Thursday, July 29, 2010File:Loya7.jpg
A Tennessee politician has been criticised by Islamic groups and Islamic leaders by suggesting that Islam is a cult and is therefore ineligible for protection under the first amendment of the United States constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion.
Though Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey, at a campaign stop in Chattanooga earlier in the month, said he’s “all about freedom of religion”, he also said that “[y]ou could even argue whether that being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult or whatever you want to call it”.
Lt. Gov. Ramsey had been asked about a proposed Islamic mosque and community centre that has been slated for construction in the town of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and also about the “threat that is invading our country from Muslims”.
Ramsey’s comments have been scrutinized by groups all over the country, while Ramsey’s rivals for the lieutenant governor position tried to avoid the controversy.
Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called Ramsey’s remarks “part of an unfortunate trend in our society” and part of “a disturbing trend in our nation in which it is suggested that American Muslims should have fewer or more restricted constitutional rights than citizens of other faiths.” Hooper also encouraged Ramsey to find people “who can offer him balanced and accurate information about Islam.”
Ramsey’s Republican rivals, U.S. Representative Zach Wamp and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, both tried to avoid the controversy about the cult comments. According to campaign spokesman Sam Edelen, Wamp declined to comment as he was “busy with voting”. Meanwhile Bill Haslam’s campaign spokesman Dave Smith stated in an e-mail that “The mayor’s faith is very important to him, and he respects the right of others to practice their faith, so long as they are respectful of the communities in which they live and the laws of the land.”
Later, Ramsey clarified his position by stating that he has “no problem — and I don’t think anyone in this country has a problem — with peace-loving, freedom-loving Muslims that move to this country and assimilate into our society.” However, Ramsey said he’s concerned that “far too much of Islam has come to resemble a violent political philosophy more than peace-loving religion. It’s time for American Muslims who love this country to publicly renounce violent jihadism and to drum those who seek to do America harm out of their faith community.”
According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, there are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world and 7 million in the United States. The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has stated that there are 63,000 Muslims in Tennessee, or 1% of that state’s population.