Lynne Torgerson denies attacking Keith Ellison's Muslim faith
Minneapolis lawyer Lynne Torgerson, who's running as an independent to unseat 5th District DFL congressman Keith Ellison, stands by her assertion that he's "not an appropriate person to have in Congress." But she says her position has nothing to do with his Islamic faith. Rather, she said Tuesday, it has to do with what she calls his "cozy" relationship with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"It's because of his behavior, not because of his faith," she says. "People are free to worship any way they want."
What's the CAIR connection? A Texas jury convicted five Holy Land Foundation organizers in 2008 of funneling money to the Palestinian group Hamas, which the U.S. government has labeled a terrorist organization. CAIR was listed as an unnamed co-conspirator in that case, a designation it fought with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union because, CAIR said, it unfairly tarnished their members.
A number of conservative activists, lawmakers and journalists, however, say CAIR is a terrorist front. And the FBI has subpoeaned documents obtained by the authors of a new book published by the right wing news site NewsMax that are used to link CAIR to HLF. The documents were obtained by one of the book's co-author's, who posed as a Muslim and worked at CAIR in Washington D.C.
CAIR was about to comply with a federal court orderd to return the pilfered documents when the FBI came calling.
CAIR denies the terrorism accusations and points out that it condemned the 9/11 terrorist attacks terrorist attacks on 9/11 within hours of the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center. It has also issued a statement that says, in part, "Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism." And in Minnesota, as elsewhere, it advocates for the civl rights of Muslim Americans.
Ellison has supported the group and spoken at its gatherings aimed at generating better understandings between Muslims and non-Muslims. He has known the group's leader since the two were at college together, and has received campaign donations from some of its members. For Torgerson and others, these items are strung together in a chain of guilt-by-association that suggests Ellison is in bed with terrorists.
In an interview, she said she wasn't surprised that her comments about Muslims were drawing so much attention, admitting that "these are sensitive issues and they are difficult to talk about."
Click on the image of Toergerson's Web site to enlarge
She also dismissed the idea that she was tarnishing an entire religion with the heinous acts of a few terrorists. She was careful to ;oint out that acts of terrorism weer done by "some Muslims," but she also appeared to lay the blame for all kinds of security issues at the feet of Muslims in general.
"What do I know of Islam? Well, I know of 911. Nineteen (19) men from Saudi Arabia, all Muslim, hi-jacked planes, and flew into the two (2) World Trade Towers murdering thousands of people, and tried to fly into our Pentagon, and some believe they also tried to fly an airplane into our White House. From this, what I perceive is Islam conducting an act of war against my country."
"I'm not aware of Christians doing anything like 9/11," she said on Tuesday. "Look at what's happening? Why can't we carry liquids on airplanes? Is it because of Christians? Who are we protecting ourselves against?"
She also denied there was a valid comparison between fundamentalist Muslims in Europe who have sought to supress controversial cartoons depicting the founder of their faith, Muhammed, and fundamentalist Christians in the United States who have sought laws to ban art deemed blasphemous because of the ways in which it depicts Jesus Christ.
Again, quoting from her campaign Web site, she says:
The Quran actually teaches Muslims to kill people not of their faith, which includes Christians and Jews, which are labeled infidels. ("Slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush.: (Sura 9:5)). This is advocating criminal behavior. Thus, at a minimum, this portion of the religion of Islam cannot be protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is not "religion" recognizable under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
"I do want to protect freedom of religion and speech," she said on Tuesday. "People are free to worship whomever they want. The question is, how do we address behavior? How do we balance that? How do we even talk about that?"