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Over-steeped Tea Party in dangerous water in Mississippi

The planned protest by The Tea Party of Mississippi Association against the Muhammad Study Group of Southaven set for April 23 is an unwarranted attack based in fear, ignorance and intolerance. 
 Bernal E. Smith II

The planned protest by The Tea Party of Mississippi Association against the Muhammad Study Group of Southaven set for April 23 is an unwarranted attack based in fear, ignorance and intolerance.

It is at best a polarizing political maneuver being used to rally a base and at worst an all out discriminatory, bigoted, fear-wrangling aimed at creating division and possibly violence towards a peaceful group simply exercising its constitutional rights to assemble and worship.

As I listened to a report on the news broadcast of our media partner, WMC-TV5, I simply couldn’t believe the characterization of the members of the Muhammad Study Group given by Mississippi Tea Party Founder, Don Daniels. It was obvious that he hasn’t taken the time to meet his neighbors nor attempted to get to know them and understand who they are and what they represent. Without even as much as having had a conversation with one of them, he publicly characterized them as “extremist, prone to violence”.  

Wow, Mr. Daniels, the hypocrisy, the level of unmitigated gall to label while essentially promoting the very intolerance and extremism being heaped upon the men and women of the Muhammad Study Group.

I ask for clarification as to what the Tea Party is and its purpose; is it a political party with broad aims for ALL Americans or a radical group seeking to attack anyone and anything that doesn’t believe its ideologies?  

It certainly was not lost that this protest was announced on the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, the great American conflict based on the issue of bondage of people of African descent. Irony at its best, the Mississippi Tea Party announcing the denouncement and  a planned attack on a group of African Americans on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Talk about struggling backwards.  

Mr. Daniels’ bold announcement directly offended me, as I personally know several of the members of the Muhammad Study Group of Southaven and their families. I know them to be upstanding hard working family men, business owners, doctors, attorneys, police officers, community activist and even some FORMER criminal offenders but all focused on positive change for the least of those around them. They believe in education, moral principles and family. They have children and are loving, peaceful people not hateful or violent as they are being mischaracterized. Despite our differences in religious ideology and approaches, we’ve worked together to help deal with myriad issues, including educational attainment, economic development, health and wellness, crime and violence reduction, particularly in the African-American community.  

On its Web site, the Tea Party of Mississippi Association claims to be about the protection of free expression as a primary goal, but yet plans to trample on the constitutional rights of those individuals and families that study and worship in Southaven.  Mid-South citizens of all faiths, races, colors, creeds and beliefs should not only be alarmed but ready to stand against these kinds of attacks reminiscent of the sentiment of white men during the 1950’s and 1960’s that led to the deaths of Emmitt Till, Medgar Evers, and the three civil rights workers, Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney all in the State of Mississippi.  We should all reflect on that era and say never again.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once declared, “The existence of injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  No truer statement has ever been spoken and it certainly applies to this very situation.  

The actions of Mr. Daniels and the Tea Party represent a grave injustice; not just against the members of MSTM but threatens any group that should come under the ire of the Tea Party.  I for one refuse to remain silent as it happens. I challenge the community to take a stand as well. If our children are to have a better future, choosing not to is not an option.

(Bernal E. Smith II is the President and Publisher of the Tri-State Defender.)

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