A candidate for Scottsdale Unified School District’s Governing Board has drawn backlash for social media posts containing anti-Islamic sentiments.
Kathleen Angelos, one of six candidates running for three open seats, wrote or shared multiple posts on Facebook in 2019 and 2020 calling for the U.S. to ban Islam and claiming Muslim citizens cannot legally hold public office.
“America needs to shut down all mosques and ban Islam. Bet you won’t repost this,” read a post shared by Angelos on Feb. 1.
In another post from January, Angelos, a military veteran, wrote “I have worked and live (sic) among them for 7 years in their own countries and Christian Judea principles are not what they follow. WE THE PEOPLE are the infidels in their mindsets (even in our own country). Under their SHARIA LAW we are expendable.”
The posts have since been deleted from her personal Facebook page or hidden behind privacy filters.
Angelos told the Progress “I will not apologize for any of this; I’m willing to explain my position and that’s as far as I’ll go.”
“I don’t see why my comments are so wrong when they’re trying to literally do away with the country as we know it,” Angelos added.
Angelos clarified that she intended to target her posts only at those she deems “extremists,” not all Muslims.
“I’ve worked in the country; there are some compatible people with different viewpoints and they are Muslim,” Angelos said. “And I’ve worked with a lot of nice Muslim people, but there are the extreme and I’m referring to the extreme.”
The posts have drawn condemnation from some in the SUSD community as well as Muslim advocates and civil rights groups in the Valley.
“There is a thriving and engaged Muslim community in Scottsdale, whose children attend the Scottsdale Unified School District,” said Imraan Siddiqi, executive director of CAIR-Arizona, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.
“It is troubling that a candidate that is supposed to represent the public’s interest and the interest of students would engage in this gross bigotry,” Siddiqi said. “There is no place for hate in our education system.”
Denny Brown, a Scottsdale resident and former SUSD board member, said, “There’s just no room for that” on the Governing Board.
“What’s a Muslim kid going to think about that?” Brown said. “We do have Muslims in Scottsdale; that’s just frightening to start out with that level of prejudice when it comes to kids.”
Earlier this election cycle, Brown was a volunteer signature gatherer for board candidates Rose Smith, Zach Lindsay and Julie Cieniawski.
Kyra King, who chairs the Scottsdale Parent Council’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion subcommittee, said her group is working on ways to understand and address bias that affects stakeholders throughout the district.
“All of us would probably agree, because we’re all pretty open-minded people, that somebody who has those types of biases toward a belief system or a culture that that would be extremely problematic,” King said.
“I have no problem saying that I think that’s highly problematic,” King said. “I wouldn’t want to vote somebody in like that.”
Brown said electing Angelos would send the wrong message to Scottsdale’s Muslim community.
“It says ‘my public school hates Muslims’…I’d be scared to death as a parent,” Brown said. “I would personally be afraid they might be targeted in some way, shape or form.”
Angelos said she would not treat Muslim students or families unfairly if elected.
“Like I said, I’m talking about the extremists; basically, the kids have no way of knowing any of this,” Angelos said. “I’m talking about the radical Muslims who are trying to take down the country. These children have nothing to do with that. Their families are not the extremists who I’m talking about.”
But Muslim students do face unfair treatment due to their skin color or religion, said Amanda Parris, policy counsel for the ACLU of Arizona.
She said institutionalized Islamophobia is dangerous, especially when in school environments where students of all backgrounds are required to receive an equal education.
“These comments coming from a candidate for a public school governing board are startling,” Parris said. “Students like Ahmed Mohamed and other Muslim students have faced discrimination and harsh discipline in schools due to bias and prejudice among school leaders and staff. Racist and Islamophobic views have no place in public schools.”
Mohamed was a 15-year-old Texas high school student who was arrested in 2015 and accused of trying to make a bomb after he brought a homemade clock to school.
In other Facebook posts, Angelos criticized Muslim Congresswomen and said Muslims could not hold public office in the U.S.
A post shared by Angelos on Facebook called Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib a “jihadist.”
Another post referenced Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
“We would not be having these discussions about Omar’s anti-Semitic comments if we kept within the guidelines of our Constitution…Muslims are not allowed to hold office,” read the post.
When asked for clarification on this stance, Angelos doubled down.
“According to the Constitution, and I go by the Constitution since I’m in this political venue, you’re supposed to be a natural born American citizen,” Angelos said. “And I’m not really too clear on whether naturalized is included in that, but the citizen has to be born in the United States.”
According to Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, an individual only has to be a U.S. citizen for seven years before they are eligible to hold office in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In speaking with the Progress, Angelos also floated a debunked conspiracy theory about billionaire Democratic donor George Soros, calling him a “domestic enemy” and alleging he was a Nazi during World War II.
“I’m not anti-Semitic by any sense of the imagination, because I’ve got Jewish friends all around the world, but if you want to write this down, George Soros is at the helm of all of this,” Angelos said.
She added, “He’s causing a lot of hate and discontent and stuff, and that bothers me as it does all Americans that are serious about maintaining their country.”
Theories alleging Soros is the mastermind of a malicious global cabal have proliferated in the U.S. in recent years, sparked mainly by far right groups opposed to his funding of progressive political causes, according to the Anti-Defamation League, an anti-hate organization,
The ADL published a report in 2018 connecting the Soros conspiracy theories to longstanding anti-Semitic tropes.
“Even if unintentional, politicians and pundits repeating these unsubstantiated conspiracies essentially validate the same hateful myths propagated by antisemites,” according to the ADL.
Angelos said she is not anti-Semitic.
The theory that Soros, a Jewish Hungarian Holocaust survivor, was a Nazi has been debunked on numerous occasions.
According to Politifact, a fact checker published by the Poynter Institute, an image went viral on social media several years ago purporting to show a young Soros in a Nazi uniform. However, the photo actually depicted former SS soldier Oskar Gröning, who was sentenced to four years in prison in 2015 and died in 2018.