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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Democrat sheriff candidate Heine calls Islam "a cult," Muslims "insane people"



From Times staff writer Jamal Thalji:

After a St. Petersburg couple was arrested by Pinellas sheriff’s deputies on Oct. 24 on charges that they allowed young two boys in their care to smoke a synthetic marijuana product known as K2, the St. Petersburg Times received this email:

"K-2 is manufactured in St. Pete and is still being sold by almost every habib store in Pinellas County, but no one wants to screw with Muslims because we might hurt their feelings. The pussification of America is here and now."

It was signed: Randy Heine, Democratic candidate for Pinellas County sheriff.

Heine, 60, is the owner of Rockin' Cards & Gifts and Tobacco Emporium in Pinellas Park and a longtime political gadfly there. (Some local Democratic leaders have gotten behind Democrat Scott Swope in the sheriff's race.)

Heine’s main platform in running for sheriff is that he wants to legalize drugs.

“People have the right to do drugs in their own home,” Heine recently told the Times. “As long as they’re not hurting anybody else.”

The Times asked Heine if he wanted to clarify or retract his remarks. Instead, he doubled-down on his comments about Islam:

“These people don’t deal straight up,” he said. “They talk in rhymes. They worship an imaginary God and they dance around a meteorite in Mecca. This is not even a religion. This is a cult. This is a group of insane people who pray five times a day and keep brainwashing themselves.”

Heine added that he is an atheist, then railed against all organized religions, including Christianity: “They have destroyed our planet, these religions.”

But what about his stance on synthetic pot? Is he for legalizing real pot but against the fake stuff?

Heine clarified that part: he said that there would be no need to outlaw synthetic pot if they’d just legalize the real stuff. Then he railed against the war on drugs.

“This is a bunch of hype,” he said. “Nobody died off this. Nobody can prove it. The sheriffs go to Tallahassee and they haven’t ever seen a law they don’t like. That’s why I’m running. I want to go to Tallahassee and stop these crazy laws and convince the other sheriffs they need to think outside the box.”

The Times ran Heine’s comments by Ahmed Bedier, president of United Voices for America, a civic group in Tampa. He’s also a local radio host and Muslim leader.

“He wants to outlaw K-2 but he wants to legalize marijuana?” Bedier said. “Well it sounds like he’s confused. Not only his platform but also the strength of the Muslim community.

“The national political scene is not very friendly to Muslims. Very few politicians are afraid to upset Muslims. If you watch the Republican debates, it’s often laced with anti-Muslim comments and bigotry.”

He also wondered if Heine was confusing any store owner “who looks brown and Middle Eastern to be a Muslim.”

The Times also asked Swope for comment.

“I don’t even know where to start,” said Swope. “When you impugn an entire section of society and refer to them negatively because of their religious beliefs, whether they’re Muslim or Jewish or Christian … it sends the wrong message to the people that you are elected by.

“It is certainly not the job of the sheriff to openly discriminate against people who have particular religious beliefs or have different thoughts.”

As for legalization, Swope said Heine is running for the wrong office: “If it’s illegal, it’s the sheriff’s job to enforce the law. If Randy wants to legalize marijuana, then he should run for the legislature.”

Heine argued that it’s impossible for the authorities to stop these synthetic drugs. Last year the Drug Enforcement Administration banned certain chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana. This year the Florida Legislature did the same. But manufacturers are finding ways around that ban.

“The problem is if someone changes the chemicals,” said Pinellas sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Zito, a narcotics investigator. “If it’s a different chemical compound then it’s not against the law.”

[Last modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 1:00pm]


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