A state Muslim group late Friday urged Republican leaders to disavow comments made by Rick Torres, who is seeking the Republican nomination for Congress in the fourth district. The comments came during a debate on Thursday evening in Westport.
The Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations criticized the statements by Torres, who said, referring to Muslims while discussing illegal immigration, "It turns out, folks, they are here, they're among us. We are at war with Islam. I don't tolerate people who are not tolerant.”
Torres said in a phone interview on Friday that he wants America’s mosques and Imams to openly condemn terrorists’ actions. If they will not speak against anti-American actions they have to be viewed with suspicion. He did not use qualifiers to differentiate groups of Muslims. Torres said he knows his comments sound blunt. “We can be grown up about this, or we can be politically correct about it,” said Torres. “I don’t mean to say all Muslims are radicals but they are here and we have to know which ones they are. Talk to us. Be up front with us about where you stand.”
Torres also said he was concerned about reports of Muslims in Bridgeport and around the nation dancing in the streets on 9/11.
"Rick Torres is completely out of touch with reality and contradicts statements made by his party’s own leaders," said the council chapter's Executive Director Mongi Dhaoudi. "Presidents Bush and Obama have both said America is not at war with Islam, and local and national media outlets have frequently reported on the strong American Muslim repudiation of terror."
Taking a hard stance against illegal immigrants was a common theme during the debate Westport among by four candidates for the Republican nomination for the seat held by Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat.
Also participating in the debate were State Sen. Dan Debicella, businessman Robert Merkle and Easton First Selectman Tom Herrmann participated. A fifth candidate, William Gregory, on Thursday announced on his website that he was withdrawing from the race.
Debicella, a Shelton resident, said the nation needs to do a better job of making sure that homeland security measures work. “We need just one no-fly list,” he said. “And if you are suspicious, you can't come to America.”
Three of the candidates said a fence was the best way to stop illegal immigrants from entering the country. Debicella had a different solution to the problem. Debicella proposed an approach that would open more opportunities for legal immigration. At the same time, he would impose stricter punishments on those hiring illegals. He said the government has to find better options than fences that won't even keep rabbits out of his gardens.
Torres was adamant about the need for a fence. “I think Mr. Debicella needs a better fence guy,” said Torres, joking that he could find him one in Bridgeport.
All four candidates agreed that the health care reform bill should be repealed. Herrmann proposed defunding or amending the bill as a way to kill it. Debicella said the Republicans needed to find a way not just to repeal the legislation but also to replace it with their own version.
They also all agreed that taxes, including corporate taxes, were out of control and needed to be brought down. Herrmann said that a temporary reduction in the payroll tax was useless because employers don't make long-term decisions on temporary incentives.
Debicella noted early in the debate that his campaign had raised more than double the amount that other three candidates received, combined. However it was Torres who received the most applause from the crowd in attendance. He said that he was the only one who could win Bridgeport against Himes.
Merkle told the audience that whoever gets the party nomination will need to be a very strong candidate to win. “If we do not send a warrior against Jim Himes, we will lose,” he said.