Middle TN commissioner apologizes for Facebook post about Muslims

3:24 PM, May 2, 2013   |    comments
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By Nicole Young / The Tennessean

A Coffee County commissioner under fire for a Facebook post suggesting the best way to wink at a Muslim is from behind a shotgun barrel issued a public apology Wednesday.

Commissioner Barry West can be heard apologizing in an 11-second audio clip on the Facebook page of the American Center for Outreach, a Tennessee-based, nonpartisan organization created to inform, educate and empower Muslims.

"I want to issue a heartfelt sincere apology to anyone that I have offended or hurt in my sharing of a Facebook post," West says on the audio clip. The post, which went up Saturday and read "How to wink at a Muslim," was tweeted by Muslim groups and went viral.

"The media in general has crucified me on this. It's been three miserable days for me," West said when contacted at his home. "I've been called everything ... and threatened."

He said he posted the apology on his Facebook page, but that it was private, explaining that he didn't know much about how to use Facebook.

"I'm just a fun-loving person and I don't wish anyone any harm in the world."

On Wednesday, Aisha Lbhalla, chairwoman of the woman's committee at the Islamic Center of Tennessee, and Remziya Suleyman, director of policy & administration for the American Center for Outreach, spoke to West.

Lbhalla said she thought West was nice, but she also wanted him to know that his post was detrimental.

In a statement on the American Center's Facebook page, Suleyman wrote, "Though we accept Mr. West's apology, such rhetoric has no place in Tennessee and should never be repeated.''

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