Kemal Bozkurt is the first Muslim elected to public office in Lawrence. Bozkurt, the city’s acting library director, ran a sticker campaign for school committee last month as there was not even one candidate on the ballot to fill the seat.
Now, Bozkurt is being pressured by members of the city council to either resign his school committee seat or give up his job as library director, claiming that holding both jobs is a conflict.
Given that Bozkurt hails from Turkey and is the first Muslim elected to any office in Lawrence, I have to wonder why members of the Lawrence City Council would be lying to Bozjurt about not being able to hold both jobs.
There is no state law, provision in the city charter, or city ordinance which states a city employee cannot sit on the school committee. Especially when you consider that the Lawrence School Committee really no longer exists.
Since the Lawrence Schools have been taken over by the state, the Lawrence School Committee acts only in an advisory role and has no legal authority, does not pass budgets, and has no say over hiring, firing or anything else.
So, you have to ask yourself why? Why would elected members of the city council lie to Mr. Bozkurt to pressure him to resign from one of his positions, when they know full well that no law dictates such action?
Kemal Bozkurt is a community activist who cares a great deal about the City of Lawrence. At a time when no one stepped forward to fill the school committee seat in his district, Kemal volunteered and mounted a sticker campaign to fill the job that nobody wanted.
You have to wonder, if Bozkurt’s name was Gonzalez or Gomez would members of the Lawrence City Council be working so hard to get him to resign under false pretenses. You also have to wonder if Bozkurt was a friend of City Council President Modesto Maldonado, if he would be welcomed with open arms, instead of being discriminated against because he is a Muslim.
You will be hard pressed to find anyone out there who is more suspicious of Muslims in our country, and our culture than I am, given the millions of Muslims promising to come here and kill us.
Many in the community who call me anti-Muslim are not all that far off in their labeling and stereotyping my position. However, being personally suspicious, and exhibiting Islamophobia when it comes to harassing a city employee to resign smacks of the same kind of prejudice and discrimination that Council President Maldonado and his cronies on the council whine about about every single day.
I encourage Kemal Bozkurt to keep both his position as acting Library Director, and a member of the Lawrence School Committee. And if this kind of Islamophobic harassment continues, we encourage him to get a good lawyer and file suit against the city.
I also encourage Mayor Dan Rivera and members of the city council to welcome one of Lawrence’s newest and proudest Muslim immigrants from Turkey, instead of trying to take advantage of his ignorance of our laws and deceptively trying to pressure him to go away.