Religious leaders of all faiths came together Tuesday night at a Frankfort mosque to condemn anti-Muslim sentiments expressed by Frankfort Township Assessor Paul Ruff in a June e-mail to several members of the community.
"We have an elephant in this room, in this community. We need to identify the elephant and try to understand where he is coming from," said Afzal Ahmad, chairman of the board for the American Islamic Association.
"Ruff has not only crossed us but he has betrayed the Constitution of the United States. I'm offended, and my community is offended. Maybe he needs to re-read the constitution," he said.
Ruff was invited to press conference, but he has declined comment to all since the SouthtownStar last month published an article about his e-mail that suggested that America follow the sentiments of former Australian Prine Minister John Howard, who said Muslims who want to live under Sharia law should get out of the country.
"Maybe if we circulate this among ourselves, American citizens will find the back bone to start speaking and voicing the same truths. If you agree, please send this on," the e-mail urged.
"Never in my 35 years (in this community) have we had such an opinion expressed by an elected official," Ahmad said.
"The First Amendment says everyone has the right to worship God," said Jan Shaulis, of the Orland Park United Methodist Church. "Jesus taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves. I take this very personally. It's very sad that a politician would stoop to such measures."
Several religious leaders said they were saddened and angered by Ruff's "ignorance."
They praised their Islamic brothers and sisters as being "good neighbors," who always respond to people in need and demonstrate peace and charity.
Ruff's sentiments do not represent the community in which they live, they said.
They stood alongside Ahmad as he read their joint statement "in speaking out against religious discrimination, religious bigotry and religious intolerance."
The statement will be "made known" to Ruff "so he sees that he is the lone voice in this community," Ahmad said. He hopes to hand it to the assessor personally.
"We will keep trying to talk to him," said Khalid Mozaffar, the Islamic Association's director of communications and outreach.
If Ruff continues to refuse, "come election time, we will figure out what to do next. We would like the story to end here." (MORE)