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03 September 2012

Congressman Walsh polarizes the American community

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By Tausif Malik

Republican Congressman Joe Walsh started his anti Muslim remarks at a recent town hall meeting, few days before the shooting of innocent people at Sikh Gurudwara (Religious center) in Wisconsin and posts his remarks one MEC Mosque in Morton Grove was attacked shooting bullets; acid bottle attack on College Preparatory School of America and graffiti sprayed on Muslim graves at a Evergreen cemetery in Evergreen Park.

His remarks didn’t stop, he was recently invited to the Indian Independence Parade and Celebration, but he continued with his smear attacks on Muslim Community, even though the second largest population of India is of Muslims in presence of audience, elected officials and community leaders.

Many of the attendees were offended and said it disrespects the founding father of India Mahatama Gandhi’s vision of non-violence and brotherhood.

In Chicagoland the South Asian Community, which includes Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshi’s, Sri Lankans and Nepalese live and work together as a family but the weekend of August 20, not only spoilt the independence celebrations but polarized the community.

Most of the community felt that the organizers of the event should have taken care of not inviting the Congressman based on his current statements and backdrop of some many attacks on Gurudwara, Masjids, Schools and Cemetery .The community collectively felt that it was a celebrations of the Independence from colonial divide and rule policy, but with Walsh we are back on divide and rule.

Several prominent personalities have expressed their outrage and gave stinging remarks on Congressman Joe Walsh.

Presented below are the comments from some of these leading American personalities.

Governor Pat Quinn: “I am saddened to learn of two recent violent crimes against Illinois Muslims in Morton Grove and Lombard. We should all be able to agree that there is no place in Illinois for hate crime and religious intolerance. No matter what faith you may practice, attacks on places of worship are just plain wrong and do not reflect the values of the people of Illinois.”
David M. Barry, DuPage County Board District 6: “There’s part of me that doesn’t want to make any comment about Representative Walsh’s recent comments about “Radical Islam” because I don’t know want to give him anymore credence.

However, I must comment since he enflames the hatemongers among us and instills fears in his listeners. I listened to his comments again and I hear someone who knows that he’s losing so he trots out the over used idiom, “Radical Isalm” in order to get press coverage in an attempt to drive up his polling numbers.

Congressman, you know very well that words promote actions whether it’s a television commercial promoting a product, a pastor preaching to the congregation, or an elected official looking for votes. Have you ever worried about someone shooting at your children when you took them to church or whether someone was going to burn down your place of worship, neither have I, but I fear that those thoughts may have crossed the minds of our Muslim neighbors.”
Paul Froehlich, IMPAC: “The United States calls itself "the land of the free." Religious freedom and tolerance are basic American values. Religious bigotry, however, is beyond the pale. Targets of malicious stereotypes in generations past were Catholics, Jews and Mormons. Today the main target is Muslim Americans.

Intolerance and hatred breed violence, as we've seen with recent vandalism at mosques, including one in Morton Grove, and at a school in Lombard. Congressmen and other public officials should promote respect and tolerance, not fan prejudice and fear. Consequently, IMPAC condemns Congressman Joe Walsh's recent anti-Islam statements as both inaccurate and un-American. We call upon all people of good will, regardless of religious persuasion, to likewise denounce malicious religious stereotypes that lead to discrimination and violence. In the land of the free, the free exercise of religion -- without threats and intimidation -- is a fundamental right of all Americans”

Dr. Zaher Sahloul, Chairman Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago: "Rep. Walsh, Rep Bachmann and other irresponsible politicians are endangering the lives of many Americans by spreading such hateful and bigoted comments. These comments come a few days after the Joplin Mosque (Missouri) Arson and a white supremacist murderer killed six Sikhs at a temple in the suburbs of Milwaukee. We demand that Rep. Walsh retract his comments and apologize to his Muslim constituency and we ask all responsible politicians and faith leaders--from all parties--demand that hate mongering and demonizing of minorities be no longer tolerated in our political discourse." 

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair Parliament of World Religions: “Sikhs, Muslims, Latinos and Africans are increasingly targets of rising hate in our country. I believe these attacks are sanctioned by a political culture that tolerates hate speech and promotes xenophobia. Representative Joe Walsh’s Islamophobic statements are just one such example of this political culture. The Republican party which once ended slavery must rise to liberate itself from those people who are taking this country backward. Diversity is going to be as American as apple pie. And people like Joe Walsh better learn now that our diversity is going to be our strength as we compete in the world for investment, resources and market share.” 

Dr. Mujahid Ghazi President Asian Broadcasting Network: “It is so disturbing to see that within weeks of delivering controversial comments about Muslims, who are about 20% of the Indian population, the FIA provided their stage to Congressman Joe Walsh, in the banquet and in the parade. This is bigotry at its height. It is not about Islam or Muslims in US but it is about the existence of ethnic communities in this country. Recently Sikh community members were targeted by the same kind of hate monger in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is time to denounce the aggression against the minorities in this country” 

Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director for CAIR-Chicago: “Rep. Joe Walsh’s comments are consistent with the rise of the radical right and the insistence by some in the Republican Party that Americans should be suspicious and fearful of fellow Americans – including Walsh’s own constituents – who are of a different faith.

Such indiscriminate vilification is not unrelated to the rise in hate crimes and acts of vandalism we are seeing today. When elected officials, trusted by many, indicate that the enemy could be any Muslim living in your neighborhood, it gives rise to xenophobic vigilantism where fearful citizens target other Americans for simply looking different.” 

Shaheen Khateeb, President, Indian American Muslim Council: “These fascist politicians do not have a proven and successful track record to show their constituency, they can not run their campaign on their achievements, so they run it on hate, even if they claim they have been successful, these claims do not stand up to scrutiny. I am very concerned about people like Joe Walsh who have created an atmosphere of hate, which has resulted in tragedies as Wisconsin Gruduwara killings and mosque burning in Tennessee” 

State Representative Michelle Mussman: “People who believe in the basic rights of human beings and the right of religious freedom in this country and worldwide, should stand up these hate mongers and fascists.

Unfortunately, there are people from other countries who want to hurt people who live in this country. And there are people who live in this country who want to hurt people who also live in this country. I support the work of our law enforcement and their tireless dedication to keeping us safe and stopping threats. However, spreading hate and fear doesn't stop hate and fear. Understanding people from every culture and background will help us to bridge those differences, work together, and create good." 

Ahmed Khan, Elected Member Chicago School Council: “Elected officials have a higher responsibility as to the words they choose. It can be strongly debated that there is a strong correlation between Rep. Joe Walsh’s recent hateful, divisive, and unsupported rhetoric and the slew of hate crimes against Mosques. For the sake of petty political pandering in an election year, Rep Joe Walsh has put the safety of American Muslims, those perceived to be Muslim (as in the case of the Sikh tragedy), and many of his own constituents in jeopardy. As far as Rep. Joe Walsh’s being on stage at the Indian Independence Day Parade on Devon, did the organizers blatantly overlook his comments and did Joe Walsh not realize that there are close to 160 million Muslim in India?

Unbelievable, after knowing what happened to Indian Sikh community on Sunday, August 5, 2012 in their temple at Wisconsin. We know who did it to them and why he did it to them. It was a hate crime. Not only Indians, but entire USA and people around the world are still in a shock. Immigrants living in the USA are worrying about their and the future of their children in the USA”.
Abdul Ghani Desai: “Three days after the Sikh massacre in Wisconsin, US Congressman Joe Walsh said on August 8, 2012; “One thing I’m sure of is that there are people in this country – there is a radical strain of Islam in this country -– it’s not just over there –- trying to kill Americans every week. It is a real threat, and it is a threat that is much more at home now than it was after 9/11,” He also said; “It’s here. It’s in Elk Grove. It’s in Addison. It’s in Elgin. It’s here.

Two days later Friday night, there were two pellet-gun shots on a mosque in the Chicago suburb Morton Grove. 51-year-old David Conrad has been charged for shooting at the mosque as people prayed inside. US Congressman Joe Walsh made those comments just 15 miles from Morton Grove mosque. US media called it a hate crime. After this, 3 more incidents happened in Chicago land, including Graffiti on the Graves.This is a very serious situation for any immigrants, at a short or long run, regardless where they are coming from or what their religion is. The Indian Independent Day Parade Organizers and FIA should have thought about Indian Sikh, as well as Indian Muslims, who are almost 170 millions in India and at least a million living in the USA. Coincidentally, the President of Morton Grove Mosque is from India.Let me say this, before going further. There was an Indian man dressed as Mahatma Gandhi, standing on the float of Indian Independent Day Parade. If he was a real Mahatma Gandhi, he would had a heart attack watching US Congressman Joe Walsh standing on the Viewing stand of Indian Independent Day Parade, Dancing and Clapping”.

Rajinder Singh Mago,Sikh Religious Society, Palatine Illinois: "Any innocent people should not be singled out for violence, abuse or ridicule because of their faith, appearance, or ethnicity. There is no doubt the Sikh American community feels a great sense of unease resulting from the recent shootings at Oak Creek Wisconsin Gurdwara on August 5th, which took the lives of six innocent Sikhs praying in a place of worship. Such unease has been there, not only since the Iran Hostage Crisis of the late seventies, but also from the backlash of 9/11 when Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh American wearing the traditional articles of faith of a beard and turban was shot and killed in Mesa Arizona on September 15, 2001, by a gunman who ignorantly declared, "I stand for America all the way." The Sikh American communities, and other similar minorities, have long lived under an unfair burden of vulnerability from baseless attacks and threats by individuals who cannot rationally justify their hatred. Hate is on the rise, and remarks by political leaders like Joe Walsh add fuel to the fire." 

Mohammad Patel, Midwest Islamic Center, Schaumburg: “There is a pattern of hate and violence in America, just not the kind Congressman Walsh is talking about. This week an arson attack burned down the Islamic Community Center in Joplin, Missouri. It was the second arson attack on the mosque in two months. Innocent Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin were slaughtered apparently because they were mistaken for Muslims. Last year arson damaged a mosque in Wikita, Kansas.The reality is that American Muslims are the targets of hate crimes. Joe Walsh feeds intolerance with his attacks on "radical Islam" purportedly being "a real threat at home." Whether the targets are Mormons, Jews or Muslims, religious bigotry has no place in America. Congressman Walsh should know better”. 

Kaitlin Fahey, Campaign Manager, Tammy Duckworth: "Congressman Walsh's remarks were not only offensive, they were especially inappropriate and irresponsible from a sitting Member of Congress. These comments demonstrate yet again why is he not fit to hold political office." 

Raja Krishnamoorthi: "I found Joe Walsh's comments about Muslims to be unacceptable. Our community must remain united in opposing intolerance against any group of people. The recent shooting spree at the Sikh Gurudwara in Wisconsin along with the shootings at Chicago-area mosques serve as a chilling reminder that we must be vigilant against all forms of discrimination and intolerance."

[Tausif Malik is Managing Editor of US-based The Desi Times. He is also Founder of World’s First Muslim Spelling Bee Competition. He can be contacted at media@muslimspellingbee.com]

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