At a town hall meeting last night in Pompano, Allen West briefly sparred with a Qur'an-wielding supplicant who was there, in West's words, to "blow sunshine up his butt." (West always thinks Muslims want to blow something up.)
"You recently told a marine that the terrorists that attacked the United States, the people that are attacking America, are following Islam..." said the Muslim. "Can
you show me one verse in this Qur'an where it said to attack America, attack Americans, or attack innocent people?"
"Of course it doesn't say attack America!" said West. "The book was written back in the eighth, ninth century. America wasn't even around!" West then said something that was lost beneath the crowd's noisy consternation and pointed out that the Qur'an, while devoid of explicit anti-Americanism, does advocate the killing of infidels. Which is true.
The Muslim supplicant tried to have a debate on the subject, but the assembled Floridians wouldn't let him talk. They barely let Allen West talk. The congressman draws an excitable crowd.
West, unlike his supplicant, bulldozed right through the noise, doing his usual parlor trick of naming dates of alleged Muslim attacks upon peaceable, Christian Europeans. (We've debunked that trick here, but apparently to no good end.) When his supplicant finally found an opening in the surrounding roar and mentioned that West has "attacked Islam" (where he was going with that line of thought is anyone's guess, cuz he didn't get to finish), West said: "You attacked us!"
Some very ugly thinking was reflected in that line. West's Muslim supplicant was Nezar Hamze -- an American, just the same as West, and a full-time activist for the betterment of American-Islamic relations. But in West's line, he was excluded from "us" -- he was outside, other, Muslim -- and, most ominously, responsible for the attacks of 9/11, along with all of his coreligionists. West then told Hamze to "put the microphone down and go home" -- even though Hamze is a Floridian, even though Hamze had not disrupted the gathering, and even though West has been elected to represent Hamze's interests in Washington. This is no way to treat a constituent in a democracy.
Being challenged during a public speaking engagement is no fun, and perhaps one can sympathize with West's plight in that moment. I'd like West better if he'd been more gentlemanly, if he had quieted the crowd and given a fellow citizen his chance to speak. (This is a far manlier way to deal with a critic; alas, West was not fired from the military for an overabundance of bravery.) When you regularly vilify someone's entire ethnic heritage, that's perhaps the least you owe him.
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But it's probably best that West did what he did. If we cannot have politicians free of bias, let us at least have politicians who lay their biases face-up on the table, as Allen West is pleased to do. And despite the ugliness in Pompano last night, Westwatchers may still find a reason for tempered optimism about the congressman's future relations with the Muslim world. In a letter to constituents this morning, West said he had been "honored" to hob-nob last week with Qubub Talabani. Of course, Qubub is the son of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, and it would have been impolitic for West to say otherwise. So what? I find it reassuring to think that even the most impassioned bigot isn't above the occasional, tactful hypocrisy.
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