A Republican candidate for Hillsborough Clerk of Circuit Court on Monday fired off a letter saying Islam is “not a religion” but a theocracy that is “totalitarian and littered with human rights violations.”
Scott D. Barrish, a 35-year-old private security officer who previously ran unsuccessfully for the Hillsborough School Board, sent the letter to the Council of American-Islamic Relations. He signed it as a member of the Hillsborough County Republican Party’s executive committee. “Your efforts in espousing Islam in America and Florida will not succeed,” Barrish wrote. “This is us vs. you. In the great words of the late President Ronald Reagan, ‘I win, you lose!'”
Barrish said in an interview that he sent the e-mail letter because the group had engaged in what he called publicity stunts. CAIR, for instance, thanked Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio for declining to speak at the upcoming Florida tea party convention because it featured a presentation by an “anti-Islam extremist.”
“I don’t sugarcoat things and I don’t use (political correctness),” Barrish said. “I’m like a (New Jersey Gov.) Chris Christie. I say it like it is.” Barrish, who said he had spent the past two years studying Islam, said he signed the letter as a member of the Hillsborough GOP to show his credentials, not to speak for the party.
But the Florida chapter of CAIR used Barrish’s letter in a press statement Monday. “It is imperative that Republican Party leaders at the state and national levels repudiate these bigoted comments and take concrete steps to challenge the growing perception that the GOP is not a big tent party that welcomes Muslims,” said Tampa executive director Hassan Shibly.