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LAS VEGAS – U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle told a crowd of supporters that the country needs to address a "militant terrorist situation" that has allowed Islamic religious law to take hold in some American cities.
Her comments came at a rally of tea party supporters in the Nevada resort town of Mesquite last week after the candidate was asked about Muslims angling to take over the country, and marked the latest of several controversial remarks by the Nevada Republican.
In a recording of the rally provided to The Associated Press by the Mesquite Local News, a man is heard asking Angle : "I keep hearing about Muslims wanting to take over the United States ... on a TV program just last night, I saw that they are taking over a city in Michigan and the residents of the city, they want them out. They want them out. So, I want to hear your thoughts about that."
Angle responds that "we're talking about a militant terrorist situation, which I believe it isn't a widespread thing, but it is enough that we need to address, and we have been addressing it."
"My thoughts are these, first of all, Dearborn, Michigan, and Frankford, Texas are on American soil, and under constitutional law. Not Sharia law. And I don't know how that happened in the United States," she said. "It seems to me there is something fundamentally wrong with allowing a foreign system of law to even take hold in any municipality or government situation in our United States."
Dearborn, Mich., has a thriving Muslim community. It was not immediately clear why Angle singled out Frankford, Texas, a former town that was annexed into Dallas around 1975.
Responding to the same question, she also drew comparisons between the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Nazi Holocaust. She said the property owners behind the proposed Islamic community center near ground zero should move it in deference to the people who died there.
"There was, in Auschwitz, I think it was Auschwitz, it was at least a prisoner of war camp, where the Catholic Church owned some property and they were going to build a church there. They had every right to do it but they stepped aside and said, no, we are going to allow the Jewish people to make a monument because they lost lives," she said. "They had a responsibility to be sensitive to what had happened there and it is exactly the same thing as 9/11. Ground zero, we have a responsibility to be sensitive to the loss of a nation, to the loss of families, to the loss of life that happened there."
Angle seemed to be referring to a Roman Catholic convent at the Auschwitz death camp that Pope John Paul II ordered moved in 1993 in response to Jewish protests.
Others, including the Anti-Defamation League, the nation's leading Jewish civil rights group, have evoked the relocated convent while voicing opposition to the mosque. But the ADL also has stressed that 9/11 and the Holocaust are separate, incomparable events.
Angle's campaign did not answer questions about her statements.
"I'm pretty sure that she did make it clear that there had been incidents in the news, but there is nothing widespread, and that we have freedom of religion in this country," said spokesman Jarrod Agen in an e-mail.
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based advocacy group, called Angle's statements "bizarre."
"This seems to be an example of incoherent bigotry. It is pretty clear that she has something against Islam and Muslims but she is so incoherent you don't know what she stands for," Hooper said. "The proper response would have been, 'American Muslims are citizens like anyone else. They are free to practice their faith,' not seeming to agree that Muslims are somehow seeking to take over."
Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly called Angle's comments "shameful." He said tea party groups inaccurately spread the word that his Detroit suburb was ruled by Islamic law after members of an anti-Islam group were arrested at an Arab cultural festival in June because a Christian volunteer complained of harassment.
"She took it as face value and maligned the city of Dearborn and I consider that totally irresponsible," he said. "If she wants to come here, I will take her on a tour. I will show her we follow the Constitution just as well as anyone else."
Angle, a Southern Baptist, has called herself a faith-based politician. Among her positions, she opposes abortion in all circumstances, including rape and incest and doesn't believe the Constitution requires the separation of church and state.
Angle is in a dead-heat race against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has also said the community center, which would include a mosque, should be built elsewhere. A recent poll showed Reid and Angle tied in the high-profile campaign.
Reid's campaign said Angle's comments advances its ongoing campaign to portray her as outside mainstream America.
"The fact that Sharron Angle believes American cities have been taken over by militant terrorist organizations that are ruling our citizens under Sharia law shows a terrifying lack of connection with reality and a willingness to subscribe to conspiracy theories that demonstrates she's far too extreme and dangerous to represent Nevada in the U.S. Senate," spokesman Kelly Steele said.