tampabay.com

A letter resounding

Mary Ann Hogan's remarks on Muslims, accepted by some, denied by others, reach as far as the U.S. Capitol.

By ASJYLYN LODER
Published November 15, 2006


BROOKSVILLE - Take it from Ginny Brown-Waite: Eric Rudolph, the notorious "Olympic Park bomber?" Not a Muslim.

Deadly, sure. Ideologically driven? Check. A terrorist even? Affirmative.

To Brown-Waite, that makes him one in a million - well, two in a million, when you add in Timothy McVeigh, as the recently re-elected congresswoman awkwardly explained in a Fox 13 News interview last week.

Otherwise, as Brown-Waite told the St. Petersburg Times, "it's historically accurate that every terrorist has been a Muslim."

If there's a key difference between soon-to-be-ex Sen. George Allen's "macaca" comment and Brown-Waite's defense of Mary Ann Hogan calling Islam a "hateful, frightening religion," it appears to be this: Brown-Waite waited until after the election to speak out.

Hernando County's peculiar version of Macacagate began nearly two weeks ago with Hogan's letter complaining that county resources were used for a Muslim celebration.

Her husband, Hernando County Commissioner Tom Hogan Sr., rallied to her side, as did - eventually - Brown-Waite. Others condemned her remarks, including the head of the Republican Party of Florida, Gov.-elect Charlie Crist, and Gov. Jeb Bush, who appointed Tom Hogan Sr. to a vacant County Commission seat in August.

Today is Commissioner Hogan's last commission meeting. By chance, the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations will be there to announce and receive recognition for its annual campaign to distribute Thanksgiving food baskets to the needy.

Call it free speech or hate speech, but there's been plenty of it and will probably be more. Some of it's true, some of it isn't. Here's our effort to sort through the rhetoric:

 

WHAT WAS SAID:

"I am appalled to learn that employees of Hernando County are being 'rented out' to the Muslim community to help with their Ramadan celebration."

Mary Ann Hogan, Oct. 24 letter

WHAT HAPPENED:

Hernando County loaned several children's games to the local mosque for its celebration of Eid El-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, according to Pat Fagan, county director of parks and recreation. Any member of the public can borrow the games for a $50 deposit. Dr. Adel Eldin made a $200 donation, and a county employee dropped off and picked up the games from the mosque, Fagan said. The donation more than covered the cost of the employee's time. County Administrator Gary Kuhl said the county did nothing wrong.

 

WHAT WAS SAID:

"Don't the administrators of this county know that in honor of Ramadan the Muslims in Iraq have killed an even greater number of our Soldiers and Marines than in preceding months?"

Mary Ann Hogan, Oct. 24 letter

WHAT HAPPENED:

In Baghdad, there was a 22 percent increase in attacks in the first three weeks of Ramadan, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell told reporters during an Oct. 19 Defense Department news briefing. "Traditionally, this is a time of great celebration. It has instead been a period of increased violence, not just this year but during the past two years as well. The violence is, indeed, disheartening," he said.

 

WHAT WAS SAID:

"There's a saying out there, and there's some truth to it, that not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims. It's their thing."

Hernando County Commissioner Tom Hogan Sr., founder of the county's Republican Party and GOP state committeeman for four decades, Oct. 31.

 

WHAT WAS SAID:

"It is an accurate truism that by far and wide not every Muslim is a terrorist, but it's historically accurate that every terrorist has been a Muslim with the one exception of the bombing of the Murrah building by Timothy McVeigh."

U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, Nov. 9

 

WHAT HAPPENED:

For starters, there's Rudolph, who bombed Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, two abortion clinics and a gay nightclub. The FBI counts hundreds of acts of terrorism on U.S. soil, including bombings, arson and shootings by animal rights activists, abortion opponents and white supremacists. To name just a few terrorist groups that carried out attacks in the past 30 years: Aryan Nations, Jewish Defense League, Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front, Up the IRS Inc., Sheriff's Posse Comitatus and Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide. Targets have included abortion clinics, black churches, synagogues, gay bars, laboratories and government buildings.

 

WHAT WAS SAID:

"Most of my constituents have expressed to me their concern that Muslims living in our community have not disavowed these violent beliefs nor condemned the terrorist acts committed against our country."

U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, in a Nov. 9 letter to Ahmed Bedier, executive director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

 

WHAT HAPPENED:

Brown-Waite's district includes nearly 640,000 people, according to the U.S. Census. She admitted to Fox 13 News that she hadn't talked to more than half of them, and angrily revised her statement to "Most of my constituents that I've talked to."

 

WHAT WAS SAID:

"Your organization has had more than five years since the September 11 attack, and even longer since the attacks on American Embassies in Yemen, Kenya, Tanzania, or even the first attack on the World Trade Center to publicly disavow and condemn these acts."

U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, Nov. 9 letter to Ahmed Bedier

WHAT HAPPENED:

Within days of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, prominent Muslim leaders throughout the U.S. condemned the violence as a perversion of Islam. Those efforts have continued. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group, launched a petition drive in 2004 titled "Not in the Name of Islam," encouraging Muslims to denounce extremist violence. CAIR's Tampa Chapter spent $10,000 on television commercials as part of the "Not in the Name of Islam" campaign.

Times researcher Angie Holan contributed to this report. Asjylyn Loder can be reached at aloder@sptimes.com or 352 754-6127.