During a recent episode of The Shalom Show, host Richard Peritz asked freshman Rep. Allen West (R-FL) how he planned to cope with regular interactions with political opponents, in particular Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who the host described as someone that “supports Islam.” In his reply, West painted Ellison as someone who “really does represent the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established”:
PERITZ: Since you’re with a new crowd, people you haven’t really met before, and will be very closely associating with in the future, including Keith Ellison, who supports Islam, how will you manage that, if I may ask, because it’s not really easy to be polite with individuals one totally disagrees with, which I believe may be the case.
WEST: Well I think it’s most important that I stand upon the principles that people elected me to go to Washington, DC and represent them on Capitol Hill. So that when you run into someone that is counter, or someone that really does represent the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established, you’ve got to be able to defeat them intellectually in debate and discourse, and you to just have to be able to challenge each and every one of their assertions very wisely and very forthright.
West has a long history of offensive rhetoric aimed at Islam. He has said that displays of the “coexist” bumper sticker, which has the symbols of many major religions, including Islam, “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.” West has also said that Islam is “a totalitarian theocratic political ideology, it is not a religion,” and he believes terrorism is fundamental to Islam: “this is not a perversion. They are doing exactly what this book [the Quran] says.” West even criticizes Republicans who do not declare full opposition to Islam. “George Bush got snookered into going into some mosque, taking his shoes off, and then saying that Islam was a religion of peace,” he said during his congressional campaign.
Casting political opponents as existential threats to America, as he does here to Ellison, is also nothing new for the Tea Party favorite. As he was preparing to take office, West declared that he was “even more focused that this liberal, progressive, socialist agenda, this left-wing, vile, vicious, despicable machine that’s out there is soundly brought to its knees.” He’s also said that progressives “detest anyone who has the courage of conviction and love of America, something which they find unconscionable,” and that “[l]iberals seek to destroy any institution of intrinsic value: God, country, family, honor, valor, courage, virtue.”
During his campaign, West also echoed far-right cries that Ellison be removed from the Congressional Task Force on Anti-Semitism, because in West’s words, Ellison has “past ties… to terrorist activities,” and is a “wolf in the hen house.” Watch it: (h/t TP commenter Josh L.)
,Rep. Ellison has responded in a statement, calling for a “more respectful and productive public dialogue.”