Allen West, AP photo
Photographer: AP Graphics Bank
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POMPANO BEACH, Fla. - In his seventh week as a member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, dismissed suggestions he run for president in 2012 at a town hall meeting Monday night that drew about 250 people.
West, who has often had harsh words for Islam, also got into a heated exchange with Council on American-Islamic Relations South Florida Executive Director Nezar Hamze. Hamze held a copy of the Koran and asked West to “show me one verse in this Koran where it says to attack America, attack Americans, or attack innocent people.”
Hamze also attended West’s Jan. 31 town hall in Boynton Beach, where he said West had “consistently demonized and insulted my religion.”
West held a town hall meeting for Palm Beach County constituents Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in Jupiter at 5353 Parkside Drive on Florida Atlantic University’s north campus.
At Monday's meeting, West updated the crowd on goings-on in Washington, then spent more than hour fielding questions.
Diane Sori of Cooper City urged West to run for president in 2012 and said she’s involved in an Internet campaign to get him to do so.
Said West: “We can’t have leadership by a cult of personality. I have to prove myself. I have to prove myself as an American statesman, a capable legislator. Everyone knows how I feel about this country. But there are some things that I have to learn about the inner workings and machinations of Washington, D.C. so that I can be an effective leader.”
When Hamze issued his Koran challenge, West replied, “You do have the Verse of the Sword that is in there and there is talk about killing infidels.”
West appears to have been referring to verse 9:5 of the Koran, frequently cited by critics of Islam, which says: “Fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them: seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war).”
Defenders of Islam say the verse, in context, is one of self-defense and not a license to kill infidels.
West began listing violent episodes in Islamic history and said that Maj. Nidal Hassan, the Muslim charged with killing 13 in Fort Hood, Tex., in 2009, shouted “Allahu Akbar” before the shootings and that the 9/11 terrorists shouted the same phrase, which means “God is great,” before crashing planes into the World Trade Center.
“I’ve been on the battlefield, my friend. OK? Don’t try to blow sunshine up my butt,” said West, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who fought in Iraq and was a private military adviser in Afghanistan.
Hamze continued: “I am ashamed to be here with all of these people, when you attack Islam, you attack –”
West cut him off.
“You attacked us. You attacked us,” West responded. “I went to Muslim countries to try to defend the freedom of Muslim people. Don’t come up here to try to criticize me. Put the microphone down and go home.”
The conservative Shark Tank blog has posted video of the West-Hamze exchange.
This article was originally posted by The Palm Beach Post
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