Man at center of "mullah" comment speaks to Islamic group

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on February 18, 2011 at 7:52 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 18 at 8:31 PM

DUNCANVILLE- The controversy this week that erupted at the Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting when a speaker’s comments upset Commissioner John Wiley Price took a new turn regarding religion and insensitivity.

Some Muslims said they do not like the way a set of their leaders were described by Jeff Turner.

“I'm not going to make any statements, OK?" said Turner. "Please turn the cameras off."

However, Turner said a lot Tuesday when he criticized County Commissioner John Wiley Price's involvement in the recent departure of the Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet. Turner called Price a " chief mullah" describing a "mullah" as an Iranian official who stays in power by intimidation.

That set off Price but also set off some Muslims who said a "mullah" is a respected and educated Muslim trained in religious law.

They said after they called Turner and explained their concern, he said he was sorry.

“It was a teaching moment for all of us and especially for him,” said  Thomas Muhammad, Islamic leader. “So based on the information he received he apologized.”

Turner accepted their invitation to visit a Duncanville mosque Friday to learn more about Islam and apologize publicly.

No formal apology happened when Turner spoke to the assembled worshipers.

“I certainly didn't mean any disrespect it wasn't intended as any sort of insult,” Turner said.

Worshipers still warmly received Turner.

Turner responded to reporters’ questions about his apology.

“I've made my statements, he (Muhammad) said it at the news conference this afternoon or this morning,” Turner said. “Right?  And I'm here and I think that's, that's the end.”

When asked if he wished he had not used the word “mullah,” Turner said, “I'm not going to make any statements.”

Muhammad said news stories that Turner would apologize caused him to back away from actually saying it.

“That would've been even better and that's what I thought was going to happen here today,” said Muhammad.

Turner would not say if he would attend next Tuesday's commissioners ourt meeting.

Email: bwatson@wfaa.com

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