The president of Liberty University, a leading evangelical Christian college in Virginia, urged students to apply for concealed-weapons permits and said that if more people did so, then “we could end those Muslims.”
The remarks on Friday came when the university president, Jerry Falwell Jr., took the stage at the college’s convocation, a mandatory event, after a speech by former Senator Jim DeMint.
Addressing both the gun-control debate and the attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., that killed 14 people on Wednesday, Mr. Falwell suggested that the victims might have defended themselves if they had been armed.
“If some of those people in that community center had what I’ve got in my back pocket right now…” he said, trailing off amid applause and cheers from the audience. He then said, apparently joking: “Is it illegal to pull it out? I don’t know.”
Mr. Falwell urged the students to apply for concealed-carry permits and criticized President Obama, saying it “blows my mind” that the president has argued for tighter gun-control laws in response to mass shootings.
“I’ve always thought if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed us,” he said, to more applause. “Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”
To that end, Mr. Falwell said, the students should enroll in a free course offered by the university that guides them through the application process for a concealed-carry permit.
Mr. Falwell’s remarks come amid a tense national debate about mass shootings, gun control, terrorism and security in the wake of deadly gun rampages in San Bernardino, and Colorado Springs, Colo. in recent weeks.
It is also a period of high anxiety for Muslim-Americans, who say they are experiencing a wave of death threats, assaults and vandalism unlike anything they had experienced since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Mr. Falwell’s remarks drew criticism in the Muslim community. “It just adds to the increasingly toxic atmosphere that American Muslims are dealing with in the wake of the Paris terror attacks and the San Bernardino attacks,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group.
Mr. Hooper said hateful episodes targeting Muslims began to increase after anti-Muslim remarks by Donald J. Trump and Ben Carson, who are both seeking the Republican presidential nomination.
“We are seeing the mainstreaming of hate rhetoric targeting Muslims,” Mr. Hooper added. “It is incumbent upon our nation’s political and religious leaders to begin speaking out on rising Islamophobia.”
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SOURCE: The New York Times