Republican Allen West is the Tea Party candidate for House in Florida’s 22nd district, a seat currently held by Rep. Ron Klein (D). West is an extremely successful fundraiser — he raked in the most money of any GOP challenger in the second fundraising quarter of 2010 — and has become a favorite among conservatives, earning the endorsement of Sarah Palin and receiving over two million hits on YouTube for a speech he delivered to a Florida Tea Party gathering.
Last week, video surfaced of West making a series of inflammatory statements about Islam during a March 8 pubic forum. He began by criticizing the ubiquitous “Coexist” bumper stickers, which display the symbols of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other religions. West said:
“[A]s I was driving up here today, I saw that bumper sticker that absolutely incenses me. It’s not the Obama bumper sticker. But it’s the bumper sticker that says, ‘Co-exist.’ And it has all the little religious symbols on it. And the reason why I get upset, and every time I see one of those bumper stickers, I look at the person inside that is driving. Because that person represents something that would give away our country. Would give away who we are, our rights and freedoms and liberties because they are afraid to stand up and confront that which is the antithesis, anathema of who we are. The liberties that we want to enjoy.”
West went on to call Islam a “very vile and very vicious enemy that we have allowed to come in this country because we ride around with bumper stickers that say co-exist.” Among his opinions on Islam offered during the town hall:
– “We already have a 5th column that is already infiltrating into our colleges, into our universities, into our high schools, into our religious aspect, our cultural aspect, our financial, our political systems in this country. And that enemy represents something called Islam and Islam is a totalitarian theocratic political ideology, it is not a religion. It has not been a religion since 622 AD, and we need to have individuals that stand up and say that.”
— “George Bush got snookered into going into some mosque, taking his shoes off, and then saying that Islam was a religion of peace.”
Watch the video, shot by the Florida Democratic Party:
West began his political career after resigning from the military following an investigation into his interrogation tactics. In 2003, West was interrogating an Iraqi policeman who was not being cooperative. According to his own testimony during a military hearing, West watched four of his men beat the suspect, and West said he personally threatened to kill the man. According to military prosecutors, West followed up on his threat by taking the man outside and firing a 9mm pistol near his head, in order to make the man believe he would be shot.