LA Mayor Apologizes to Muslim Community

Los Angeles, CA: On Sunday, August 6, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa met with leaders of the Muslim community to apologize for what he called a miscommunication that prevented him from attending an interfaith vigil organized by MPAC for the victims of Middle East violence on July 16. The meeting came two days after the Muslim leaders held a press conference on the steps of LA City Hall to call on the Mayor to represent all Angelenos after he made two appearances at pro-Israeli rallies.
SEE: "Mayor Meets With Muslim Leaders" (Los Angeles Times, 8/7/06)
As they did during the press conference, the Muslim leaders stressed the need for inclusion of a Muslim perspective with regard to issues of such universal significance, and explained that the Mayor's failure to respond to repeated invitations to local interfaith events mourning all the victims of Middle East violence demonstrated a lack of sensitivity toward the pain experienced by more than half a million Muslims living in Southern California.
"We appreciate him giving us the time, especially during the weekend," said Dr. Maher Hathout. "We have no problem with the Jewish people or Judaism or people supporting whichever political view they feel, but there is a difference between the Jewish people and the actions of the state of Israel. This is what we have reservations about."
SEE: "Muslim Leaders Demand Inclusion" (Los Angeles Times, 8/5/06)
"I am speaking as a Latina. You are a role model for the Latino community, which is not fully educated about this issue," said Khadija Galedary, who is president of the LA Latino Muslim Association. "When they see you going to a pro-Israeli rally, you send the message that it is ok to support Israel. You are supposed to stand for human dignity."
During the hour-long meeting, Mayor Villaraigosa sought to dispel notions that Muslim voices were being excluded in local discourse on the Middle East crisis. He also reiterated that he was elected to serve all residents of Los Angeles, and said that no one should be excluded.
"Expressing concern for the innocent victims of conflicts is a commendable act," said Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director of CAIR-LA. "But, it has to be done for all victims in order not to create the perception that one group of victims is more important than the other, which I know is not the case with Mayor Villaraigosa."
Among other Muslim leaders who attended the meeting included (in alphabetical order): Ahmed Ali (Council of Pakistan American Affairs), Imam Abdelkarim Hassan (Bilal Islamic Center), Imam Naim Shah (Ilm Foundation), Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi and Shakeel Syed (Islamic Shura Council of Southern California).
"Mayor Villaraigosa demonstrated leadership in taking responsibility and is determined to move forward in the most constructive way," MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati said.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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