Muslim leaders decry Steven Choi's comments as 'insulting and false.'
IRVINE - An Irvine councilman has questioned his political opponent's work with what he called a "dangerous" Islamic advocacy group with alleged terrorist ties, drawing the ire of many in the local Muslim community who described the comments as divisive and false.
The comments by Councilman Steven Choi came at the close of a recent Chamber of Commerce election forum attended by the dozen candidates for Irvine office. Choi cautioned the audience of business and community leaders not to vote for a candidate who works for the Council on American-Islamic Relations – commonly known as CAIR – which he described as a "dangerous and Islamic organization."
[my notes: Such typical defamatory comments are driven by Choi's shameful Islamophobia or desperate desire to win the election at any cost. Accusing CAIR of being a dangerous organization is ridiculous. CAIR is highly praised by various government officials for the work it does in defending our country's national security. CAIR offices across the country are involved in offering cultural diversity training to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to ensure a stronger partnership with the American Muslim community. Read: What they say aboutCAIR ]
Supporters say the high-profile Muslim advocacy group helps spread understanding of Islam and protection of civil liberties. But critics of the group question its funding and political agenda, claiming that it is linked to terrorist groups.
While Choi did not identify the candidate by name, the barb was clearly directed at Todd Gallinger, a lawyer and born-again Muslim who has represented CAIR in several class-action lawsuits. Gallinger is a member of the Keep Irvine Safe political slate with Councilman Sukhee Kang, Mayor Beth Krom and Councilman Larry Agran.
"Obviously it's just slimy political tactics," Gallinger said. "It's an attempt to play on xenophobia and fear."
Choi said his comments were directed specifically at CAIR, not at the Muslim community.
"I just don't want to make a big deal out of it. It went out of proportion," Choi said. "I did not even mention the candidate's name, but I wanted to bring up the fact there is a candidate who works at CAIR. Looking back I should have stopped there."
CAIR leaders have demanded an apology from Choi, describing his comments as "not only insulting and false, but also tantamount to public defamation." In a letter to the councilman, Hussam Ayloush, executive director CAIR's greater Los Angeles area chapter, described the group as the "largest American Muslim advocacy organization," claiming it has "unequivocally condemned all acts of terrorism."
"CAIR is a huge organization with literally thousands of members and volunteers. An organization is not judged by the wrong behavior of a person (that) goes against the policies of the organization," Ayloush said. "We don't practice guilt by association here."
CAIR detractors have risen to Choi's defense, accusing the organization of backing an extreme Islamic political agenda, pointing out that several individuals with ties to the group have been convicted or deported for their connections to terrorist groups.
[my notes: Another smear and create fear tactic usually thrown against every Muslim organization that dares to criticize this administration's neo-con policies or Israel's brutal occupation and practices. CAIR's unequivocal condemnation of all acts of terror, regardless of the perpetrators' religious affiliation, is a well documented fact. Such a principled stance derives from our Islamic teachings which promote justice and respect for human dignity and sanctity of life. Read: CAIR and Muslim response to terrorism ]
Assemblyman Chuck DeVore of Irvine in a blog entry last week wrote that while he had "no doubt that the local chapter of CAIR is filled with many caring people and diligent citizens," he also had "no doubt that CAIR has had its share of members who have supported terrorism and have raised money for terror."
[my notes: Total nonsense and nothing short of bigotry. But again, Chuck DeVore will always be Chuck DeVore. One has to consider the source.
So if one of CAIR's hundreds of thousands of members and supporters is guilty of a crime, the whole organization should be held responsible? By Chuck DeVore's logic (or lack of it), every Republican including DeVore himself must be immoral and guilty since they all belong to the same Republican Party of Randy "Duke" Cunningham (guilty of taking bribes), Jack Abramoff (corrupt lobbyist guilty of corruption and who is associated with most local Republican members of Congress), and of course Senator Larry Craig among many others). This is total nonsense that aims to stoke anti-Muslim paranoia in order to gain a few right-wing votes]
Islamic Center of Irvine President Issa Edah-Tally said he is willing to mediate a meeting between Choi and CAIR. The Islamic Center works with CAIR often, Edah-Tally said, which he described as "in no way a dangerous organization."
"I was shocked to hear that a council candidate made those comments," Edah-Tally said. "I can see how this can create waves of division in the community,"
Choi said he does not plan to meet with CAIR, and does not believe an apology is warranted.
"If anyone has to apologize, it is them for publicly defaming my name," Choi said.
Pat Rodgers, Choi's political ally who is also running for council, defended his criticism of CAIR, who he claimed had taken a non-issue and "thrown gasoline on the fire."
"This thing is not about being a Muslim," Rodgers said. "If you align yourself with an organization like that, you need to prepare yourself for a backlash."
The local political squabbling mirrors the national debate that has unfolded over the past few years between CAIR supporters and critics.
The controversy surrounding CAIR forced Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in 2006 to revoke a certificate of appreciation to a CAIR representative after being targeted by online critics.
[my notes: Read the full details of this story: Boxer gives in to Islamophobia ]
That same year, former state Republican Party chairman Shawn Steel accused Anaheim City Council candidate Bill Daleti of holding "extremist" views, partly due to his support of CAIR. Dalati, who responded by switching from the Republican to Democratic Party, was unsuccessful in his bid for Anaheim City Council.
[my notes: No matter where their political views might be or which political party they belong to, I am confident that the residents of Irvine will continue to refuse the politics of fear mongering and bigotry. Irvine has been a model city in promoting harmony, respect, and tolerance. It will continue to be so.]