A Lombard Republican who became the first Muslim elected to a partisan office in DuPage County is hoping to "enlighten" Congressman Joe Walsh after his "radical Islam" comments.
Moon Khan said that he and other area Muslims plan to meet Friday night with Walsh "to showcase the diversity of the Muslims that the congressman is certainly unfamiliar with."
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Walsh, who says he plans to attend the meeting at Khan's home, wants to hear from anyone who has questions or concerns about the remarks he made earlier this month.
"I want to explain what my thoughts are," the McHenry Republican said. "We may get to the point where we agree to disagree. But at least talking about it is helpful."
The controversy started when Walsh, during a town-hall meeting in Elk Grove Village warned, "There is a radical stream of Islam in this country, not just over there, that are trying to kill Americans. It is a real threat. It's in Elk Grove, it's in Addison, it's in Elgin."
On Thursday, Walsh said he has no intention of backtracking from those remarks.
"There is a real threat in this country, and it does come from a radical strain of Islam," said Walsh, who is a member of the Committee on Homeland Security. "Having said that, the vast, vast majority of Muslim Americans in this country are peace-loving, patriotic Americans. So both of those things need to be said."
Khan, who describes himself as "a hard-core Republican," said Muslims in Illinois are upset about the "very intense remarks" made by Walsh, who is in a tight race for control of the 8th Congressional District against Democrat Tammy Duckworth.
"It looks like he is not familiar with the Muslim community at all -- definitely not the Muslim community of his district," Khan said.
Walsh said he called Khan after learning the former York Township trustee was concerned. The congressman is the one who suggested that Friday's meeting take place. He also plans to meet with other Muslim leaders in other suburbs.
By meeting with Walsh, area Muslims are trying "to gather stones that have been thrown at them by the congressman and turn them into milestones of tolerance," Khan said.
Khan said he also wants to let residents know that local Republicans are "open minded, committed to diversity and do not harbor any animosity toward the Muslim Americans."
Looking to expand beyond their traditional base of conservative whites, DuPage Republicans in 2005 recruited Khan to run for township trustee. He served in that elected position for about seven years. He also has been a Republican precinct committeeman for a decade.
"I know firsthand that the local Republican Party leaders do not agree with him (Walsh) on this point," Khan said. "I worked with all these people. They never showed any disrespect for the Muslim community of Illinois."
But Walsh, a Tea Partyer, stressed that he doesn't believe his comments were controversial, adding that he's made similar remarks "a number of times" since being elected.
"There's no effort to malign a religion or malign a people," he said. "But this is a threat, and it's real. And it needs to be dealt with."
At the time of Walsh's initial remarks on radical Islam, a Duckworth spokesman said they "demonstrate yet again why he is not fit to hold public office." On Thursday, Walsh attributed the backlash to politics.
"That's just an effort to keep me silent," Walsh said. "What's irresponsible is for any member of the government to ignore a threat to the security of the American people."