On the road to clinching the Republican party nomination for president, John McCain worked hard for the endorsement of influential Evangelical Christian ministers.
The ministers are helping shore up McCain’s support on the party’s right wing, which has always been sceptical about whether the Arizona senator is a true-blue conservative.
But one of those minister’s beliefs about Islam and Muslims raise disturbing questions.
Rod Parsley, the pastor of a large and profitable Ohio mega-church, calls Islam a false religion. He says Allah is a demon spirit and that Muslims are bent on world conquest.
Parsley endorsed McCain in February, praising him as a “strong, true, consistent conservative”.
Sharing a Cincinnati, Ohio, stage with Parsley, McCain said: “I am very honoured today to have one of the truly great leaders in America, a moral compass, a spiritual guide, Pastor Rod Parsley. Thank you for your leadership and your guidance. I am very grateful you are here.”
He certainly had reason for gratitude – a week later, Parsley’s support helped McCain win the important Ohio primary. . .
Abukar Arman, a Muslim community leader, says Parsley’s remarks are threatening.
“It has a psychological toll on Muslims in central Ohio and beyond, that you are not part of the society, that America was founded, in his words, to obliterate Islam,” says Arman, president of the Central Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
McCain and other politicians should “distance themselves from the politics of hate and polarisation”, Arman said, noting that rhetoric that marginalises American Muslims only contributes to poor relations between communities.
“In the grand scale of things,” he says, “it hurts even the national security of this country because it fuels anti-Americanism.”