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Sanchez takes heat over comment about Muslims

Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a candidate in California’s 2016 U.S. Senate race, is taking heat for comments about Muslims that some have deemed offensive.

Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, a senior member of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, was on PoliticKING with Larry King on Thursday to discuss U.S. efforts against the so-called Islamic State. Early in the segment, she said “we shouldn’t look at people in a one-dimension way – in other words, this is not against all Muslims, this is not about Muslims in our country, many of them are helping us in this heroic fight against ISIS.”

But soon after the first commercial break, King asked Sanchez to discuss President Obama’s hesitance to deem acts like last week’s San Bernardino shooting as “radical Islamic terrorism” – a term many experts say plays into ISIS’ hands by casting this as a holy war.

“We know that there is a small group – and we don’t know big that is, that can be anywhere between 5 and 20 percent from the people that I speak to – that Islam is their religion and who have a desire for a caliphate and to institute that in any way possible, and in particular go after what they consider Western norms, our way of life,” she said. “They are not content enough to have their way of looking at the world, they want to put their way on everybody in the world. And again, I don’t know how big that is, depending on who you talk to, but there certainly, they are willing to go to extremes, they are willing to use – and they do use – terrorism, and it is in the name of a very wrong way of looking at Islam.”

Estimates of ISIS’ fighting force range from 32,000 to 200,000, though that number doesn’t include radical Islamic fundamentalists elsewhere. But the Pew Research Center estimates there were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world as of 2010, making up 23 percent of the world’s population, and it is the world’s fastest-growing religion. In the United States, there are an estimated 1.8 million Muslim adults, just under 1 percent of the nation’s adult population.

Eddie Kurtz, executive director the California-based liberal grassroots Courage Campaign, issued a statement Friday urging Sanchez to quit the Senate race.

“America is a melting pot – and California is the most diverse place in the nation – with more than 388,000 Muslims living as our neighbors and friends across our state. For Rep. Sanchez to suggest that even 5 percent of them would resort to violence is the sort of racist, idiotic nonsense we expect from Donald Trump and right-wing Republicans,” Kurtz said.

“While Rep. Sanchez has a legacy of leadership, these comments make it clear that she does not have the skills, or the judgment to represent our beautiful state and all its peoples in the U.S. Senate,” he said.

The California Immigrant Policy Center demanded an apology.

“At a time when bigoted, Islamophobic rhetoric is spurring troubling incidents of hate across the country – including in Orange County – Representative Loretta Sanchez’ wildly off-the-mark claims are irresponsible and dangerous,” said Reshma Shamasunder, the center’s executive director. “We expect California’s representatives to uphold our values of inclusion and diversity, not trample them. We call upon Rep. Sanchez to immediately apologize.”

Other candidates seeking to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in next year’s election include California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat; Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside; former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette; and former state GOP chairman Duf Sundheim of Los Altos Hills.

UPDATE @ 12:07 P.M.: Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles has now weighed in, too, blasting both Sanchez and LA County Supervisor Michael Antonovich; the latter, in a speech to constituents after the shooting, had said, “The first thing I asked about this incident, was the guy named Mohammad?”

“In the most diverse state in the nation, California’s political leaders must uphold our cherished principles of tolerance and diversity and strive for unity, not divisiveness,” said Karin Wang, the group’s vice president. “We call upon both Representative Sanchez and Supervisor Antonovich to apologize. Their recent comments will serve only to jeopardize the safety of not just Muslim communities but also other South Asian and Middle Eastern communities, as we have already seen from the attack this past weekend against a Sikh temple in Buena Park.”

UPDATE @ 12:48 P.M.: The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American Islamic-Relations now has condemned Sanchez’s comment, too.

“California Muslims are disappointed by the harmful statement made by Rep. Loretta Sanchez about Muslims,” said CAIR-LA spokesman Haroon Manjlai. “Using inaccurate polls that reinforce false stereotypes about the Muslim community, at a time when right-wing bigots are calling for fascist measures against Muslims, is inexcusable, and even more perplexing considering she represents a large Muslim constituency and has had the opportunity to learn how peaceful and patriotic that community is.”

Polls have repeatedly shown that the overwhelming majority of American Muslims, more than any other religious community in the nation, see no justification for violence, he noted.

“While Congresswoman Sanchez’s record on civil rights, especially with the American Muslim community, is praiseworthy, public discourse is not advanced by the use of biased polls that fuel paranoia,” Manjlai said. “In the face of terrorism that knows no faith or morals, we expect our elected leaders to unite us, celebrate our rich diversity, and protect our pluralism. We call on Congresswoman Sanchez to discredit and reject this, and other bias motivated studies that aim to malign Muslims.”

UPDATE @ 1 P.M.: Sanchez’ campaign has just issued a statement, but not an apology.

“Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez is not withdrawing from the U.S. Senate race. California voters will decide who the Senator will be in the 2016 election,” reads the statement sent by spokesman Luis Vizcaino. “I trust they will elect the only candidate with national security experience – Loretta Sanchez is that candidate.”

2

Honda, Lee, Farr vote against Visa Waiver reform

The House voted 407-19 Tuesday to tighten the Visa Waiver Program that lets people from certain countries travel to the United States without first obtaining a visa – a reaction to fear of terrorism, particularly given the roles of French and Belgian nationals in last month’s Paris attacks.

But three Northern California members – Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; and Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel – were among the few who voted against HR 158.

The bill would require visas for anyone who’s been in Iraq or Syria in the previous five years; exceptions are made for official government visits and military service. Countries in the visa waiver program would also be required to share counterterror information with the U.S. or face expulsion from the program. All travelers would be checked against Interpol databases, and visa waiver countries would be required to issue “e-passports” with biometric information.

Sam FarrFarr this evening said the bill “casts too wide a net to be effective. Throwing anyone who travels to Syria or Iraq into the same category as suspected terrorists won’t help us catch the bad guys but it will harm humanitarian efforts there. Investing in better human intel is how we will stop them, not by disrupting tourist travel to the United States.”

Honda went into more detail, noting that although he strongly supports the need for increased security in the Visa Waiver Program, he voted against this bill “because it unjustly targets individuals based on their nationality.”

He said the program, used by 20 million people per year from 38 countries, is far less secure than the two-year screening process to which refugees are subjected, and needs to be improved. He said he supports some parts of this bill, including requiring all travelers to be checked against INTERPOL databases, using fraud-resistant e-passports with biometric information to protect against false identities, and strengthening background check procedures and information-sharing.

honda.jpg“I cannot, however, vote for a bill that categorically bars access to the Visa Waiver Program for dual nationals of Iraq, Syria, Sudan, and Iran and people who have traveled in the last 5 years to Iraq and Syria, including humanitarian workers,” Honda said. “Under this bill, a French citizen of Syrian descent who has never been to Syria would still fall into this blanket category. Since the Visa Waiver Program functions on reciprocity, I am also concerned that this bill will trigger restrictions from other countries on travel for Iraqi, Syrian, Sudanese, and Iranian Americans.”

“I reject the stereotype that Arabs and Muslims are terrorists and I strongly oppose the targeting of people from these specific countries,” he continued. “I know what it is be singled out as a threat and potential enemy due to nationality, despite a lack of evidence and despite being an American citizen. We can and must protect Americans without compromising American values. It is time to refuse wartime hysteria and prejudice based on nationality, and instead show true political leadership.”

UPDATE @ 12:14 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Lee said she shares “the concerns of the ACLU, AILA, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and others that this bill would allow for the discrimination of individuals based on their nationality. We cannot let fear drive us to create bad policies. Congress can and should carefully examine the visa waiver program and I will work to support changes which do not open the door for blanket discrimination.”

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Thompson renews call for background-check bill

Echoing calls from President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton and many others in the wake of last week’s racist-terrorism massacre in Charleston, S.C., Rep. Mike Thompson today urged House GOP leaders to bring his bipartisan background-check bill to a vote.

Thompson, D-St. Helena, is an avid hunter and combat veteran who was tapped to be House Democrats’ point man on gun-control issues soon after the December 2012 schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn. His H.R. 1217, co-authored by Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., would expand the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads.

“Mr. Speaker, last week we witnessed an act of pure hatred and evil in Charleston, S.C.

“This is a time to mourn the victims, to pray for their families, for a community to heal, and for Congress to take action against unchecked and widespread gun violence.

“30-plus people are killed every day by someone using a gun. Mass shootings are becoming almost commonplace. And yet we continue to do nothing.

“No legislation will stop every tragedy. But passing commonsense gun laws will at least stop some.

“We need to pass background checks. It’s our first line of defense against criminals & the dangerously mentally ill getting guns.

“We don’t know what laws could have prevented the shooting in Charleston.

“But we do know that background checks stop help keep guns from dangerous people – and that saves lives.

“If the Republican leadership has a better idea to cut down on gun violence, let’s see it.

“If not, let’s bring commonsense, bipartisan reforms like my bill to expanded criminal background checks up for a vote.”

A Quinnipiac University poll conducted one year ago found 92 percent of Americans – and 92 percent of gun owners – support requiring background checks for all gun buyers. A Public Policy Polling survey conducted this past weekend found 90 percent support.

3

Bartender, a round of Cuba Libres for the House.

Bay Area House members are thrilled by President Obama’s decision today to remove Cuba from the government’s list of state sponsors of terrorism; Republicans, predictably less so.

From Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi“Today, the President has taken an important step forward toward restored relations with Cuba. Taking Cuba off the state sponsors of terror list removes an outdated designation that no longer serves the security interests of the United States, nor the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people.

“This move continues the historic normalization of relations between our countries. It will facilitate the opening of new markets for American banks and businesses, and new opportunities for the people of Cuba.

“I hope we can continue to take our relations in a positive and constructive direction, and build on the historic progress we have made thus far.”

From Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“I am disappointed that the White House seems determined to reward the Castro regime, which has a clear record of repression at home and exporting violence throughout the region. Not even a week has passed since the brutal attacks on Cuban democracy protestors in Panama City during the Summit for the Americas. Those attacks – and the Castros’ long history of human rights violations – demonstrate the folly of revisiting diplomatic relations with this communist dictatorship and removing it from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror.

“Cozying up to the oppressive regime in Cuba is a blow to all who long for liberty and dignity. And it’s just one more example of this administration focusing more on befriending our enemies than helping our allies. The United States has a responsibility to stand strong for all those who struggle for freedom, and the House of Representatives is committed to doing its part.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“I am pleased that President Obama will be removing Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List. This action is long overdue and is an important step toward fully normalizing relations with Cuba.

“Along with many of my colleagues, I have long called for Cuba to be removed from this list. In December of 2013, I wrote a letter calling for de-list Cuba. I have reiterated that call in subsequent letters, including a December 2014 letter signed by 37 of my colleagues, which called for moves toward normalization ahead of the Summit of the Americas.

“The letter stated: ‘Over the years, reports by the State Department on the state sponsors of terrorism, have found no evidence or indication that Cuba provides weapons or training to terrorists. In fact, Cuba now meets global standards for fighting money-laundering and preventing terrorist finance, in addition to playing an active role in bringing Colombia’s civil war to an end.’

“By removing Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List, President Obama is signaling his strong commitment to building a more productive relationship with Cuba. As we continue to move forward, renewed ties will bring great benefits to the Cuban and American people. Given Cuba’s close proximity to the U.S., improved relations will open new trade opportunities that will allow U.S. businesses to expand and create jobs here at home. This will also expand existing education and cultural exchanges.

“Congress also has a critical role to play. It’s past time to end the failed embargo, lift the restrictive travel ban and formally normalize relations. I am glad to be co-leading The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (H.R. 664) and Free Trade with Cuba Act (H.R. 403) to forge a new path between our two countries.”

From Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel:

Sam Farr“As Cuba moves to reintegrate itself into the international community, we must be willing to modernize our relations with them. This decision by the President moves us closer to normalized relations between our two countries. Decades of isolation have not worked so I am glad we are finally talking with our neighbor to push for new path forward in Cuba.

“I have been engaged in Latin American affairs since serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia. At the 2012 Summit in Cartagena, it was clear our position towards Cuba alienated us from the rest of the hemisphere. We must join the rest of the world by engaging with the island to help build a more open and democratic Cuba.”

2

Some Muslim-American thoughts on Charlie Hebdo

As Bay Area residents prepare to stage a solidarity and support vigil outside the French Consulate in San Francisco tonight, here’s a sampling of some Muslim-American thoughts on the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.

From Haris Tarin, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Washington, D.C. office:

“The tragic irony that these criminals displayed is that if they actually gave a cursory look over the Prophet Muhammad’s life, they’d see how he reacted to insults and degrading treatment. The Prophet always responded with mercy and forgiveness. No matter what grievances individuals or communities might have, violence is never the answer.”

From Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Executive Director Nihad Awad:

“We strongly condemn this brutal and cowardly attack and reiterate our repudiation of any such assault on freedom of speech, even speech that mocks faiths and religious figures. The proper response to such attacks on the freedoms we hold dear is not to vilify any faith, but instead to marginalize extremists of all backgrounds who seek to stifle freedom and to create or widen societal divisions.

“We offer sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed or injured in this attack. We also call for the swift apprehension of the perpetrators, who should be punished to the full extent of the law.”

Zahra Billoo, who directs CAIR’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter, posted to her Facebook page and Tweeted that she “supports free speech. ‪#‎CharlieHebdo‬ ‪#‎ParisShooting‬.”

From the Facebook page of Hanif Mohebi, who directs CAIR’s San Diego chapter:

“To my French Muslim brothers and sisters, its absolutely important to condemn the recent violent act, and be very vocal about it. I also recommend that security for Mosques, Islamic Schools and to be very cautious in general. May Allah(swt) save us all.”

From the Facebook page of Shireen Qudosi, who runs a Southern California content, marketing and design agency:

“Home sick today to find more distressing news that should be another wake up call for the fundie-coddling West. Amidst catching up on the news, I see a once-again mushrooming of ‘Where are the Muslims voices speaking out against this?!’ To the nay-sayers, I say this: Please explain to me how you expect reform-minded Muslims, to practically overnight, go toe-to-toe with well-funded radical and sympathetic organizations, who on top of all their funding receive ample Western media support. On the other hand, I’ve had reporters and journalists straight up walk out of the room or not use a single line of interview time because it didn’t subscribe to a victim agenda. We’re speaking out, and we’re doing the best we can on a grassroots level. I can only speak for me personally when I say that I do my best to research and write pro-reform work and network with like-minded individuals, while also working almost two full time jobs and raising a toddler with special needs. I wield my war against radical Islam with a pen, and not with useless hippie protests on a street when I need to be at work fulfilling my commitment to my family. People are so quick to say ‘where are the Muslims’ and very slow to actually understand the juggernaut obstacles we’re working to overcome along with very awkwardly balancing a personal life… and we are overcoming our reform obstacles. When I started my reform work nearly ten years ago, reform wasn’t even an idea and there were only maybe 3 or 4 people speaking out. Now we have a legion. It’s in fact one of the projects I’m working on and you’re welcome to walk the talk even if all you’re doing is sharing this link and message with your network: http://www.gofundme.com/Islamic-Reform
I don’t have time to deal with naysayers, internet trolls, doubters and arm-chair generals. We have real wars to fight and, in this, we don’t have the luxury of entertain people who like to think they’re experts and philosophers. You don’t like Muslims? That’s fine. You don’t need to and I’m not asking you to. But I also don’t need to answer to your petulant demand for answers.”

0

California pols say ‘Je suis Charlie’

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“This was a barbaric attack on innocent French citizens and on our shared belief in the fundamental right of free expression. My thoughts and prayers are with the injured and the families of those killed in this heinous and cowardly act of terror.”

From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

“I condemn today’s horrific terrorist attack in Paris. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the French people. This terrorist attack, like so many before it, is an assault on fundamental democratic principles that are essential to a free society. It is also a reminder that the war on terrorism is not over, that radical Islamic terrorist organizations have not been defeated, and that they continue to pose a threat at home and abroad. Whether it is ISIL in Iraq and Syria, the Taliban, Haqqani network, and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ansar al Sharia and other terrorists in Libya, Boko Haram in Nigeria, or al Qaeda affiliated groups in Yemen, Somalia, and Mali, free and moderate societies face a growing and determined terrorist enemy. We ignore this gathering danger at our peril. We must recommit to our common efforts against these violent enemies and stand with our friends around the world. For their sake and for our own, we must prevail in this fight against violent extremism.”

From Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin:

“An attack on Paris is an attack on all free people across the world. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of French news magazine, Charlie Hebdo. We stand with the French people as they work to apprehend the terrorists.

“This attack serves as another sad reminder of the need to remain vigilant against terrorist threats at home and abroad. As a member of the Homeland Security Committee, I will continue to work to ensure we have the resources necessary to secure our country, as we work with our allies abroad to protect innocent citizens and our democratic ideals. Je Suis Charlie.