Barry West, a commissioner for Coffee County, Tennessee, apparently thinks there's only one appropriate way to wink at a Muslim, and it involves a double-barreled shotgun. He posted the above image to his Facebook timeline...where Muslim activists found it. And West's home phone number.
Tensions have run high between Muslims and Islamophobes for some time in Middle Tennessee, ever since the construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro was met with gunshots, bomb threats and arson attempts. West made clear what he thought of Qu'ran believers when a local paper contacted him to ask about the Facebook image:
West, who represents Manchester’s District 11, said Tuesday he found the image and statement on Facebook and posted it because “I thought it was humorous.”
West was asked by The News if he is prejudiced toward Muslims.
“I’m prejudiced against anyone who’s trying to tear down this country, Muslims, Mexicans, anybody,” he said. “If you come into this country illegally or harm us or take away benefits, I’m against it.”
(West took down the post after that interview.)
In another media interview, West argued that he was a victim: "[N]o I did not create this picture … yes I shared it … so why am I being singled out?"
Activists, led by the pro-Muslim American Center for Outreach, waged a swift social media campaign to spread news of West's post and comments. West's voice mail was subsequently flooded with messages—as was the voice mail of Coffee County Mayor David Pennington, who released a terse statement distancing himself from West.
"As the Mayor of Coffee County I apologize to the Muslim people. I have no control over what the commissioners do outside of public meetings," Pennington wrote. "I personally wouldn't have done it, I have a great relationship with the Muslim community."