The photo was posted to Coffee County commissioner Barry West‘s Facebook page, drawing consternation from Muslim groups who came across the image. In the photo, seen at the right, a double-barreled shotgun is pointed at the viewer with the caption “HOW TO WINK AT A MUSLIM.” The image soon went viral, causing West to take down the original post from his page.
The Tennessean reached out to West and the commissioner not only isn’t sorry about posting the picture, he doesn’t believe he deserves to be singled out:
West, who lives in Manchester, removed it about an hour later. He did not apologize, instead questioning how his tweet had become the focus of attention.
West responded with this email: “No I did not Twitter this … no I did not create this picture … yes I shared it … so why am I being singled out?”
“I’m prejudiced against anyone who’s trying to tear down this country, Muslims, Mexicans, anybody,” he said in an interview with the local Tullahoma News, adding, “If you come into this country illegally or harm us or take away benefits, I’m against it.” West also claimed in that the post was meant to be funny, and that he doesn’t hold anything against Muslims “per se, but if you’re trying to tear down this country, find somewhere else to go.”
West’s post was taken quite seriously among the Muslims who viewed it, particularly those in Tennessee who have faced down Islamophobia over the past several years. A mosque in Murfreesboro, TN, gained widespread attention when residents attempted to block its construction, going so far as to set the site on fire. The mosque only managed to complete construction and opened after a federal judge ordered residents to stand aside. The Murfreesburo site was just one of several Islamic centers in Tennessee subjected to arson and vandalism over the past five years.
In the aftermath of the Boston marathon bombings, Islamophobia has seen a resurgence in the United States. A Northern Virginia cab driver was allegedly assaulted on Friday because he shared the same religion as the suspects in the Boston attack. At least two other Muslims have been the targets of such violence in recent weeks.