July 27th, 2010
08:40 AM ET
4 years ago

Tennessee gubernatorial candidate takes heat for Islam jibe

A Republican running in Tennessee's gubernatorial election is taking heat after some controversial comments he made about Islam surfaced online.
A Republican running in Tennessee's gubernatorial election is taking heat after some controversial comments he made about Islam surfaced online.

(CNN) – A Republican running in Tennessee's gubernatorial election is taking heat after comments he made earlier this month questioning whether Islam is a religion surfaced online.

In a YouTube video posted July 15 and reported by the liberal website Talking Points Memo Monday, Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is seen at a campaign event expressing his opposition to an expansion of a mosque in Murfressboro, Tennessee.

The proposed expansion has become a hot-button issue in the city about 35 miles southeast of Nashville, with supporters alleging that opponents are displaying religious intolerance, while people fighting the mosque say zoning concerns and worries about Islamic radicalism are their chief concerns.

Ramsey, who has been endorsed by 20 Tea Party organizations, said he is a supporter of religious freedoms but such protections may not extend to facilitating "shariah [Islamic] law into the state of Tennessee. . .into the United States."

"Now, you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, a cult, whatever you want to call it," he continued. "But certainly we do protect our religions, but at the same time, this is something we are going to have to face."

Ramsey's comments came the same day several hundred opponents of the mosque faced off against roughly the same number of counter-protesters in a march from the city's middle school to its courthouse.

Now the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is urging Ramsey to meet with Muslim leaders in Tennessee so he can be provided with a "balanced and accurate information about Islam."

"We see a disturbing trend in our nation in which it is suggested that American Muslims should have fewer or more restricted constitutional rights than citizens of other faiths," said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper.

Meanwhile, Ramsey defended his comments Monday, saying, "My concern is that far too much of Islam has come to resemble a violent political philosophy more than peace-loving religion.

"It's time for American Muslims who love this country to publicly renounce violent jihadism and to drum those who seek to do America harm out of their faith community," Ramsey also said in a statement to Talking Points Memo.

Ramsey is facing Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp for the GOP nomination. Wamp has also been the subject of recent controversy, appearing to suggest last week that Tennessee should consider secession in light of mandates forced on the states by the Obama administration's health care bill. Wamp later walked back those comments.

A Mason-Dixon poll released Sunday indicates Haslam leading Wamp and Ramsey by double digits ahead of the August 5 primary.


Filed under: 2010 • Popular Posts • Ron Ramsey • Tennessee
soundoff (139 Responses)
  1. Angus McDugan

    Let's outlaw questions.

    July 27, 2010 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  2. Amar

    Beautiful. Use freedom of religion to express state support of your own religion, but oust everyone else's.

    July 27, 2010 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  3. Common Sense

    "...But certainly we do protect our religions..."

    Wrong. This country seems to only protect a couple of religions. Any belief systems outside of that are roundly criticized (initially in private, but in the open more and more, thanks to the Tea Party and other Conservative groups), lambasted as "fake" or "evil," and generally ostracized from the main population. It's sad. Since when was Freedom of Religion supposed to mean "Freedom of a couple of religions?!?"

    July 27, 2010 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  4. Save America, impeach the treasonous republicans

    What is wrong with Tennessee republicans? Wamp is a secessionist and Ramsey forgot to read the constitution. It makes me wonder if FDR was correct in using government money to bring electricity to Tennessee.

    July 27, 2010 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  5. rdepontb

    When our ancestors came over here (initially for gold and riches, later as a penal colony location and as a religious escape), we did not abide very well at all by the wishes and ways of those already living here, the Native Americans. In fact, watching "How The West Was Won" on television yesterday, I was reminded of just how little notice we gave of any grounds for opposition they had to our arrival and to our ways, religious included.

    At least temporarily (a few short hundred years), we control the land. Maybe what goes 'round comes 'round. Maybe we too will be "chaste" (ok, chased) off our holy lands by others even holier than thou.

    July 27, 2010 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  6. Steve, New York City

    Another stupid right-wing comment – this guy seems like he's trying to say that all Muslims are terrorists. Why don't we stereotype our way all the way back to the barn, Ramsey?

    Is he also one of those geniuses that is encouraging that "imbecile's, witch hunt" for Obama's birth certificate, or maybe he's another one of those clowns, south of the Mason-Dixon line that wants to secede from the Union? Wow – good riddance – go ahead and secede, and take (most) of the Tea Party with you. Right-wing, Left-wing, radical Muslim, fundamentalist Christian, whatever – when are these folks going to realize that mainstream America DOES NOT like extremists?

    July 27, 2010 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  7. tmart

    Just ANOTHER example of right-wing Republican extremism. When every mosque or new mosque in the country becomes a hotbed of criticism by right wingers, it should prove to all that the Democratic Party is FAAARRRRRR more Constitutional in it's behavior and beliefs and outlook than the Republican Party. The Republican Party is ultimately doomed.

    July 27, 2010 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  8. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Stupid bigot.

    You can cure ignorance, but stupid is forever.

    I am actually embarrassed for this idiot. What is happening to our country? How can someone like this man feel totally comfortable making such idiotic utterances about someone's religion?

    This is truly, truly shameful.

    July 27, 2010 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  9. Sharron

    I have never seen so many canidates so filled with HATE and Racisum.........ANGER will not solve the problems that this country is facing......we need level headed canidates and this man isn't one of them......

    July 27, 2010 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  10. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    "Now, you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, a cult, whatever you want to call it,"

    This just goes to show you how vile and repulsive republicans are. Islam has been around longer than Christianity. Mr. Ramsay needs to read a book and shut up!!!

    July 27, 2010 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  11. Chuck Anaheim, Ca

    This guy is part of the problem with our country. Freedom of religion...except that one .His quote "My concern is that far too much of Islam has come to resemble a violent political philosophy more than peace-loving religion." is just wrong. Of course you could insert "Christian" for Muslim and have more valid context to his statement.

    July 27, 2010 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  12. Kevin in Ohio

    Islam, as it now exists, is NOT a religion. Until we hear the condemnation of Islamic Fascism by the leaders of this once great religion, and until these fascists are stopped, Islam has lost all meaning and credibility as a religion. As it now exists, it is PURE EVIL...and MUST be addressed.

    July 27, 2010 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  13. Ferret out the BS

    Another set of brain trusts vying to become leaders of our communities. Where do they find them?

    July 27, 2010 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  14. Ellid

    And the Tea Partiers keep claiming they're not bigots....

    July 27, 2010 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  15. Steve in North Carolina

    Awesome. I wish I could vote for him!

    July 27, 2010 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  16. NAM VET

    good point! I believe he stated the issue honestly and was correct and fair in his statement. Shira law is totally unexceptable in this country.
    No civilized people would accept it. We do not live in the dark ages.

    July 27, 2010 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  17. johnnyhouse

    Rerun the killing of Danial Pearl on tv and then ask the question of the populace while the film is still fresh in their minds.

    July 27, 2010 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  18. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    When will these out of touch idiots ever learn?

    July 27, 2010 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  19. Roger

    That is right, let's seperate church and state. As long as it is not my church. That is different.

    July 27, 2010 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  20. Can't we all just get along?

    Islam is a religion.
    Christianity is a religion.
    Judaism is a religion.
    Pastafarianism is a religion.
    Worshipping polar bears is a religion.
    Even a cult is a religion.

    A religion is when a group of people get together and say "this" is the way we're going to worship whatever it is we worship.

    Now, as far as the fundamentalist radicals are concerned - that goes for the Islamic Jihadists AND the Christian Evangelicals and who knows how many others out there who go way too far, they're still part of a religion, but it's more of a religion inside a religion. It's not the mainstream.

    July 27, 2010 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  21. Alverant

    You know Ramsey a person can make a similar claim about your religion. For example the case can be made that christianity is NOT a religion but a marketing campaign. How would you feel if someone opposed opening a church on those grounds?

    July 27, 2010 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  22. James Andrews

    I understand how the comment of saying it's not a religion, but a nationality might be offensive on the surface; however, I would say such of my own faith. If we truly look at what our faith means to us, political boundaries are merely lines drawn up to help us govern ourselves. There should be little regard held for our national identity. What we should hold in high regard is our individual identity (who and what we are as a person), and our identity as part of the body of Christ (that we are a child and follower of God). The term "American" should come third after that, if then. So, first and foremost I am a member of the "nation" of Christians. Secondly I am who I am as a person ... my qualities, my character, my values. Thirdly I am ... is there really anything substantially important to identify with after that?

    July 27, 2010 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  23. Hendrik

    This rise in intolerance is scary and we MUST be aware of this. It is this talk that gets out of hand and causes us to persecute people. We have a long and sad history of this. We tend to be driven by emotion and not by rational thought. When we jump on the bandwagon of going after Islam we will be no better than Hitler was in going after the Jews. We may cry and say this will never happen but it has happened. We have killed and locked up millions and MUST remember our history or it is sure to repeat itself.

    July 27, 2010 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  24. Kermit Roosevelt

    "My concern is that far too much of Islam has come to resemble a violent political philosophy more than peace-loving religion.

    "It's time for American Muslims who love this country to publicly renounce violent jihadism and to drum those who seek to do America harm out of their faith community," Ramsey also said in a statement to Talking Points Memo.

    I gotta say, Tea Party and fear-mongering aside, I'd like to see how the above statement can be argued against. Islam is, more and more every day, coming to look like a political philosophy taking advantage of freedom of religion to pursue a geopolitical agenda.

    And I think that everything above can be looked at as a fair, unemotional observation. If indeed American Muslims came out and did something about it, as American Catholics did when the rest of the nation feared that JFK would be doing the Pope's work when elected, I don't think there would be as much anti-Muslim sentiment.

    CAIR is not the organization to make that happen.

    July 27, 2010 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  25. Knneth, The ATL

    As long as we keep the republican party talking, the more rediculous they sound. And just think, these people want to run (or should I say ruin) the country again.

    July 27, 2010 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
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