Allen West has declared he's "neither anti-Muslim nor anti-Islam" in response to a group of national Jewish and Christian organizations that have called on the controversial congressman to apologize for remarks he made about a fellow member of Congress.
Leaders of the Interfaith Alliance, the Rabbinical Assembly, the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, said in a letter to the Broward Republican that he has a "tendency to offer intemperate comments about Islam" that "intensify an unsettling trend of anti-Muslim rhetoric and fear.''
The letter cites a recent interview on the Shalom Show in which West responds to a question about Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and his Islamic religion, by saying that Ellison "represents the antithesis of the principles on which this country was established."
"We urge you not to use the prestige of your position in the U.S. House of Representatives to proselytize for one religion or demonize another," the letter says.
West, who caused a stir on the campaign trail last year when he said that Islam is "totalitarian theocratic political ideology" and "not a religion," replied in a letter of his own that he is "neither anti-Muslim nor anti-Islam" but against "the extremist, radical element that has hijacked Islam."
- JAWEED KALEEM
And he says his comments were not directed at Ellison's religion but his support of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national Islamic civil liberties organization that West suggests is a group that may "masquerade as more peaceful moderates."
The Palm Beach Post reported that West clashed with the South Florida director of CAIR, Nezar Hamze, at a town hall meeting in Boynton Beach on Monday. At the meeting, Hamze told the congressman that he has "consistently demonized and insulted my religion."
"I will always defend your right to practice a true religion under the First Amendment," West said, adding that he is "not going to stop speaking the truth." He then listed violent incidents in Islamic history.
"Your version of Islam is exactly what the anti-Islam people are teaching you,'' said Hamze, who added that violence has "nothing to do with Islam."