A Republican Tennessee state representative has refused to retract statements he recently made that Muslims should be removed from the US military.
Representative Rick Womick expressed doubt that any devout Muslim could be loyal.
In an interview, which took place on Veterans Day, Womick was asked about the thousands of Muslims that are still in the military that are veterans, that are translators, that are active personnel, Womick replied: "Personally, I don't trust one Muslim in our military because they're commanded to lie to us through the term called Taqiyya. And if they truly are a devout Muslim, and follow the Quran and the Sunnah, then I feel threatened because they're commanded to kill me."
When asked if he believed Mulsim servicepeople should be forced out of the US military, he said: "Absolutely, yeah."
Womick added that Muslims who are less-than-devout should probably be allowed to serve, but he warns that they may just be lying when they say they don't believe every Muslim teaching.
"Are you purposefully lying to me to get by?" he said. "This is going on in our military."
A New York Times story published Nov. 8, 2009, reports that 3,557 military personnel identify themselves as Muslim among 1.4 million people in the active-duty population, according to U.S. figures.
Womick's comments are in direct coflict with the U.S. Constitution.
Article VI, paragraph 3 states: "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
This clause is significant because it was written by the original framers of the Constitution at the very beginning. It predates the Bill of Rights.
Local and national Muslims have called for state officials to rebuke Womick for his remarks.
"It's really sad to see Mr. Womick's comments coming on Veterans Day," said Saleh Sbenaty, a 19-year MTSU professor in the Department of Engineering Technology. "He needs to be reminded that there are thousands of Muslims who serve and are serving (in the U.S. military), and there are many of them who gave up their lives to preserve the freedom of this country and the freedom that he is enjoying."
Sbenaty suggested that Womick is just as extreme as al-Qaeda is.
"Al-Qaeda doesn't believe in freedom of religion," Sbenaty said. "They want to rule the world according to their views. And Mr. Womick wants to rule the United States according to his narrow vision."
"I believe he needs to be impeached immediately," said Sbenaty, who became a U.S. citizen after moving to Tennessee from Damascus, Syria, in 1982. "Or he needs to retract his remarks immediately and apologize to every Muslim in the United States and abroad. The largest bases of the military are now in Muslim countries."
"I hope the people would realize that he's harming the community and Murfreesboro, in particular, and the interests of the United States, in general, and that the people will show their disapproval in the next election."
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on the Tennessee General Assembly to formally rebuke Womick for calling for removal of all Muslims from the military. CAIR also called on state and national Republican Party leaders to repudiate Womick's bigoted "un-American" comments.
Womick said Saturday he has no opinion on what CAIR had so say.
"They are a radical Islamic group," said Womick, who fought as a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot in the first Gulf War to force Iraq's military out of Kuwait in 1990-91. "Whatever they have to say, I choose to ignore."
Womick has continued to defend his view.
He recalled three cases in which Muslim soldiers have attacked their fellow U.S. service members: Sgt. Hasan Akbar, Maj. Nidal Hasan, and Pfc. Naser Abdo.
"Who are we at war with?" Womick also said in defence of his earlier statements. "We are at war with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, who are Muslims. It's a Catch-22. They are not allowed to kill their fellow Muslims, we're at war with Muslims. The only solution I see is that they not be allowed in the military."
Ironically, Womick, whose own views are in defiance of the US Constitution, said he'll make no exceptions that people living in Tennessee must adhere to the U.S. Constitution, Tennessee Constitution and the law.
"We're being asked by some Muslim leaders for them to be exempt from U.S. Constitutional law and fall under Shariah Law," Womick said. "My answer to that is, 'No way.' If that's what you want, then go back to the country you came from and live under Shariah Law."
"We welcome all immigrants no matter what your race religion, beliefs, creed, sexuality, everything," Womick said. "No discrimination, so long as you are willing to come to our country and integrate into American society and obey our U.S. Constitution, our state Constitution and our laws."
Murfreesboro attorney and freedom of religion advocate John Green was also offended by Womick's remarks.
"The irony here is that he made those remarks on Veterans Day," Green said Saturday. "There are presently well over 5,000 Muslims in the armed forces in the United States. Muslims have been serving this country since the Revolutionary War. Arlington (National) Cemetery has graves of Muslims who have died in the service of this country, who have died for Rep. Womick.
"What if he said Catholic or Jewish or Mormon? Would we be tolerant of that? Of course we wouldn't. He claims that Islam is not a religion. That's a theological absurdity," Green said. "Chancellor Robert Corlew (in a local lawsuit to stop the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro from building its new mosque) ruled that Islam is a religion, as if we needed to be told that. The United State Supreme Court has ruled that. It's one of the three largest religions in the world."
Green noted that the U.S. Constitution and Tennessee Constitution both offer strong protections for freedom of religion.
"I frankly think that if Tennessee had a private right of action to impeach an elected official, Rep. Womick would be a defendant in an impeachment action," Green said. "As it is, Tennessee law only allows the House of Representatives to bring articles of impeachment. It's clear they are not going to impeach one of their own, despite the horrible nature of his remarks."
Chas Sisk, "Rick Womick says devout Muslims should be removed from military" The Tennessean November 11, 2011
Robert Tilford, "Republican Rick Womick: U.S. should purge all Muslims from serving in military" Charlotte City Buzz Examiner November 12, 2011
"Muslims call for rebuke of Womick for remarks" DJN November 12, 2011
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today