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Mark Cole: Islamophobe and Bad at Math

Because the issue of religious intolerance hits close to home, we have no choice but to respond to a recent tweet from Delegate Mark Cole, who represents part of Fredericksburg in the Virginia General Assembly. This isn’t your standard-issue Republican talking point; this is a special case of Islamophobia combined with a basic misunderstanding of how polls work:

We often disagree with Delegate Cole on many issues, ranging from gun safety to marriage equality, but this outburst is particularly harmful because it has the potential to stir up controversy and ill will where none previously existed.

At the heart of the issue is a poll conducted by Pew Research Center concerning views toward ISIS in nations with significant Muslim populations. The result, as the author noted, is that in every one of these nations (with one partial exception), ISIS is extremely disliked. This should be fantastic news to those concerned with about terrorism: ISIS is a fringe organization without a broad base of support. Instead, Delegate Cole links to a piece that twists the results of this poll into an unrecognizable shape.

Pew Research Poll

Pew Research Poll

The percentages above tell a clear story, but let’s follow Delegate Cole’s example of using total population. According to recent estimates from either the United Nations or the U.S. Census Bureau, at least 500 million people in these 11 countries have an unfavorable view of ISIS, compared to the 66 million who have a favorable view (numbers are slightly higher than his initial claim due to population increases since the original American Thinker post was published).

To repeat that: 500 million with an unfavorable opinion vs. 66 million with a favorable opinion. Or, to put it another way, for every person who likes ISIS, more than seven don’t. Again, these numbers prove that ISIS is far from the mainstream, even in countries with large, if not majority, Muslim populations.

Another 238 million people say they don’t have an opinion on ISIS or don’t know what it would be. Delegate Cole tries to shoehorn all of these individuals into his claim of potential ISIS supporters. How likely is it that literally every single person represented by the “Don’t Know” response actually thinks favorably of ISIS? His claims are a basic misrepresentation of facts.

In fairness, we have learned all too well that sole individuals can cause untold amounts of destruction and grief. That’s why we support commonsense methods of detecting potential terrorist activity that have been proven effective. But comments like Delegate Cole’s contain an undercurrent of concern that ISIS is on its way to becoming more powerful, something that is simply not true.

Normally we wouldn’t respond to a random website’s gross misinterpretation of a poll. But this ideologically driven conclusion is being repeated by one of the 141 people in our Commonwealth (House, Senate, Lieutenant Governor) who can vote in the General Assembly. Delegate Cole’s Trump-like statement promotes a culture of fear that is unfounded and leads to division, not unity, as sadly seen during the discussion around a local Islamic center. Delegate Cole’s representation of our city is an embarrassment, and we look forward to supporting a candidate who will defeat him in next year’s elections.

Call to Caucus

Per the Party Plan, this caucus has been cancelled. Three delegates for Hillary Clinton, three delegates for Bernie Sanders and one alternate for Hillary Clinton put forth their candidacies prior to the deadline. These candidates are hereby elected to the District and State Conventions.

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Whereas, it is the duty of the Fredericksburg Democratic Committee to issue the Call to Caucus for the purpose of electing delegates and alternates as indicated in Appendix B below to the 1st Congressional District Democratic Convention and the Virginia Democratic State Convention:

Now therefore be it resolved that the Fredericksburg Democratic Committee hereby issues the Call to Caucus to convene an unassembled caucus for at 12:00 noon, Saturday, April 16, 2016, for the sole purpose of electing delegates and alternates to the Congressional District Conventions and the Virginia Democratic State Convention, and the following provisions shall govern the convention, to wit:

  1. Prefiling: Those wishing their names to be placed on the ballot at the Caucus shall prefile their candidacy by 5:00 p.m. April 9, 2016, with the Chair of the Committee. Those who wish to prefile may either file online or by paper form (page 9 of the 1st CD Call to Convention). Forms may be mailed to the Committee (Fredericksburg Democratic Committee, PO Box 1261, Fredericksburg VA 22402). Forms postmarked April 9 or earlier will be considered valid.
  2. Voluntary Administrative Fee: There shall be a voluntary administrative fee of twenty dollars ($20.00) for each person filing for delegate, payable to FDC. Payment of this fee is voluntary. No statement is required in order to waive payment.
  3. Notice Requirements: The Fredericksburg Democratic Committee shall consider this posting to be the official notice of the caucus as required per the Virginia Democratic Party Plan.
  4. Conduct of the Caucus: The doors to the Caucus will be opened at 12:00 noon and will remain open until 2:00 p.m. Those in line at 2:00 p.m. will be allowed to complete the check-in process and will be permitted to vote. Those arriving after 2:00 p.m. will not be admitted to participate.
  5. The Chair or his/her designee shall act as the Permanent Chair of the Caucus. The Chair will appoint other Officers of the Caucus as is deemed appropriate. The Order of the Caucuses shall be governed by the Virginia Democratic Party Plan.
  6. Cancellations: The Caucus Chair may cancel a caucus provided the number of people who prefile by the deadline is equal to or less than the number of delegates and alternates allocated. Notification of the cancellation shall be posted on the FDC Website and shall appear by 12:00 noon on Thursday, April 14, 2016.