Source: Frankfort Station (IL)

Ruff responds to AIA press conference

by Joe Hillenmeyer

August 17, 2008

Click here to view in full the e-mail sent by Paul Ruff

In an exclusive interview with Mokena Messenger and Frankfort Station staff, on Friday, Aug. 15, Frankfort Township Assessor Paul Ruff, along with deputy assessor Kevin Burns addressed accusations that Ruff forwarded an anti-Muslim e-mail to people in the Mokena and Frankfort areas. "This was sent to me and I forwarded it to maybe 20 people," Ruff said. "Family members and I thought friends—it was obviously sent to (a political enemy)."

The e-mail was sent through a personal e-mail of Ruff's, and not one associated with the Assessor's office.

The e-mail was comprised mostly of quotes from Australian Prime Minister John Howard, suggesting that "once [immigrants to Australia] are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, 'THE RIGHT TO LEAVE.'"

The e-mail ends by urging American readers who agree with the sentiments expressed by Howard to "send on" the e-mail.

Ruff believes that politics, not religion or racism is at the heart of the recent controversy surrounding the e-mail and he said that he feels sorry for the Muslims—who he believes are unknowingly being used to help "a Judas" grind an axe.

"You don't make friends in the assessors office," Ruff said. "You make enemies."

Burns said that the party behind all of this will surface before the next election and Ruff said he will be waiting for the next shoe to drop.

"This is just the beginning," he said, adding that resigning is the "furthest thing from [his] mind," and that he fully plans to be re-elected.

Burns pointed to Ruff's 13 honorariums in his 15 years of office for fair and unbiased appraisals meeting the state's "High Standards of Excellence" for property assessment.

Ruff also said that when performing property assessments all he sees is a pin number and an address.

"I couldn't be biased if I wanted to," he said.

Ruff said he has a number of minority neighbors of different races and ethnicity, including Muslims, and said that if he were a racist or a bigot he would have left a long time ago. Ruff also said that he has Muslim friends, including one that has donated to his campaign.

Ruff stated that he plans on making no apologies for the e-mail ,which he does not believe was racist or anti-Muslim.  

"My problem is with Sharia law," Ruff said. "I believe in America and the American way of life. I don't believe Americans should allow Sharia law to be practiced in this country."

In response to Dr. Afzal Ahmad's statement to 22nd Century Media staff that he wanted to "know what Ruff's beef with Muslims is," Ruff said, "I don't have one."

A press conference held at the American Islamic Association mosque in Frankfort on Tuesday, Aug. 12, by interfaith leaders of the South West Interfaith Team (SWIFT) addressed a July 22 article in the SouthtownStar that printed excerpts of the e-mail. Members of SWIFT representing Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths condemned the alleged e-mail and ended the press conference with a statement of solidarity, speaking out against religious discrimination and intolerance.

Dr. Afzal Ahmad, chairman of the board of the AIA, said at the press conference that "[SWIFT] wants to see that this statement is made aware to our brother Paul Ruff that his is the lone voice that we know of in this in our community."

"SWIFT is all about respecting and understanding one another," Marilyn Renninger, of the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacard Heart said while speaking at the conference. "I have many Muslim friends, and I cherish their friendships. Perhaps we need more experience with one another."

Most SWIFT members that spoke at the press conference said that they had not seen the e-mail in its entirely at that time.

Ruff felt that the press conference was a jump to conclusions.

Burns, who attended the press conference, said that he got the impression that those who spoke at the press conference had not read the e-mail, and were reacting to excerpts of the e-mail that were taken out of context.

In an Aug. 15 phone interview with Ahmad, he said that he had read the e-mail on Aug. 14 and he believes it is anti-Muslim.

"I don't think that he understands Muslims or the Constitution," Ahmad said. "I'm not looking for an apology—I just want to sit down and hear where he's coming from."

Burns said he thinks the press conference was an overreaction.

"We just want to try and stop some of this silliness," he said.

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