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Candidate under fire for calling Islam 'antithesis of Constitution'

A long-shot Republican gubernatorial candidate is getting national attention for writing that he does not consider Islam a faith and that it is "the antithesis of the Constitution."

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Phillip Parrish
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A long-shot Republican gubernatorial candidate is getting national attention for writing that he does not consider Islam a faith and that it is "the antithesis of the Constitution."

Phillip Parrish, of Kenyon, wrote the comments in an email to Community Interfaith Dialogue on Islam founder Regina Mustafa. Mustafa, of Rochester, sent Parrish an email inviting him to sit down with her after learning he had recently attended a meeting featuring Usama Dakdok, an outspoken critic of Islam.

"I do not object to you attending his presentation, but wanted to know if you would like to speak to a Muslim about Islam. Since you have attended this talk about my faith, I figured you would also like to hear from a person who actually practices Islam," wrote Mustafa, a former DFL candidate for the 1st Congressional District seat.

Parrish responded by saying he would be willing to meet but that "I separate Islam from the word faith because faith takes belief and Islam requires only submission." He added that he would ask her to publicly denounce Sharia law and declare that "Islam, Sharia and the Quran are the antithesis of the U.S. Constitution."

Mustafa posted the email exchanges on her Facebook page. Since then, Parrish's response has drawn sharp criticism from civil rights organizations. The Southern Poverty Law Center wrote about Parrish's comments on its "Hatewatch" blog . Muslim Advocates, a nonprofit based in Oakland, Calif., blasted Parrish's remarks.

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"Anti-Muslim bigotry like this emboldens those who would discriminate or commit acts of violence against Muslims. We've seen hate crimes, violence, and bigotry skyrocket as politicians have increased their attacks on Islam and Muslims," said Muslim Advocates Policy Director Scott Simpson.

Mustafa has called on Parrish to drop out of the Republican gubernatorial race. In a press release, Parrish pushed back, saying he has no intention of leaving the race. In an interview, Parrish accused Mustafa of making a "disingenuous request" to meet with him in order to advance her own propaganda.

What is his response to being called anti-Muslim?

"I see myself as a person attempting to expose those who are attempting to set up rules and laws and regulations contrary to the U.S. Constitution," Parrish said.

As a U.S. Naval intelligence officer, he said he has extensive knowledge of Islam.

"It's causing harm to people. Thousands of analysts like myself, thousands of law enforcement specialists have been trying to tell leadership this same message for over 20 years. And no one seems to want to listen or they live in some kind of utopic world of no, people really don't think like that. They don't really mean to cut somebody's hand off because they stole something. They don't really mean to put someone to death because they defiled themselves with an unclean woman. They don't really mean to rape little boys on Thursday night because the imam gave them permission to do that," Parrish said.

Mustafa rejected the idea that her invitation was in any way insincere. She said she is deeply disturbed by Parrish's comments, saying they demonstrate a lack of understanding about Islam. She said Muslims in America have demonstrated a respect for both the U.S. Constitution and their religion and his comments are unfair to the Muslim men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces.

"If you don't think (Islam) is a faith, then my religious freedoms to you are negotiable and are at risk and I find that very alarming, and if he is saying that to his supporters, it's the epitome of fear mongering and hate," Mustafa said.

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Parrish is one of 10 Republicans running for governor in 2018. He received nearly 4 percent of the vote in a recent statewide straw poll of Republican activists.

Rochester DFL Rep. Tina Liebling, a candidate for governor, called on Republican candidates to "denounce Mr. Parrish's ignorant, islamophobic statement and pledge to encourage peace and understanding among Minnesotans regardless of race, religion, or national origin."

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Regina Mustafa

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