Letter to the editor: One commissioner’s mistake, many positive lessons for all

Sunday, May 5, 2013 at 10:05pm
By Dr. Zaid Brifkani

A few days ago, Coffee County’s commissioner Barry West made an insensitive and irresponsible gesture towards Muslims through his Facebook account. A picture was posted on his page, showing a man aiming a gun and winking. The commissioner used the “winking” to hint at killing Muslims. Whether a poor attempt at humor or simply a hateful message, the post drew a huge wave of backlash on a local as well as national level. Within a few hours, the photo was circulated through thousands of social media outlets followed by dozens of stories in local and national news outlets. Phone calls and emails poured in from all directions, expressing disgust at the hateful message that the commissioner’s post carried, and demanded an immediate apology to the Muslims.

Eventually, the commissioner issued a formal apology and has reportedly agreed to meet with the local Muslim leaders and citizens to ‘bridge’ the gap that has been produced by his poor choice of actions to start with. Now, while I felt disgusted as well with the commissioner's post, I must also commend him for having the courage to come out and admit to his mistake. On review of the course of events, which started from this post and lead to his ultimate apology, several positive lessons can be learned.

First of all, while it is concerning to any sincere citizen to see a public official promoting hate, it is also refreshing to see a person who shows readiness to listen and respond to the voice of reason and common sense, which Mr. West did, at least up until now. Secondly, as a Muslim citizen who’s lived in middle Tennessee for over 12 years, I witnessed the political maturity of the Muslim community on display during this incident. The huge mobilization of efforts, in large by groups such as the American Center for Outreach and the American Muslim Advisory Council, within the Muslim community was something unheard of, even during the saga of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. This time, it looked as if everyone knew their role and what should be done, in a peaceful and professional manner, of course.

Five years ago, an incident like this would barely initiate some weak talk within the community. This sense of political activism was long due on the part of the Muslim community. Having said that, I must say that as Muslims, we have to emphasize the importance of developing a special sense for detecting injustice towards any minority, and I am only hopeful that such hateful messages are never repeated again towards any other religious or ethnic group, but if it were to happen, then my sincere hope is that Muslims would show as much sense of urgency to protect the rights of others as they would when their own rights are violated.

Another positive message I want to point out to everyone touched with this incident is the fact that we, as a whole diverse community, must always be ready to handle such incidents. Government officials, politicians, priests and other public figures, are all still humans and prone to mistakes. If we want to live together as a mixture of different ethnicities and ideologies, as one big family, then we must be willing to accept the mistakes of each other with an open heart and aim at constructive criticism, and not retaliation. I am sure many Muslims still have a hard time believing Mr. Barry West, and the feeling may be justified, but then we have to remember Islam teaches us to be forgiving and open for a clean slate, considering new forthcoming actions correspond with the stated sincere intentions. Therefore, I would invite commissioner West to create all possible means to open new lines of communication with the Muslims with sincere attempts to engage in positive dialogue.

Finally, I have to say this: our modern American societies are becoming more diverse than fifty or a hundred years ago, and they are only projected to become more diversified. Whether perceived as good or bad depends on what glasses someone looks through. Bottom line is, whether we like it or not, we are going to have to live, work, buy to, sell from, and deal with people in our communities whom we differ with in major ideological views of life. Whether our public officials like it or not, they will have to serve citizens whom they don’t share the same views of life with. Yet, life has to move on and this great country has to continue to develop on the shoulders of every single member of its diverse societies. We must take every mistake and turn it into a positive experience that would eventually bring positive change into our communities.


Dr. Zaid Brifkani


19 Comments on this post:

By: Loner on 5/6/13 at 6:23

Sorry, Doc, but Barry West's "apology" is disingenuous...he's simply trying to pull his own fat out of the fire....it's all about saving West's political future. Anyone who would put their virulent Islamophobia on public display, as West did, is not likely to have a genuine and sudden epiphany....he's a phony baloney with zero credibility....he's gotta go.

By: Captain Nemo on 5/6/13 at 6:23

Commissioner Barry’s posting on Facebook was certainly in poor judgment, but if he does meeting with the locale Muslim leaders I think that it shows that he may have some backbone and that this could lead to better relationship in the community as a whole.

Now in Dr. Brifkani’s last paragraph he says the insensitive word “Diverse.” This word alone will send out a hated response from our phony monk and a long winded post of condemnation from this dinosaur.

By: bfra on 5/6/13 at 7:10

Nemo - What have Muslims done for the betterment of any community that they deserve coddling?

By: Loner on 5/6/13 at 7:27

Nobody is calling for any "coddling"...we are calling for an end to the hate.

This does not mean that I endorse the Islamic faith, the Jihad, Sharia Law or any such BS....all three Abrahamic faiths - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - are based on ancient Hebrew myths....IMO, these three faiths have caused more human suffering than any other human invention.

If all the members of our species could just throw their Holy Books into a giant bonfire, we might just survive....Holy Wars Suck.

By: yogiman on 5/6/13 at 7:48

Religion is pretty much like politics; your beliefs are the best for your nation and your party.

By: Captain Nemo on 5/6/13 at 7:51


Let us look at it from a different angle. If it had been an Arab looking down the end of a shotgun, would you have seen it as a joke or a threat?

Now look at yogi's post and think about what he said.

By: Captain Nemo on 5/6/13 at 7:57

Loner ask, "If all the members of our species could just throw their Holy Books into a giant bonfire, we might just survive....Holy Wars Suck."

Loner I have wonder why with the power to create a universe, would God not just make the Bible and not depend on frail and corruptible mankind to spread the word.

By: budlight on 5/7/13 at 4:45

To the good doctor I would ask this: Do Muslims ever make fun of Christians or do anything harmful or hurtful to Christians? Of course they do. 2 radical muslims bombed innocent people in boston and no mention was made as to how many of them were Christians or Jewish or otherwise. The only talk has been about the "oh my gosh he was such a good kid" bombers.

Muslims hate Christians - generally speaking. It's in their Koran to kill infidels and they believe Christians are infidels, don't they? Sure!

By: Captain Nemo on 5/7/13 at 5:30

bus's slant on life is often tilted far out of logic and more toward the superstition.

By: Loner on 5/7/13 at 6:01

Captain....the God of Abraham is a peek-a-boo supreme being....over the millennia, he (a male) appeared every so often to special human beings (usually Jewish males)....those special people then wrote down what the bashful deity said....often times the "message" was a command to commit a violent act or acts.

Today, we lock such people up, for the good of humanity....in the olden days, such people, if charismatic, were often venerated and followed by masses of believers.

Moses, Jesus and Mohammad all had charisma....Mohammad had charisma plus an army of zealots who converted conquered people at sword-point.....of course, the rest is history.....bloody history.

By: budlight on 5/7/13 at 7:48

nemo, who is "bus"? What are you smoking this morning?

You are tilted also.

By: Captain Nemo on 5/7/13 at 8:14

You pointed out my yogi, bud. bus is you bud. However you understood your hate of others, to recognized yourself.

The reason you see me as being tilted, is that you have got your head between your legs.

Now go have a nice day and stop wasting tax money.

By: Captain Nemo on 5/7/13 at 8:17

Loner, the Southern Baptist see God as a WASP. :-)

By: pswindle on 5/7/13 at 8:56

The KKK has never died in the south. This shows how much hate the south has toward anyone that is a little different. This is the way that Barry West really feels, and when it was made public, he goes trying to say, "how sorry, I am." Since this President was first elected, I have heard some of the nastiest comments about him. The South will not rise again with this kind of behavior.

By: budlight on 5/7/13 at 12:54

Pswindle, there is racism all over the world, not just the south. Obama is not as popular with some people because of his policies, not his race. I'd vote for Dr. Benjamin Carson who is a black doctor if he ran and if he runs as a democrat, I'll still vote for him. Not f or his race, but for his policies. You liberals can't figure that out.

And Capt, your head is not just between your legs, but you know where it's at. Now go have a nice day and quite wasting air. I've got a job and I'm getting my tax dollars back - legally - for an honest day's pay. What's your excuse?

By: yogiman on 5/7/13 at 2:13

Well, budlight, being the racist Loner keeps claiming me to be, I'd also vote for Dr. Carson... even though he's black (joke intended). I would also vote for Allen West or Alan Keyes; not because of their race, but because of their given policies toward our nation.

I believe those men understand the "race days" are gone in this nation. I like to think they do but too many of all races are known to be racist. And I don't believe I've felt a man was more of a racist than Barry Soetoro aka Barack Obama by his actions and .speech. And I believe he's the worst lying man who's ever been in the White House.

By: Captain Nemo on 5/7/13 at 5:14

Then why are you posting on government time, bud?

By: yogiman on 5/7/13 at 7:49

Well, dumba$$, if you aren't fired or retired, whose time are you using to post on this site?

You're here an awful lot of time during regular business hours. Yours or your bosses?

By: whitegravy on 5/29/13 at 2:33