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Tenn. lawmaker’s Facebook post frightens Muslims

1 May 2013 General 7 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

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Tenn. lawmaker’s Facebook post frightens Muslims

Offensive post was tweeted by local Muslims, who are calling for commissioner to apologize.

by Heidi Hall, The Tennessean

“This may just be a picture to him, but for us it is very threatening,” said Kokoye, an Antioch resident who has lived in Tennessee for 17 years. “Muslims in Coffee County should not feel safe to walk outside their homes.”

She said it was important for her group and others to expose and condemn the post to show it isn’t funny and could be dangerous.

More violence

The Boston Marathon bombing prompted a nationwide uptick in invitations to violence against Muslims, said Hatem Bazian, director of the Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project at the University of California Berkeley.

The group tracks social media posts, comments on online news articles, TV coverage and radio talk shows.

“Racists will always find a way to express their sentiments,” Bazian said. “They use these events as a reason to come out with it. People who are in the silent majority have to reclaim the public space and say this is unacceptable.”

A message from Mayor David Pennington on the Coffee County website extends the hand of hospitality. West’s Facebook post doesn’t change that, Pennington said, and Coffee County shouldn’t be judged based on it.

“I have no control on what a commissioner does when he leaves the commission meeting,” he said. “I have no idea why he did it.”

He said county government and Muslim business owners have enjoyed a long, supportive relationship that he believes will continue. Pennington said he would admonish commission members at their next meeting to be more careful about what they put on Facebook.

There are fewer than 50 Muslims in Coffee County, said Sabina Mohyuddin, a Nashville native who moved there in 2002. She said West’s post was uncharacteristic of the county, although she senses some residents are disturbed when they see people different from themselves.

She said the post scared her.

“That gun was pointed at me and my family,” Mohyuddin said. “We know that these lead to discrimination and hate crimes in the Muslim community, and we are very wary of that.

“I am a second-generation American. My children are third generation. We don’t see ourselves as anything but American.”

The best thing West can do is apologize publicly and meet privately with Coffee County Muslims in an effort to understand them better, said Daniel Tutt, an Episcopalian interfaith activist and a research fellow at the nonprofit Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington.

‘Not acceptable’

“It’s not a shocking thing coming from Tennessee, which in the last few years has produced a number of Islamophobic incidents,” he said. “There was a whole CNN special on Murfreesboro.

“The initial reaction from Muslims will be, ‘This is unfortunate, but we’ve seen a lot of this.’ But it’s not acceptable. If the same thing were done to the Jewish or African-American communities, it would not be tolerated.”

The Al-Farooq Islamic Center on Fourth Avenue South in Nashville suffered vandalism earlier this year and in 2010, when someone spray painted “Muslims Go Home” on the building. Arsonists burned a Columbia, Tenn., mosque to the ground in 2008.

A new mosque opened last year in Murfreesboro after arsonists burned construction equipment on the site and community members sued to stop construction. A federal judge ruled the mosque could open after the Justice Department filed suit to force county workers to inspect and issue an occupancy certificate.

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7 Comments »

  1. Seriously? And this person was elected to office? Pathetic.

  2. It’s a sad day when commissioners, who one would suppose are held up as representatives of their constituents, feel enabled to post these kind of racist, hateful, and violent comments against people living in their own community. This isn’t my America.

  3. What do you expect from a stupid redneck?

  4. Do this to Jews or Blacks and they’ll slam you in jail, and rightly too. Do it to Muslims and people respond with a grim grin. Why? Anti-Muslimism!

  5. West has acted illegally and is aggravating other to do the same…he should be legally charged……

  6. I’m a while, non-Muslim Nashville resident, and I just want to say that this kind of sh*t is NOT acceptable in my community with anybody I know. The idiots are usually the loudest, but there aren’t many of them at all. We probably have just as few ‘extremists’ as the Islamic world, but unfortunately, they’re the ones getting all of the attention. I would like to see our government put this guy in Gitmo or track him as a suspected terrorist and/or put him on the list of people who can’t buy guns because that’s exactly what would happen to him if he’d done this in reference to Jews, as the article pointed out. I live in peace with all of my neighbors, regardless of their beliefs or lifestyle. I can’t expect them to accept me if I don’t accept them! American Conservatives, just like the ‘Islamic extremists’, need to realize that there is no way they can be happy unless they get involved in ethnic cleansing. That’s a very serious crime, and it is the only result that will make them happy. Please, everybody, learn to love and live together!

  7. I stopped in Coffee County several years ago, while traveling through the South with my mother.
    We were made to feel very unwelcome at the local State Park, by a woman who let us know what she thinks of foreigners (my mother speaks primarily German).

    If Coffee County treats WHITE people like that, I have absolutely no doubt that this is far from an isolated incident when it comes to people who look and dress and worship differently than them.

    I know I for one will never return.

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