GOP Hillsborough court clerk candidate’s letter declares Islam is ‘not a religion’
TAMPA — A Republican candidate for Hillsborough Clerk of Circuit Court on Monday fired off a letter saying Islam is “not a religion” but a theocracy that is “totalitarian and littered with human rights violations.”
Scott D. Barrish, a 35-year-old private security officer who previously ran unsuccessfully for the Hillsborough School Board, sent the letter to the Council of American-Islamic Relations. He signed it as a member of the Hillsborough County Republican Party’s executive committee.
“Your efforts in espousing Islam in America and Florida will not succeed,” Barrish wrote. “This is us vs. you. In the great words of the late President Ronald Reagan, ‘I win, you lose!’ ”
Barrish said in an interview that he sent the e-mail letter because the group had engaged in what he called publicity stunts. CAIR, for instance, thanked Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio for declining to speak at the upcoming Florida tea party convention because it featured a presentation by an “anti-Islam extremist.”
“I don’t sugarcoat things and I don’t use (political correctness),” Barrish said. “I’m like a (New Jersey Gov.) Chris Christie. I say it like it is.”
Barrish, who said he had spent the past two years studying Islam, said he signed the letter as a member of the Hillsborough GOP to show his credentials, not to speak for the party.
But the Florida chapter of CAIR used Barrish’s letter in a press statement Monday.
“It is imperative that Republican Party leaders at the state and national levels repudiate these bigoted comments and take concrete steps to challenge the growing perception that the GOP is not a big tent party that welcomes Muslims,” said Tampa executive director Hassan Shibly.
Deborah Cox-Roush, the Hillsborough GOP executive director, had not seen Barrish’s e-mail until a reporter sent it to her. “He’s not speaking on behalf of the party,” she said. She said he should not have invoked the Hillsborough GOP executive committee in his letter.
But she stopped short of commenting on the contents of the message, saying she wanted a chance to read it carefully and talk with Barrish.
“I’m really uncertain about what this is all about,” she said. But she acknowledged it would offend Muslim party members.
Barrish said he thinks Islamic law is infiltrating the court system. He said Muslims are not following a faith, but a political system “that uses elements of religion.” He said he expected his remarks to be controversial.
“I’ve spent two years of my life studying this,” he said. “The folks who defend Islam, the tactic is, ‘He’s an Islamophobe’ or ‘He’s a bigot.’ But I challenge them, where have I misstated fact?”
Shibly, the CAIR official, said Barrish’s message exposes his arrogance.
“To get an idea of how outrageous his e-mail is, just replace the word ‘Islam’ with any other faith and think how we would react if a politician issued a statement in their official capacity on any other faith,” he said.
Reach Jodie Tillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3374.