Sehar Hekmati (pictured, center), a Republican activist from Georgia who came to the United States from Afghanistan as a child, filed a lawsuit last week (PDF) against several county level Republican officials, accusing them of slandering her as a “terrorist” and a “felon” in a recorded conversation, emails circulated to other Republicans and posts on Facebook.
Her attorney, John Sparks, told Raw Story on Monday that Hekmati was recently nominated to be a delegate at the 2012 Republican National Convention (RNC), and has previously been commended for her activism by Georgia’s former Republican Governor Sonny Perdue. But that nomination has opened her up to some unexpected attacks, and she says that some of them simply went to far.
Of the three women named in the suit, two are Republican officials in Henry County: Eleanor Smith (pictured, left) and Vicki Temple (pictured, right) are treasurer and president of the Republican Women of Henry County, respectively. Temple is also the second vice chair of the Henry County Republican Party.
“[Hekmati is] a delegate to the RNC and she’s been an active Republican since she got to Georgia, pushing the cause of freedom,” Sparks said. “The basis of her passion is that she’s seen what a country is like without freedom. She doesn’t take it for granted, because she’s lived in a world where it doesn’t exist. It’s extremely important to her that the ideals of our bill of rights continues. A lot of people will say, this is free speech, but there are limits to free speech. One of those limits is defamation. You can’t accuse a person of a crime when it’s not true.”
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman with the Council on American Islamic Relations, suggested that the case is really “just a symptom of the growing anti-Muslim sentiment in our society, particularly on the right-wing of the political spectrum.”
“It seems that the conservative poltical platform now has to have one of its planks being Islamophobia, and that’s unfortunate,” he told Raw Story. “I think that’s something that the GOP leaders nation-wide need to deal with. Just in the past week we saw a candidate in Texas calling for stopping the Islamization of America. Now there’s a Texas sheriff’s race where Sharia is the big issue in the sheriff’s race. I mean, it’s reached absolutely bizarre levels.”
“It would be laughable if it weren’t so harmful to our nation and any sense of religious tolerance and diversity,” Hooper added. “You’ve got these equally bizarre anti-Sharia bills in dozens of state legislatures at a time… I don’t even know what to say! How do you tell somebody that, gee, a tiny religious minority that’s under pressure maybe can’t take over the government and overthrow the constitution. How do you reach somebody that believes such nonsensical things? It’s like trying to convince somebody that believes in unicorns that there aren’t any unicorns.”
Smith, Temple and the Henry County Republican Party did not respond to requests for comment.
“It’s a simple defamation case,” Sparks told Raw Story. “I don’t think it has anything to do with Republican or Democrat. [Hekmati] was accused of being a felon, which isn’t true, and she was accused of being a terrorist, which is also a crime. Both of those accusations are defamation in Georgia. The basis of their misconduct, I believe, is that they’re bigots.”
“They don’t like her because she grew up in Afghanistan. She came over here when she was a child, and she had the audacity of falling in love with an marrying a man of a different race. The evidence will come out that — and it’s somewhat subtle, but I believe it will be able to show that’s the motivating factor — although it doesn’t really matter why they did what they did and said what they said. Simply calling someone a criminal and a felon, regardless of why, is defamation.”
Photo: Eleanor Smith poses with Sean Hannity and Vicki Temple poses with Andrew Breitbart, in photos taken from their Facebook pages. Hekmati, pictured center, is shown via a screenshot from WSBTV.com in Georgia. Composite by Stephen C. Webster.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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