Polis anti-muslim speech

John Polis speaks to viewers of his televangelist broadcast.

FAIRMONT — The Council of American-Islamic Relations released a statement to the faith leaders of West Virginia Monday asking them to repudiate the anti-Muslim speech made by Fairmont televangelist preacher John Polis.

In a broadcast hosted by Polis on Nov. 1, he says a majority of mosques in the country are used for training troops for war, and said Islam is a danger to the country, because of teachings in the Quran.

“When push comes to shove, they’ll switch over and they’ll get their head cut off,” Polis said in the broadcast. “Push comes to shove and there is a war, they will be being real Muslims.”

Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, said Polis’ words are not only untrue, but could incite violence against people practicing their religion.

“First of all, it’s false,” Hooper said. “Second, it promotes hatred and bigotry, and can even lead to violence against ordinary American Muslims and their institutions.”

Hooper said that while Polis’ words do not specifically call for anyone to take action, the message people take away is likely negative, which could result in someone taking action.

“When you claim falsely that American mosques are centers for military training against your fellow Americans, what message does that send,” Hooper said. “Hate rhetoric inevitably results in hate crimes.”

Larry Buckland, interim chair of the Fairmont Human Rights Commission and pastor of LIFE United Methodist Church, said the group disavows Polis’ words and standpoint. The rhetoric promoted by Polis, he said, builds a culture of disdain towards a group of people.

“From the Human Rights Commission’s standpoint, we’re disappointed in Mr. Polis’ witness against our Muslim neighbors,” Buckland said. “We do not condone this stoking of the flames of hate against loving and kind people who are our neighbors, friends, first responders, military officials, teachers and government leaders. These claims are harmful, and they inspire fear and anger to people who are in that culture of anti-Islam.”

Hooper said CAIR’s message to the people of West Virginia is to stand up against this kind of rhetoric, because it promotes a stereotype against a religious group.

“We have seen a number of incidents targeting mosques and Muslims across the nation in recent years,” Hooper said. “It’s a free country, everybody even has the right to be a bigot if they want, but everybody else should be speaking out strongly against this hate speech and bigotry.”

Buckland said his belief as a Christian pastor is also against fear mongering. While he admits he is not an expert on the Islamic religion, Buckland said the pillars of the faith are similar to that of Christianity, which he encourages people who are unaware to try to relate to.

“The five pillars of Islam is faith, prayer, charity which means giving to the poor, fasting and a pilgrimage,” Buckland said. “I would align that with almost any faith tradition including my own in Christianity. Faith is important, our prayer life is important, our serving the poor is important, fasting is one of our means of grace to grow closer to God, and many Christians encourage a pilgrimage to the holy land.”

According to Hooper, members of CAIR reach out in instances like this to the people who have received negative messages about Muslims, because they can learn to be respectful of diversity and the people who have been spoken against.

“I would say ‘Reach out to a Muslim colleague, friend, neighbor, and just get to know people on an individual basis,’” Hooper said. “We generally don’t find it productive to go to the perpetrators themselves, but we try and speak to the larger society which is the majority of Americans, who are receptive to calls of mutual respect and diversity.”

Email Eddie Trizzino at etrizzino@timeswv.com and follow him on Twitter at @eddietimeswv.

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News Reporter

Eddie Trizzino has been a reporter with the Times West Virginian since August of 2017, covering the entertainment, business and health beats. He spends most of his time listening to records, going to the movies and strolling through the town.

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