Coffee County Commissioner Barry West is not only an elected official, he's also runner-up for Tennessee's worst Facebook user. Saturday night, he had the brilliant idea to share a hilarious picture of a pug winking at a baby. Sorry, I mean a picture of a white dude pointing a gun at a Muslim. It's so easy to mix those two things up!
The picture in question shows an old white dude in a cowboy hat pointing his gun to the camera. It reads "How to wink at a Muslim." Here's the full picture.
Although the threatening post was promptly removed from West's Facebook page, it doesn't seem like it was out of his own volition since he shows no sign of regret. In an email (please read in an old southern accent for full-effect) "No I did not Twitter this … no I did not create this picture … yes I shared it … so why am I being singled out?"
YEAH GUYS. Why are we singling out Barry West? All he did was single out Muslims as potentially legitimate victims of gun violence. He didn't suggest that we point our guns to all Muslims, just the ones we want to wink to! Geez.
If anyone's a victim in this whole story, it's Barry West. He's clearly a victim of Islamophobia-phobia. Ever heard of it? In the spirit of full disclosure, I thought I just made that term up to mock birdbrained conservatives, but apparently, Fox beat me to the punch. I'm not surprised that my satiric inventions match with Fox News fabricated truths. It looks like Islamophobia-phobia has already been coined as a disorder by a (doctor?) (psychiatrist?) Fox News host, Greg Gutfeld as a "fear of being labeled Islamophobic" and as "a real fear of a perceived fear." So it seems like the only thing that's more awkward than the name of the disorder is its definition.
So according to Barry West's statement, the real victim in this story isn't Sabina Mohyuddin, a Muslim Coffee County resident who told USA Today "That gun was pointed at me and my family," or Drost Kokoye, a 17-year Tennessee resident who said "This may just be a picture to him, but for us it is very threatening."
I'm sure Barry West knows this, but Tennessee is not new to anti-Muslim violence. In 2010 and earlier this year, the Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Nashville was the target of vandalism when "Muslims Go Home" was painted across the building. In 2008, a mosque in Nashville was also burned down as part of an anti-Islamic effort to shut down the religious space.
An endorsement of Islamophobia by an elected official can only make matters worse for a state that is the home of a frightening amount of anti-Muslim violence. "We know that these lead to discrimination and hate crimes in the Muslim community, and we are very wary of that," said Sabina Mohyuddin. "I am a second-generation American. My children are third generation. We don't see ourselves as anything but American," she continued.
Daniel Tutt, an Episcopalian interfaith activist and a research fellow at the nonprofit Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington, told USA Today that the best thing Barry West can do is publicly apologize and privately meet with Muslim families living in Coffee Country. "The initial reaction from Muslims will be, 'This is unfortunate, but we've seen a lot of this.' But it's not acceptable. If the same thing were done to the Jewish or African-American communities, it would not be tolerated."
Since Barry West is still childishly insisting that he shouldn't have to apologize, I wouldn't count on him cozying up with the Muslim families he endangered anytime soon. Since he's so good at social media, maybe he can Facebook chat them? OMG. So sorry I encouraged people to threaten you with their guns JFBM (Just For Being Muslim). HWC (Hope We're Cool)
For Facebook's sake, let's just hope West's P.R. team forces him to stick to topics like pugs and babies instead of guns and Muslims. For America's sake, let's just hope this Barry West doesn't get re-elected after this.
For more on why pugs > guns follow me on Twitter: @feministabulous