AUSTIN — A string of threats is prompting a boost in security at the State Capitol.
The threats are directed at hundreds of Muslims who are in Austin for 'Muslim Day at the Capitol.' They represent Islamic organizations and mosques from across the state of Texas.
According to the Texas Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), threats were posted online and also came in over the phone. Law enforcement stepped up protection, making additional Department of Public Safety troopers visible along the south steps of the building.
The Texas Muslims are visiting the Capitol to meet with lawmakers and ignite positive interactions. There have been similar rallies at the start of a new legislative session for a few years now. However this year, threats against the group escalated.
According to CAIR people started posting messages on a blog site called Bare Naked Islam a few weeks ago. Some people threatened gun violence. Others wrote about killing and capturing participants.
"We feel we are in the front lines," explained President of the San Antonio CAIR chapter Sarwat Husain. "We are not doing anything wrong here. We are doing what anybody else does. So for anybody to feel threatened or not to like it, it is ridiculous. We are protecting our First Amendment [rights]."
Husain says about 300 Texas Muslims registered to attend 'Muslim Day at the Capitol.' Some backed out after the threats intensified.
"The fear is on both sides. Our community is afraid of the politicians, of the law enforcement, of the people in common, you know, because of all these threats. We also want to teach the politicians," said Husain.
The threats are not new to the group. Back in 2011 CAIR says they called on the FBI to investigate similar messages posted on the same website, threatening mosques across the state. The group is asking law enforcement to look into who's behind the online messages.
See alo "Security boosted for Texas Muslim event following online threats", CAIR press release, 31 January 2013