Councilman Fires Staffer Who Tried To Block Muslim Man From Becoming Republican Precinct Chair

Council member Mike Knox made the move to terminate his employee after pressure from Muslim and other religious groups.


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Updated at 4:34 p.m.

At a meeting of the Harris County Republican Party last month, members were about to confirm different precinct chairs.

Then the party's chaplain, Trebor Gordon, stood up and asked for Syed Ali to be removed from consideration, "on the grounds that Islam does not have any basis or any foundation- it is in total opposite of our foundation."

The moment was captured on video and made national news. Leaders of Muslim and other religious groups were outraged, and the issue has come up almost every week during the public comment session of the Houston City Council meeting.

Gordon was a staff member in Mike Knox's office.

The council member has made it clear from the beginning that he doesn't agree with Gordon's opinions but he initially ignored calls to terminate his employee, saying Gordon acted on his own time.

"But during the course of the weeks that followed, it became apparent that Mr. Gordon was making decisions that I felt were incompatible with his ability to serve me in this office and it was creating a distraction," Knox said.

Gordon did not respond to messages requesting comment.

The executive director of Houston's Council on American-Islamic Relations, Mustafaa Carroll, welcomed Gordon's termination.

He said he has had several meetings with council member Knox about the incident, although he never asked for the staffer to be fired.

"We thought it would be more productive to ask for a public apology, preferably by Gordon," Carroll said.

He said CAIR also offered sensitivity training for city council staff and asked Knox to initiate a resolution denouncing Islamophobia.

John Moss, Knox's chief of staff, said the council member has submitted the proposed resolution to the mayor's office.


Previous version

Houston City Council member Mike Knox has terminated a staff member who came under fire for trying to block a Muslim man from being appointed a Republican precinct chair because of the man’s religion.

"Effective immediately, Houston City Council Member Mike Knox (At Large Position 1) announces that a member of his staff, Trebor Gordon, is no longer employed in the council office," Knox said in a statement released Wednesday.

Gordon made a motion against the appointment of Syed Ali last month at a meeting of the Harris County Republican Party. He said Ali’s Muslim beliefs are incompatible with the foundation of the Republican Party.

The majority of those present voted against the motion.

Leaders of different faiths criticized Gordon – who is also a pastor. Some also urged Knox to fire him.

The city council member initially said he would “educate” Gordon on the constitution and keep him in his position as community outreach director.

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is the News 88.7 business reporter and also covers criminal justice, guns and shootings.Florian's stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of...

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