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Religious leaders call for Cong. Walsh apology

Friday, August 10, 2012

Leaders of the Chicago area's religious community call recent comments about Muslims from Congressman Joe Walsh irresponsible and are demanding an apology.

Walsh is defending he comments made earlier this week at a town hall meeting.

Walsh said some radical Muslims are trying to kill Americans every week and a threat exists here in the Chicago area.

The congressman is a member of the US House Committee on Homeland Security and says that his warning about a "real domestic threat" from radical psalmists merely echoes concerns made clear by the Obama administration.

But his critics say that Walsh's answer to a town hall question two nights ago was more about fear than fact.

"There is a radical strain of Islam in this country," Walsh said. "It's not just over there, trying to kill Americans every week."

The threat from radical Islam, Walsh told his town-hall audience, is real, more pronounced now than immediately after 9/11.

"It's here," he said. "It's in Elk Grove. It's in Addison. It's in Elgin. It's here."

"The language that was used a few days ago is unacceptable," said Rev. Paul Rutgers of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago.

On Friday, a diverse group of religious leaders condemned the Congressman's remarks as fear-mongering, designed to stoke the fires of Islamophobia.

"What he's doing is sewing divisiveness and polarization," said Ahmed Rehab from the Council on Islamic-American Relations. "He's taking us backwards."

"When politicians speak, they don't speak off the cuff," said Zaher Sahloul of the Council of Islamic Organizations. "These were deliberate comments."

"Are you a fear-monger? Oh gosh no," Walsh said. "The fear is that Americans have been killed and if we're not on the alert, more Americans will be killed."

The Congressman says his remarks Wednesday were no different than what he's said dozens of times before, that political correctness has made the government less vigilant about a real threat.

"I always try to be careful and say there's a radical strain of Islam that's trying to hijack a good religion and if I were part of that religion, that's where my anger would be directed at because these folks are giving a religion a bad name," he said.

His town hall reference to Elk Grove, Addison and Elgin were meant, Walsh says, to suggest that no place is immune to threat.

His opponent says that kind of talk, with no specifics, is meant to spread fear.

"When he speaks he doesn't speak as a lay person," said congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth. "He speaks with the power of his seat, and he's shown he's not a suitable congressman for this district."

The religious leaders who gathered Friday argue that it is too easy and too reckless to say radical Islam poses an imminent threat without specific intelligence define the threat.

They want an apology and a retraction from Walsh. They won't get it.

The Congressman says he has no doubt that the threat is real, and if others choose to ignore it, he will not.


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