When Houston millionaire Farouk Shami (pictured) announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor of Texas, his campaign said Mr. Shami was currently a Quaker (although he was raised as a muslim). Many of us bloggers took the campaign at it's word and jumped to defend Mr. Shami when another candidate accused him of being a muslim. At the time, it seemed like a scurrilous and untrue attempt to smear Shami.
Now I don't know what the truth of the matter is. A couple of days ago, the Shami campaign said campaign aides were wrong when they said Mr. Shami was a Quaker. They did not say what his religion was -- just that he was a "very spiritual person". Naturally this created some consternation among media outlets and bloggers. Why were we told an untruth? Is Mr. Shami trying to hide the fact that he's a muslim -- a fact that could have a large impact on his candidacy?
Now the Shami campaign has released a new statement. Media director Kelly Love Johnson sent out the following statement from campaign director Vince Leibowitz:
The campaign would like everyone to believe that Mr. Shami's religion is of no consequence in his campaign for the governorship. Normally, I would agree with that. It should not matter whether Mr. Shami is a christian, muslim, hindu, buddhist or has no religion at all. But this matter was not initially brought up by the media.
It was Shami's own campaign staff that told everyone he was a Quaker, and then backtracked and said he was not. By releasing untruthful information, it is Shami's campaign itself that has made this an issue in the campaign. By refusing now to tell the complete truth, they are now fueling the fires of controversy and making it look like the candidate is trying to hide something.
This is not a matter that is going to go away now. Voters are going to wonder how many other things the candidate is trying to hide from them. There is only one way to put the matter to rest, and that is complete honesty by the candidate himself. He needs to come out and tell the citizens of Texas just what his religion (or lack thereof) really is.
The Shami campaign started this fire, and it is up to them to extinguish it.