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Muslim Candidate Says Opponent's Letter Crossed Line

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Muslim Candidate Says Opponent's Letter Crossed Line

CREATED Jul 22, 2014
by Adam Ghassemi

TULLAHOMA, Tenn. – One mid-state race is getting a lot attention after a longtime politician said his opponent, who is Muslim, opposes the American flag, prayer, and Bibles in public places.

Zak Mohyuddin has never run for political office before. The Pakistan native has lived in Tennessee for 40 years, and Monday said he expected a fight, but never thought the race would come to this.

Mohyuddin is running as a Democrat against longtime Republican incumbent Mark Kelley to represent part of Tullahoma for District 15 on the Coffee County Commission.

The two only debated local issues until Kelly sent a letter to some voters in the district last week.

"It just offends me totally,” Mohyuddin said. "When I saw it I said this crossed a line."

The letter urges voters to keep Kelly in office because Mohyuddin believes "the American flag should be removed from public buildings because it is a symbol of tyranny and oppression;” “public prayer should be banned because it insults non-Christians;" and "the Bible should be removed from public places."

"I find those statements to be vile, offensive and total lies. And I don't use the word lie casually,” Mohyuddin said.

Kelly, who declined an on-camera interview, said by phone he stands behind his statements as something Mohyuddin told him privately.

He also provided documents he said show Mohyuddin has made statements and later changed what he said on some issues, like a local wheel tax.

Mohyuddin said those conversations never happened any time during the 25 years the pair have known each other, even when Kelly helped his now opponent move.

"The private discussion on the day of moving was about moving. We weren't talking politics on the day he helped with his truck, no,” he said.

Now two longtime acquaintances and former co-workers are battling over what Mohyuddin calls an attempt to appeal to the district's conservative base.

"This is an example of using fears of religious differences for personal gain,” Mohyuddin said.

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