Participants at a protest outside an Islamic Circle of North America Relief (ICNA) USA fundraiser are disputing the way the gathering has been characterized in edited footage the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is circulating.
In mid-February hundreds of Californians gathered outside the Yorba Linda Community Center to protest the anti-American rhetoric supported by the ICNA event’s speakers — Imam Siraj Wahhaj, who was named as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and Amir Abdel Malik Ali, a self-identified supporter of the terrorist group Hezbollah.
According to reports from witnesses, among hundreds of attendees there was a small faction that got out of line. CAIR has put out footage of those few, reportedly serving to demonize the entire group, including elected officials who spoke at the protest rally nearby.
“We spoke at the park adjacent to the community center, and I spoke to the issue of Wahhaj and Malik-Ali, the speakers at the community center,” said California Republican Rep. Ed Royce in a statement. “It is regrettable that some protesters at the community center yelled insults at Imam Wahhaj’s supporters. I disavow those remarks and conduct. It was wrong. Nothing should deflect from the radicalism of Wahhaj and Malik-Ali,”
Pamela Geller, co-founder of the Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America, also took issue with CAIR’s characterization of the event.
“[T]hat video was cut to highlight bad behavior, which I don’t encourage, nor do you see at my rallies,” Geller told the blog Mental Recession.“It is also important to remember that ICNA is not a benign charitable organization, but an Islamic supremacist group with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. It explicitly calls for Sharia rule, which institutionalizes oppression of women and non-Muslims and denies the freedom of speech and the freedom of conscience. This does not excuse people behaving obnoxiously toward ICNA members, but ICNA itself stands for a far greater repression and denial of human rights than that which is represented by a few insulting remarks.”
The first vice chair of the Orange County G.O.P. Organizing Committee, Deborah Pauly — who is seen in the video saying that her son is a Marine and that she knows “quite a few Marines who would be very happy to help these terrorists to an early meeting in paradise” — told the local NBC affiliate that her words were taken out of context to fit the narrative.
“This was edited to completely change the context. I was referring to terrorists who believe their actions of violence will lead them to paradise, and not the people at the fundraiser,” Pauly said, adding that the group featured in the video were likely not with the original protesters, since the footage was shot in the evening while her group protested in the afternoon.
In a statement CAIR-LA condemned the protesters.
“We support the First Amendment right of protesters anywhere in America to voice their concerns, dissent and even hatred. However, when our nation’s foundational values of inclusiveness, pluralism and equality are attacked by some in favor of calls for advocating hate and violence, then all Americans have a responsibility to challenge and expose such bigotry and those who enable it.”
The video has appeared in numerous news outlets including the Huffington Post and Al Jazeera.