It is unsurprising and tragic that, in the wake of attacks by radical groups like ISIS, the attention of some is turning against Islam as a whole. One of the more recent examples of these attacks comes from Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore), a member of the California State Assembly.
The terrorist group ISIS recently burned a Jordanian pilot alive, and the gruesome video was uploaded to the internet for the world to see. They also murdered American hostage Kayla Mueller. Obviously, the civilized world condemned the actions of ISIS. Some, however, took the calls against ISIS too far, and directed the rage broadly at Islam. One of those people is Assemblywoman Melendez, who tweeted:
The racism in this tweet is obvious: Islam didn’t kill Mueller. Terrorists did. And the vast majority of Muslims are appalled by ISIS’ actions and Mueller’s murder.
Naturally, Twitter blew up in response:
Obviously, Muslim groups were offended as well, and called on Assemblywoman Melendez to apologize. Basim Elkarra, Executive Director of the Sacramento Council of American Islamic Relations, said:
“It’s one thing to stand against terrorists, but to stand against Islam, the faith of 1.6 billion people worldwide, is another. Hate…has consequences. It comes at a cost for our community.”
Sarah Moussa, chair of the California Democratic Party’s Arab American caucus, also chimed in, saying that the comments were, “profoundly misguided and deeply offensive,” adding:
“She is a state Assembly member, and a comment like that reaches the entire nation. It’s been a really sad and challenging week, and comments (like) these are very sad and concerning to us.”
In a statement released last Thursday, Melendez refused to apologize and attempted to clarify her remarks:
“It was never my intention to offend peaceful Muslims. However, I’ve had enough of Islamic extremists and terrorists who oppress women and burn people alive in the modern world. This isn’t about hashtags, it’s about America standing up with our allies and putting an end to the barbaric behavior we are witnessing around the world.”
Clearly, Assemblywoman Melendez’s tweet was moronic. It failed to differentiate between “peaceful” and “radical” Muslims. Perhaps more importantly is that it misses the point entirely: the ISIS terrorists are no difference than the KKK or any number of hate-groups who pervert peaceful religions in an effort to spread their particular brand of hatred. Remarks like these, particularly at a time of danger for many Muslims – further inflame an already tense situation.
The lesson, of course, is to chose your words carefully. Public officials have a microphone by the nature of our jobs, and that microphone must be used carefully and judiciously.