soon.”
The image employed in the advertisement shows a man dressed as a jihadist standing in front of what appears to be a grain silo, an image immediately familiar to anyone who has driven through Kansas.
The reverse side of the mailer boasts of Republican Rep. Joseph Scapa’s support for funding to train Kansas law enforcement officers to “recognize and deal with foreign and domestic threats to our state from those who support ideologies that are in conflict with the U.S. Constitution and our Kansas values,” according to The Wichita Eagle.
Moussa Elbayoumy, the chairman of the Kansas chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, criticized the fliers, telling ABC News that he believes that they were intended to “sow the seeds of fear in order to exploit that fear.”
Elbayoumy said the Muslim population in Kansas is a vibrant community, and noted that his group estimated that there are 25,000 Muslims living in Kansas City, 10,000 to 15,000 living in Wichita, and an additional 4,000 or 5,000 living in Topeka.
He described Muslims in Kansas as being mostly well-integrated into society, and happy living there.
“Most non-Muslims are very tolerant here,” he said, but also noted that there are “scattered cases of discrimination” against Muslims.
For an example of discrimination, Elbayoumy cited the case of Abdisamad Sheikh-Hussein, 15, who was killed in a horrific hit-and-run car crash. The driver of the SUV, Ahmed H. Aden, a 34-year-old Kansas City truck driver, later pleaded guilty to murder.
The FBI also recently thwarted a plot by a militia group in Kansas in what authorities said was an attempt to kill Muslims in an effort to start a religious war.
Elbayoumy said that the Kansas GOP was exploiting a fear of Muslims in pockets of Kansas for political gain.
“There is a certain group of people with a distorted idea of Muslims and they are exploiting that to get votes,” he said.
The Kansas Republican Party did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
But Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, told the Wichita Eagle regarding the purpose of the fliers: “We did polling and focus groups, and the one issue that got overwhelming positive response and was associated with Republicans was safety.”
Elbayoumy told ABC News that he and CAIR would attempt to combat prejudice against Muslims in the state by hosting events where neighbors could meet Muslim people firsthand.
“We continue to have events to get people to know their neighbors,” he said. “The best antidote to this fear is to get to know a real Muslim.”
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