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

Tennessee gubernatorial candidate takes heat for Islam jibe

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/07/27/art.ronramsey.file2.ramsey.jpg caption ="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. IndyMC

    I half agree with what this guy is saying. It was very stupid of him to say that maybe Islam is not a religion b/c of violence, etc. Let me remind him that there are some so-called "Christian" hate groups that do the same. I do agree though that there is not enough opposition from moderate Muslims against the extremists, for whatever reason. I'm guessing that part of it is simply fear b/c of comments like the ones Ramsey made initially. It's difficult for people to hear his message when it's buried by ignorance.

    July 27, 2010 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  2. Josh

    Ignirance at this level is scary. Islam is a nationality? A 5th grader knows better. Bill Haslam will get the nomonation and will evetually win the race for Governor. This extremist stuff has to stop.

    July 27, 2010 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  3. Save America, impeach the treasonous republicans

    2 billion muslims in the world are members of a cult? This guy puts the "I" in idiot.

    July 27, 2010 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  4. katy Heys

    Another ignorant idiot backed by the Tea Party.

    July 27, 2010 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  5. Paul SF

    a fair assessment...others also question islam it a religion or a cult...also they can be called americans of the islamic faith...not muslim americans..

    July 27, 2010 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  6. Oy Vey Az

    You know ... You'd think that Islamic leaders would be more self policing in the face of all the fear and loathing displayed by the folks in Tennessee and throughout the South.

    At least this time all this Southern hate is directed at brown guys named Omar and not black guys named Evander,

    Run that Confederate flag up the pole boys.

    July 27, 2010 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  7. Kevin

    It sounds like the US is becoming a Christian governed state, so much for freedom of religion.

    July 27, 2010 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  8. JFK

    It never ceases to amaze me that the Republicans intentionally draw voters catering to fear and ignorance about religion or any other divisive issue. I will surely vote against Republicans in the coming election. I am disgusted by their so called agenda! They are hypocrites on every key issue they stood for from spending, security, and especially morality!

    July 27, 2010 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  9. G-Nope

    Mr. Ramsey should try this. Instead of saying

    "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,"

    he should say:
    "It's time for REPUBLICANS and TEA PARTY ACTIVISTS who love this country to publicly renounce RACISM and to drum those who seek to do America harm out of their ORGANIZATIONS."

    July 27, 2010 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  10. Sniffit

    Aaaand Fascism comes riding in on a white horse, wearing a mask of reasonableness and handing out fearbombs like candies.

    July 27, 2010 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  11. Jack

    It seems that every time one turns around, a so-called republican only opens his mouth to exchange feet

    July 27, 2010 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  12. DennisK

    It never ceases to amaze me how quickly some are willing to trash the democratic principles they claim to hold so dearly the minute they feel threatened. Freedom of (and from) religion is one of the bedrocks this nation was built upon; are we going to outlaw building mosques? And if so, what's next?

    July 27, 2010 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  13. Jim in Florida

    I guess if mosques weren't hotbeds of anti-American sentiment the world over people would not mind having them next door.

    July 27, 2010 09:54 am at 9:54 am |

    This man is an embarrassment to thinking people everywhere in the state and country. We also have another GOP candidate that wants to secede from the union. Both brilliant , forward thinkers.

    July 27, 2010 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  15. Charles

    There is a reason that our forefathers placed separation of church and state as a tenet of government. Politicians should learn to practice religion in their lives without prosecuting people of other religious faiths from a political pulpit. Ramsey, and some recent members of Tea Party activist groups, appears to be letting their anger manifest itself into hatred of any religious or personal group that disagrees with them. We should not aspire to replace the KKK with an RRR...Racist Republican Right. Republicans should recall that America was founded due to a desire to breakaway from the Church of England's rule.

    July 27, 2010 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  16. Richard Gonzalez

    I am not religious, but I protect and respect the right of freedom of religion. However, I believe Islam to be an oppressive religion that denies the rights and freedom of expression and of women in general. Islam punishes or repudiates anyone who does not follow Islamic doctrine and labels them as infidels. The very constitution of the United States is in direct conflict with Islamic law and Muslims do not believe in the bill of rights or the constitution, but will hold everyone else to their way of thinking and will fight anyone who disagrees with them. It is a form of communism.

    July 27, 2010 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  17. Francisco Cardenas

    GOP candidates would kick their mothers in the behind if they thought the Tea Party nuts wanted them to.

    July 27, 2010 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  18. Tony

    Typical Republican fanatic. It's amazing that anyone who considers themselves to be American can vote for such an intolerable (in every way) group of politicians.

    July 27, 2010 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  19. Kel

    Wow. What a jerk. And really, is he expecting every single American Muslim to go on TV and apologize for the action of extremist terrorists? It's not their fault. Should Christians apologize for every whacked, extremist Christian? Some people are radicals, that doesn't mean you should apply that same criterion for a group as a whole. Most Muslims detest and reject any form of terrorism. And consequently, if you do your research, you'll realize that the principles taught in both Christianity and Islam are very similar. Peace, Love, Charity, etc. In fact, if you read both the Bible and the Koran, they begin almost identically.

    July 27, 2010 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  20. davec.0121

    Hot puppies - at last - a bunch of politicians just as crazy as the ones we have here in Texas.
    On a more serious note: apparently many people (and not just in Tennessee) think that the First Amendment protection of religion extends only to Christians (and frequently, just 'real' Christians). Their intolerance and ignorance is appalling but scarcely amazing. Would they support banning an evangelical church because some evangelicals have murdered doctors? The great thing about the First Amendment is that it protects everybody – not just people the majority approve of.

    July 27, 2010 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  21. Jackalope

    The Republicans continue to paint themselves into a Southern, white, fundamentalist Christian, extreme right-wing corner.

    July 27, 2010 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  22. harvey 60

    they will "drum" those seeking to do America harm out of their religion when you thugs drum the hate-mongers, religious purists, and racists out of your Republican Party. and you never will. another Republican who stokes the fires of hatred and fear. looking more like the party of Hitler and Goebbels every day.

    July 27, 2010 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  23. Kevin from Co

    It's a cult, not a religion. And it's a way of death not life.

    July 27, 2010 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  24. JLD

    We have at least three mosques in the Minneapolis area and we have had no problems. Ramsey and Palin display nothing but bigoted religious intolerance when they speak against the construction of mosques. It is disgusting and hypocritical considering Palin keeps saying how much she admires our founding fathers who were for religious freedom, not discriminating against people based on their religion. But, what else do you expect from the self-professed party of "freedom" that does not want people to have the freedom to practice their religion of choice or the freedom to engage in same-sex marriage or the freedom to make decisions about their own bodies. The GOP is the party of hypocrisy and bigotry.

    July 27, 2010 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  25. YBM

    Of course people who are against him will choose to take what he said out of context and choose to be offended. It is only naturally liberal. Islam is a religeon, they just don't worship God.

    July 27, 2010 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
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