Representative Allen West (R-FL) received a sharp rebuke from a diverse group of religious leaders, including leading rabbis Jack Moline, the Rabbinical Assembly’s Director of Public Policy, and David Saperstein, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s Director and Counsel, for his “intemperate” comments regarding Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) and the Islamic religion.
In an interview with Richard Peritz of the Shalom Show, West was (bizarrely) asked how he plans to manage his relationship with Ellison, who, as the interviewer puts it, ‘supports Islam.’
West responded: ‘When you run into someone who is counter, or someone that really does represent the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was founded on, you’ve got to be able to defeat them intellectually—in debate, in discussion—and you have to be able to challenge every single one of their assertions wisely.’
West’s (bizarre) response prompted an interfaith group of religious leaders to blast him in a letter Wednesday.
‘We write to you today with deep concern over your recent criticisms of Islam and its adherents,’ said the letter, which was jointly sent by Interfaith Alliance President Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, Rabbinical Assembly Director of Public Policy Rabbi Jack Moline, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism Director and Counsel Rabbi David Saperstein and Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty Executive Director Rev. J. Brent Walker.
‘Regrettably, this is just the latest example of your tendency to offer intemperate comments about Islam,’ wrote the faith leaders, pointing out that during the campaign season, West reportedly said that ‘Islam is a totalitarian, theocratic political ideology; it is not a religion.’
West, however, countered that he is not Islamophobic, and has no problem with Ellison’s religious beliefs—though he doesn’t see a need to apologize for his remarks.
‘I am neither anti-Muslim nor anti-Islam,’ West wrote in a statement. ‘It is the extremist, radical element that has hijacked Islam that presents to both our country and our allies throughout the world.’
This incident is just the latest example of West being out of step with the Jewish community and its leadership. It further calls into question his ability to competently serve as a member of the United States House of Representatives and cooperate with other members of Congress.