A Muslim candidate contesting for the post of commissioner in Coffee County, Tennessee claimed that his Republican opponent had spread rumours about his religion and patriotism. Zak Mohyuddin, who is an engineer as well as a 25-year-long resident of Tullahoma, said Mark Kelly’s comments were not only offensive but also untrue. Mohyuddin, who is contesting the post as a Democrat condemned the contents of a letter written by Kelly, who is the current commissioner.
In his letter, Kelly claimed Mohyuddin had expressed publicly that the American flag should be withdrawn from public spaces, as it is a symbol of oppression and tyranny, public prayer should be prohibited as it insults non-Christians and the Bible should be removed from public spaces as it obstructs secularism in America.
Mohyuddin denied Kelly’s claims, saying the commissioner has made up “pure lies” only to win votes.
“That is a very serious allegation. What he is saying is vile and offensive and completely untrue. It's an attack on my patriotism. I have never ever said any words even close to that in public or in private. It is absolute lies. It's not like he doesn't know me,” said Mohyuddin.
Media reports also suggest that Kelly has failed to provide specific instances of when Mohyuddin spoke about his patriotism or of religious freedom in public spaces.
However, Kelly has stood by his letter, which he sent to the conservative voters of District 15 on July 16. He clarified to local media that the letter was not meant to be offensive in any way as it was about votes and not religion. Kelly said that he was only trying to encourage conservative voters to go out and vote.
“All I’m trying to do is make sure there is an understanding that we have two people with two different sets of views and I don’t know where the voters stand on it… It was simply to show the difference in views between two people, not that one is right or wrong, just a difference,” he said.
Mohyuddin said that those who see eye to eye with Kelly have obviously made up their minds about who they will vote for but his role in the race is more important than emerging winner.
“I’m not running [for office] because of my faith, and that distinction is important. I’m running because of the things I want to do for the community, and I believe any reasonable person will be able to see that, if they really look… Kelly’s letter is a cut-and-dry example of how some people stir up fears of religious differences for personal gain,” he said.