Since I’ve been saying some less-than-laudatory things about politics in my home state of Georgia, let’s train our eyes at some hijinks in a different state. The story is interesting in part because of the courage shown by a Muslim candidate by running for office in Tennessee, which has been ground zero for Islamophobia for some time. But the greater import may be that it shows an opponent reaching levels of identity politics normally associated with the Left. Here’s a report from the Nashville Tennessean‘s Jamie Page:

A Muslim candidate for a Coffee County Commission seat says his incumbent opponent is making false statements about his religious and patriotic beliefs to smear his name in an attempt to appeal to voters.

In a July 16 letter asking District 15 constituents for their vote, Republican Commissioner Mark Kelly made the following claims about his Democratic political opponent, Zak Mohyuddin:

“My opponent has expressed his beliefs publicly that the United States is not a Christian nation; that the American flag should be removed from public buildings because it is a symbol of tyranny and oppression; that public prayer should be banned because it insults non-Christians; and that the Bible should be removed from public places.”

Turns out Kelly had zero evidence for any of these allegations, saying they were based on “private consersations.” Moyuddin denies them all. But here’s where it get interesting:

Kelly, who has known Mohyuddin for 25 years and helped him move into his home, told The Tennessean he is not anti-Muslim and that he stands by his letter.

“I am a Christian and have been and will be. Zak isn’t, and he has a different faith and there are a lot of different faiths,” Kelly said. “I am standing on my values and my record. The point of the letter was to encourage the conservative base to get out and vote. It was simply to show the difference in views between two people, not that one is right or wrong, just a difference.”

It’s unusual for a conservative Christian Republican candidate to garnish a religious smear with a dash of moral relativism, but it does seem he’s saying whatever it takes to “encourage the base” is okay, whether or not it’s even true of his opponent. After all, “the base” can’t have any Muslims getting elected to public office, can it? After all, this isn’t their country, is it?

Speaking to his patriotism, Mohyuddin notes that…at a rally in Manchester last year held to increase awareness about American Muslims, he led a group of 500 people in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance. He is a member of the American Muslim Advisory Council of Tennessee, which sponsored the event.

Kelly also wrote in the letter: “I believe in the Christian values and work ethics that are the foundation of this great nation … Our Founding Fathers prayed to God and established our Nation and its Laws based on the Judeo-Christian principles of the Bible. Because the Bible is foundational to understanding American history and law as well as our heritage; the Bible belongs in public places.”

Mohyuddin said he also has no problem with public prayers or public display of Bibles.

But he’s a Muslim, so he must be lying.

Just incredible.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.