Representative Dave Agema, a Republican from Michigan’s 74th district in the state House of Representatives, has become an ever-increasing voice for extremism during his three terms in office. Agema is now eying a primary challenge to Congressman Bill Huizinga—perhaps this is one explanation for why he has been ginning up so much political theater and symbolic legislation.
Most recently, capitol lawmakers were shocked when Rep. Agema both invited a “former terrorist” to testify to the Commerce Committee and helped pay for a rally at which the man spoke.
Kamal Saleem claims to have a long record of terrorist activity. According to his own website, Saleem ran terrorist missions against Israel on behalf of the PLO and associated with notorious dictatorships, including those of Saddam Hussein and Muamar Qaddafi. According to his testimony before the committee, Saleem even fought in Tora Bora, presumably with the Afghan Mujahedeen that later became Al-Qaeda. Saleem frequently appears on the “former terrorist” speaking circuit with Zacharia Anani, a member of a Lebanese militia group who claims to have personally killed more than 200 people.
Rep. Agema believed, for some reason, that Mr. Saleem’s resume somehow qualifies him as an expert on immigration policy. In reality, Mr. Saleem is perhaps a fraud who makes his money from speaking at right-wing events and peddling anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Agema has a long history of expressing hard-line right-wing views, attacking marginalized groups, as well as dabbling and indulging in conspiracy theories and outlandish, often false, rhetoric.
During his quest to demonize Muslims, Agema has sponsored a bill banning the use of foreign or Sharia law in US courts. United States courts are already forbidden to follow any law beyond the Constitution, but that has not stopped Agema from vigorously campaigning to save Michigan from a looming Muslim menace. He has even argued that those who oppose his bill on the grounds that it is a unnecessary and mean-spirited have an “ulterior motive”—they wish to impose Sharia law on the United States, of course.
Frighteningly, Agema volunteered to speak at a capitol rally held by notorious Koran-burning pastor Terry Jones in September of 2011. Although Agema backed out of the event, leaked messages make it clear there is not much daylight between his views and those of Pastor Jones.
Agema has even accused President Obama of being a “secret Muslim,” writing on his Facebook page:
“Obama won’t acknowledge the National Day of Prayer but allows Muslims to pary [sic] on the step of the capitol, now on Egyptian TV he says he’s a Muslim according to some sources. Here he says he’s a Christian. We’re in trouble folks if this is true.”
Outrageously, Agema declared at a rally that the infamous treatment of Muslim prisoners at Abu Ghraib was “not inhumane,” further bemoaning what he recognizes as the “overly strict” rules of engagement during the Iraq War.
Agema also spends his time demonizing against members of the LGBT community. In the last session of the House, Agema proposed cutting the $9 million Michigan spends on AIDS treatment and transferring that funding to the Michigan Aeronautics Foundation. This year, Agema sponsored a bill to penalize public universities for providing benefits to domestic partners of the same sex. Agema opposed both hate crimes legislation and legislation designed to stop the bullying of LGBT youth, as well. Allowing teachers to carry weapons in school, though, seems perfectly reasonable to him.
Agema also has a history of attacking immigrants en masse. Near the beginning of his career, he said his legislation would make Michigan “a more difficult place for illegals to survive.” Agema also introduced legislation modeled on Arizona’s controversial SB 1070, which would legally mandate racial profiling in Michigan.
During his anti-immigrant campaigning, Agema has been closely associated with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a group founded by prominent white nationalist John Tanton, orchestrator of America’s contemporary anti-immigrant movement. FAIR board members and staff have long maintained well-documented ties to white nationalist organizations and individuals. FAIR itself has even accepted funding from the Pioneer Fund, a foundation dedicated to promoting the genetic superiority of white, European-American through the study of eugenics. Agema has invited FAIR’s members to speak at hearings and rallies, and often cites their their regularly disproven anti-immigrant “research.”
Agema has not spared the poor either. He cast the deciding vote to cut $9.9 million used to clothe orphans, and defended this by saying that they don’t have such a program in Indiana. It is probably not a surprise then that Agema is not friend of the planet either. The Michigan League of Conservation Voters gave Agema the lowest environmental score of any legislator—an abysmal 7%.
Fortunately for Michiganders, Agema is relatively ineffective—his outlandish proposals rarely become law. Indeed, he was voted the least effective legislator in Lansing by a survey of political insiders.
This may be in part because Agema was removed from his powerful post on the Appropriations Committee. It seems he missed too many meetings and calls-to-vote during a 2007 budget crisis that temporarily shut down the state’s government.
Where was Representative Agema during this critical time? On a two week sheep-hunting expedition in Siberia.