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California Republican Rep. Ed Royce on Thursday defended his participation one month ago in an anti-Muslim rally after video footage of the event sparked an uproar via the Internet.
The video, released this past Wednesday by the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil liberties group, shows protesters armed with signs, bullhorns and American flags in Orange County, Calif. shouting "Go back home," and other heckling statements to adults as well as to families with children. The targets of the verbal attacks were Muslim-Americans attending a fundraiser to support local women's shelters, hunger and homelessness, the Orange County Register reported.
Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) was also in attendance, according to reports, but is not featured on CAIR's video.
Royce stressed in a statement Thursday that the goal of the protest wasn't to hurl verbal abuse at Muslims attending the homelessness fundraiser. Rather, Royce stressed that the demonstrators were gathered to denounce the event's two keynote speakers, Imam Siraj Wahhaj and Amir Abdel Malik-Ali, and their extremist rhetoric:
We spoke at the park adjacent to the community center. It is regrettable that some protesters at the community center yelled insults at Imam Wahhaj's supporters. Nothing though should deflect from the radicalism of Wahhaj and Malik-Ali.
Malik-Ali is a vocal critic of Israel who has publicly stated support for Hamas and Hezbollah. Wahhaj was named as a co-conspirator along with 169 others in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, but he was never charged and has denied involvement. Royce and others believe Wahhaj wants to replace our democracy with sharia law.
Royce can be heard on the video suggesting that Americans have come under the sway of the dogma of multiculturalism, which inhibits them from recognizing and rejecting extremism: "A big part of the problem that we face today is that our children have been taught at schools that every idea is right, that no one should criticize others' positions, no matter how odious. And what do we call that? They call it multiculturalism and it has paralyzed too many of our fellow citizens to make the critical judgments we need to make to prosper as a society."
Villa Park city councilwoman Deborah Pauly said from the stage: "I know quite a few Marines who will be very happy to help these terrorists to an early meeting in paradise."
Some critics have labeled the event a hate rally. Some sample comments on the CAIR video, which appear to come from the anti-imam protestors: "You are stupid terrorists! Go home! Go home! Go home!"; "Why don't you go home and beat up your wife like you do every night?" "One nation under God, not Allah. Get out of here."
The rally included involvement from local tea party group "We Surround Them OC 912" and the North Orange County Conservative Coalition, among others.
The website for the "We Surround Them'" group states: "We are not racists--we are not violent--we are just no longer silent."
(Screenshot of Royce speaking at the rally: SATV)