Election 2020

Michigan GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Ties Democrat to Muslim Brotherhood

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed speaks before submitting nominating petitions to the Michigan Bureau of Elections in Lansing, Mich., on March 6, 2018. (AP Photo/David Eggert File)

Brandon Dillon, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, called Republican gubernatorial primary candidate state Sen. Patrick Colbeck “a pathetic, bigoted fool,” after the GOPer raised questions about a Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s family connection to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

An avalanche of criticism started falling on Colbeck in late April after Buzzfeed News reported last week he accused Dr. Abdul El-Sayed of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and suggested he could be part of a “civilization jihad” against the U.S.

Ironically, El-Sayed was pretty much a non-factor in the Democratic gubernatorial primary until Colbeck brought up his name.

The former director of the Detroit Health Department scored only 2 percent support in a Denno Research poll released in April. That put El-Sayed in third place behind Gretchen Whitmer and Shri Thanedar, who, respectively, have 17 percent and 15 percent voter support.

The Denno poll showed Colbeck, hardly a name recognized by many Michigan voters either, to also be in third place in the GOP primary with only 4 percent voter support.

“There’s a lot of pressure being applied in our society right now. You’re seeing Muslim legislators in the state legislature. And you’re seeing also a push at the local level at city councils,” Colbeck said in the speech that sparked the most intense controversy so far leading up to the Michigan August primary.

“We also have somebody that I will likely be running against in the general election, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, whose parents apparently have ties to Muslim Brotherhood back in Egypt. This is scary stuff,” Colbeck said. “They’re already advertising him as the first Muslim governor. So this is a big deal.”

Sarah Anderson, spokeswoman for the Michigan Republican Party, left no doubt about where the state GOP stood on Colbeck’s speech.

“The party isn’t interested in peddling any conspiracy theories and anything he said was not on behalf of the party,” she told the Detroit Free Press. “We categorically condemn any sort of hate speech, regardless of the source.”

In an op-ed entitled “No place for Colbeck in Michigan’s future,” Brian Dickerson, a Detroit Free Press columnist, called the Republican the “least likely to succeed” of the four GOP Michigan gubernatorial primary candidates.

Dickerson accused Colbert of being “a con man, not a contender,” and as such, his first impulse was to “ignore his Islamophobic ravings.”

“But then I remembered that day in June 2015 when another headline-hungry provocateur announced his candidacy for the presidency by promising to stem a fanciful flood tide of Mexican rapists he asserted were pouring into the country illegally,” Dickerson added.

Despite his critics, both Republican and Democrat, Colbeck has refused to back down.

“I’m not casting aspersions on all Muslims, just those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood,” Colbeck said.

Colbeck said in a statement released Friday that his basis for warning his audience of a “civilization jihad” was based on the Explanatory Memorandum. “Its contents are a matter of evidential fact, not conjecture,” Colbeck added.

“The stated objective of the Muslim Brotherhood in America per the Explanatory Memorandum is ‘a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western Civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions,’” Colbeck said.

Nathan Lean, author of The Islamophobia Industry, told BuzzFeed News the Explanatory Memorandum was nothing but a “whimsical, fantastical, wishful document.”

“Politicians look at this [document] like it’s a smoking gun. There’s nothing smoking about it,” said Lean, who is also a former research director at Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, a program dedicated to studying Islamophobia.

However, Colbeck also claimed evidence showing El-Sayed’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood were “undeniable.”

“Please note that my statement was not anti-Muslim any more than associating someone with the Westboro Baptist Church would be seen as anti-Christian,” Colbeck said. “My statement of his association with the Muslim Brotherhood is merely a statement of fact.”

Democratic state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, Michigan’s only Muslim legislator, wants Colbeck to resign from the Senate.

“I am deeply disturbed and disgusted by the remarks made by state Sen. Patrick Colbeck. These remarks reek of desperation and echo the sounds of a political career coming to its rightful end. His words have no place anywhere, let alone in a legislative body,” Hammoud said in a statement.

Colbeck’s office told MLive that while the Republican appreciated Hammoud’s input, Colbeck would not be resigning.

“Free speech, even on sensitive topics,” the statement read, “is still welcome while I’m serving in office.”