Domestic terrorism one of the topics at Harder’s bilingual town hall at Saint Frances of Rome in Riverbank

As a Muslim, John X. Mataka wanted answers from his Congressman Josh Harder, D-Turlock, about domestic terrorism.

“I am here today to talk about terrorism, what happened in Texas, in Gilroy and now in Ohio,” said the Grayson resident who attended Harder’s bilingual town hall at Saint Frances of Rome church in Riverbank on Aug. 4.

The next day, Aug. 5, Harder, D-Turlock, discussed gun control with members of the editorial board of The Modesto Bee, following a weekend in which two mass shootings left more than 22 people dead in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

“The problem is that, they, the federal government, doesn’t view terrorism inside of the United States the same way that it does, when somebody from outside the United States does the act,” said Mataka, who was born in Stockton.

Mataka said he heard in the news that an hour before the massacre in Texas took place, the shooter had posted on the internet that he was targeting Mexicans because they were invading the country.

President Donald J. Trump’s rhetoric of “immigration invasion” was echoed in the racist manifesto linked to the man responsible for the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas.

“But the FBI could not do anything because of free speech,” Mataka said, adding that “that has to change, and I am going to tell you why.”

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As a muslin John X. Mataka wanted answers from his representative congressman Josh Harder, D-Turlock, on domestic terrorism. María G. Ortiz-Briones

“As a citizen, as Muslims in this country, if I put something on the computer saying that I am going to do violence, they (FBI) are coming to my house, they are arresting me, my whole family, taken my computer, taking all my stuff and until they find out if it is legitimate or not. Why this is not happening with white supramist? Is it an issue of color?” said Mataka of how people of color or people whose religion doesn’t fall under Christianity are treated differently by the government.

“Let me be clear,” Harder said. “Violence against civilians for political acts should be treated the same.”

“It all needs to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, period” Harder said, adding “and I agree with you. The laws are on the books but are not enforce the same.”

Harder said he was pleased to hear that the FBI had opened a domestic terrorist case from what happened in El Paso on Aug. 3.

“You are right, this should be classified, and we should call it, domestic terrorism,” Harder said, “because it is meant to put fear into the hearts of our community.”

“We should be making sure that we are holding the same standards for people,” he said, adding that is not a problem with the laws on book, but the laws in practice.

Besides domestic terrorism, the topics of immigration as well as local law enforcement agencies collaborating with ICE were some of the topics the first-term representative addressed. The goal of the event in Spanish and English was to provide more avenues for Central Valley residents to connect with Harder and an opportunity to make their voices heard, ask questions about what’s happening in Washington, and get help with federal issues.

During his first months in office, Harder has hosted 12 in-person town halls, including the one in Riverbank, as well as two telephone town halls, and a Facebook Live town hall.

María G. Ortiz-Briones: 559-441-6782, @TuValleTuSalud