Wisconsin religious leaders condemn Gov. Walker for remarks about Muslims

religion | Sep 02, 2015 | By Martin Barillas

Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders signed an open letter to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination – to clarify remarks he made concerning Muslim terrorism. In the August 27 letter, Ahmed Quereshi of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee said that Walker’s remarks fuels “a new kind of McCarthyism” that singles out Muslims. Quereshi added, "As you know, there is an 'Islamophobia industry' in this country that seeks to vilify all Muslims and their faith, Islam."
 
Said Quereshi, "Allowing your statement to stand 'on the record' without a personal and direct correction by you poses a safety risk to the lives and property of American Muslims, including residents of the State of Wisconsin and their places of worship." The Council on American-Islamic Affairs also criticized Walker’s remarks.
 
Walker was criticized after remarks he made on August 21 while visiting New Hampshire in which he said that there are a "handful of reasonable and moderate followers of Islam." He also denounced President Barack Obama for not characterizing the Islamic State (ISIS) as a phenomenon of “radical Islam.” Walker stressed the threat that ISIS poses to the world, “It is a war against not only America and Israel, it’s a war against Christians, it’s a war against Jews, it’s a war against even the handful of reasonable, moderate followers of Islam who don’t share the radical beliefs that these radical Islamic terrorists have.”
 
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel received a clarification of the governor’s statement from campaign staffer AshLee Strong. She wrote, "The Governor knows that the majority of ISIS's victims are Muslims." She added, "Muslims who want to live in peace — the majority of Muslims — are the first target of radical Islamic terrorists. Under the Obama-Clinton foreign policy doctrine, we've been abandoning our traditional Muslim allies in the Middle East and allowing ISIS, al Qaeda, and Iran to fill the void."
Querishi was not satisfied with the response. The campaign’s assertion that the "majority of Muslims" want is inadequate. He argued that the response can be construed to mean that as many as 49% of Muslims are indeed extremists. "It is only a relative handful of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims who support terrorism," he said in the letter co-signed by the Wisconsin religious leaders. "The vast majority of Muslims are reasonable, moderate and peaceful."
 
According to Quereshi, the Islamic Society of Milwaukee has condemned Muslim terrorists.
 
Among the religious leaders who signed the open letter are Rev. Jean Dow, pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church and former chairman of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee; Bishop Steven A. Miller of the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee, and Bishop Richard Sklba, retired auxiliary bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Later in September, a coalition that includes the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Wisconsin Council of Churches, will have programs addressing what they call “Islamophobia.” It will be held at the Masonic Tripoli Shrine Center in Milwaukee.
Bishop Richard J. Sklba
 
Jack Jenkins at ThinkProgress.com wrote of Walker’s statements, “The comments are reckless — they’re validating the bigoted views of militant extremists. Anti-Islamic rhetoric is commonplace in many right-wing circles, especially militant groups that have called for attacks on American Muslims.”
 
The depredations of the Islamic State in the Mideast continue apace. The Islamic State gave an ultimatum to Christians in Qaryatain, Syria, on September 2 to pay the traditional Muslim jizya tax exacted from Christians and Jews only, convert to the Muslim faith, or leave their homes behind. In August, the Sunni Muslim forces of the Islamic State took the city from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which is on a road linking Palmyra with eastern Syria. It was at Palmyra that Islamic State beheaded a famous archaeologist, Khaled al-Assad, and destroyed a notable archaeologist site. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Christians have 48 hours to make up their minds. However, Christians are waiting for the Islamic State to return their identity cards so that they can leave the city.
 
Besides the Temple of Bel at Palmyra, Islamic State forces destroyed the 1,500-year-old Mar Elian Catholic monastery in Qaryatain, threwing away the bones of a revered saint. The group also abducted more than 200 Christians, including women and children, in August. There has been no news of them since then, as fear mount that the women and children may be subjected to rape, slavery and forced marriage.

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