Fears of refugee-borne Islamic terrorism and hegemony drew about 200 people to the state Capitol on Thursday to hear from two anti-Muslim activists.
Outside the auditorium where they spoke, a slightly larger group gathered in silent protest.
The event went down peacefully, if not without a few small sparks, and what dialogue there was between the two sides appeared measured and civil.
Shahram Hadian, a Christian pastor from Washington state, and Christopher Holton of the Center for Security Policy spoke for an hour on what they see as security issues around refugee resettlement of Muslims in the U.S. Holton addressed terrorism concerns regarding groups such as the Islamic State and the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Their goal is to impose Sharia law on the world,” Holton said. “I disagree with President Obama. I think it is an existential threat. They’re motivated, they have a long-term outlook and they’re well-funded.”
Hadian proclaimed the threat of jihad that he sees at the root of all Islam. As a child, he fled Iran on the eve of the Islamic revolution in 1979. He said he does not oppose refugee programs outright.
“But I’m against this particular program as it stands,” he said.
Refugee resettlement programs operate in Idaho in Boise and in Twin Falls.
About a dozen state legislators attended. Several were among those who last year, at Hadian’s urging, opposed changes to federal child support rules over unfounded fears that it would mean enforcing support judgments from overseas, potentially under Islamic law.
Hadian urged the audience to “keep the pedal to the metal” on lawmakers to press for changes in the refugee programs.
Except for small talk, the group outside kept silent vigil through the whole program, with placards and signs proclaiming support for the refugee programs.
One person stormed out during Hadian’s presentation, shouting to him, “You lie!” But that was as hot as it got.