Top U.S. and Turkish officials on Tuesday condemned comments made last week by Rep. Tom Tancredo that the United States could “take out” Islamic holy sites if there were a nuclear attack on the United States by Muslim fundamentalists.
The Colorado Republican refused to apologize Tuesday, telling The Associated Press that his comments had been taken out of context.
U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli called the statements Tancredo made Friday “insulting and offensive.” He said Americans “respect the dignity and sanctity of other religions.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul labeled them irresponsible.
“This was nothing but a fanatic speaking completely personally, irresponsibly and without thought of how far his statements would reach or what kind of problems they would create,” Gul said, according to the Anatolia news agency. The Foreign Ministry confirmed Gul’s remarks.
On Friday, Tancredo was asked by a radio talk show host how the United States should respond if terrorists struck several of its cities with nuclear weapons.
‘You’re talking about bombing Mecca’
“Well, what if you said something like — if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites,” Tancredo answered.
“You’re talking about bombing Mecca,” said talk show host Pat Campbell of WFLA-AM in Orlando, Fla.
“Yeah,” Tancredo responded.
When asked Tuesday to clarify his comments, Tancredo said he never said he wanted to bomb Mecca or Medina, but he did not explain whether he would support bombing the Muslim holy sites if the United States’s nuclear reserves were attacked by terrorists.
“If these nuclear devices did go off, there’d be a lot of people thinking about worse than that,” he said, adding that he wanted to think about ways to prevent a terrorist attack. “I hope we can think of things that actually will prevent an event of that nature. That’s the task we are all set upon. From my point of view there’s a lot that can be done, and ... I don’t want to inflame this issue.”
‘The thing we need least’
Gul, speaking prior to Tancredo’s response Tuesday, said that he did not think the people or the government of the United States shared Tancredo’s view, according to Anatolia.
“This shows that this kind of fanatical person can emerge anywhere. This kind of speech is the thing we need least these days,” Gul was quoted as saying. “I strongly condemn it.”
Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean said Tancredo owed an apology to Muslims around the world.
“Tancredo’s statements go against the very message America is trying to send to the world, that the war against terrorism is not a war on Islam,” Dean said. “Remarks threatening the destruction of holy sites akin to the Vatican or Jerusalem do nothing to win the hearts and minds of Muslims in the United States and abroad.”