A US Republican politician, Ron Ramsey, who is supported by the controversial Tea Party, has come under fire for likening Islam to a “cult” and casting doubt about whether it is even a religion.
Tennessee’s current lieutenant governor said he had reservations about whether the American Constitution, which guarantees “freedom of religion”, applied to followers of the world’s second largest faith.
Critics denounced the 54 year-old’s comments, made at a party meeting earlier this month, as a part of “disturbing” trend in American politics.
But political experts said the real estate agent, who hopes to win the Republican nomination for governor in next month’s primary with support from Tea Party activists, was using it to garner support after lagging third in the polls.
During a question-and-answer session at the Hamilton County meeting, Mr Ramsey, from Blountville, was asked about the “threat that’s invading our country from the Muslims”, according to local reports.
The question came amid local concern over a proposed local Islamic Centre and mosque to be built outside the town of Murfreesboro, to the south-east of the capital Nashville.
Despite proclaiming his support for the Constitution and the whole “Congress shall make no law” to religion, he said that Islam was more of a “cult” than a faith.
“Now, you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult whatever you want to call it,” he said in comments that were caught on video and later uploaded to YouTube.