Christian and Jewish figures in Chicago joined a coalition of Muslim groups Friday in denouncing a comment by U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), who told a town hall gathering Wednesday in Elk Grove Village that some radical Muslims in this country are “trying to kill Americans every week.”
They condemned the first-term congressman from McHenry and demanded an apology.
“A man elected to represent the people of Illinois has profoundly betrayed our trust,” Scott Alexander, an associate professor at the Catholic Theological Union, said at a news conference at the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “I’m flabbergasted that a man of his level of public trust can not see the connection between his rhetoric — steeped as it is in negative stereotypes, false assumptions, gross ignorance and ill will towards the Muslim community — and the thinking and acts of white supremacy hate groups.”
Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of CAIR, said Walsh’s remarks stoke fear of Muslims.
Rabbi Brent Rosen, the spiritual leader of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanson, added: “For a public servant to utter words such as these for political gain is frankly the height of cynicism and irresponsibility . . . . There is no place for this kind of hatred, intolerance, divisive rhetoric or Islamaphobia in our community.”
Responding to their comments, Walsh spokesman Justin Roth said Friday: “The threat we are facing from homegrown jihadist terrorist is real, and Congressman Walsh will not bow down to political correctness and ignore the issue.”
In his comments Wednesday, Walsh raised the specter of another Sept. 11 triggered by Islamic extremists.
“It is a real threat,” said Walsh, a favorite of the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party. “And it is a threat that is much more at home now than it was right after 9/11. It’s here. It’s in Elk Grove. It’s in Addison. It’s in Elgin.”
Walsh said political correctness on the part of the government allowed the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage to happen.
It’s hardly the first time Walsh’s public comments have stoked controversy. Just last month, he was videotaped at another town hall meeting in Elk Grove Village criticizing Demcorat Tammy Duckworth — against whom he is facing a tough fight for re-election — for talking too much about her military service, saying that’s something “true heroes” don’t do. Duckworth lost both legs and partial use of an arm when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq.
After Duckworth campaign spokesman Kaitlin Fahey responded to Walsh’s latest remarks by saying Thursday they “are not only offensive, they are especially inappropriate and irresponsible from a sitting member of Congress,” Walsh didn’t back down but noted in a written statement Thursday: “While most Muslims in America and around the world are as peace-loving as the rest of us, we would be foolish to ignore the fact that there is a radical minority that simply wants to destroy America and the values that we stand for.”