Over the weekend, Coffee County, Tennessee Commissioner Barry West posted a photo on his public Facebook profile that has many in the area and across the country up in arms (no pun intended).
The image, which is being called a "hate filled post targeted at Muslims," features an older man in a cowboy hat aiming down the sights of a long-barreled shotgun. "HOW TO WINK AT A MUSLIM," says the caption. Here's a screencap of the post, courtesy of The Daily Dot. West has since deleted the post:
West says that he didn't actually create the image, but he did share it. He also said that it was meant to be humorous.
"Why am I being singled out?" he asked.
“I’m prejudiced against anyone who’s trying to tear down this country, Muslims, Mexicans, anybody,” he told The Tullahoma News. “If you come into this country illegally or harm us or take away benefits, I’m against it"
“I just showed it to somebody else,” he continued. “If you’re going to harm this country, I’m not in favor of you...I don’t appreciate people trying to tear down this country."
Concerned with a recent string of anti-Muslim acts in Middle Tennessee, The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro had this to say:
"This does not only incite hatred but also violence against law-abiding citizens of our great country. Mr. West obviously lacks in wisdom and judgment and, therefore, cannot be trusted as commissioner. I wonder what would Mr. West's response would be if the same photo was posted by someone with a caption that says: 'How to Wink at Mr. West, a Coffee County Commissioner?'"
West is also drawing criticism from groups on Facebook, like the Christian Left.
"Coffee County, TN Commissioner Barry West (D) posted this on his facebook page on Saturday. This is a hate filled post targeted at Muslims and is not acceptable from anyone, let alone someone holding a public office!
Tell Commissioner Barry West this is NOT acceptable and that he needs to apologize to the Muslim community immediately," they say in a post.
Coffee County Mayor David Pennington has released a statement distancing himself from West:
"As the Mayor of Coffee County I apologize to the Muslim people. I have no control over what the commissioners do outside of public meetings. I personally wouldn't have done it, I have a great relationship with the Muslim community."