By Waqas Syed
Irvine, California (March 3, 2011) – Hateful protests recently held against the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Relief fundraising dinner shed light on growing Islamophobia in our country and the participation of elected officials in this frightening trend.

ICNA was established in 1968, and through ICNA Relief we have launched numerous projects to assist struggling populations in the United States. Our social services include hunger prevention, disaster response and relief, women’s housing and family counseling, as well as emergency financial aid and funeral/burial assistance. We have teamed with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the American Red Cross, NECHAMA and other relief agencies and consistently work to bring aid to those in need. Our annual dinner last week in Yorba Linda was a means to further our local efforts and raise funds to fight homelessness and abuse.
As American Muslims, we have witnessed a rise in Islamophobia and its devastating repercussions across the nation, with mosques and homes being vandalized, Muslims being physically attacked, and the American Muslim community being subjected to Congressional hearings a la McCarthy—blatant acts of hate rooted in anti-Islamic sentiment. Islamophobia has undermined the values binding us together as Americans—freedom, liberty, justice and equality. From Temecula to Murfreesboro to New York City, the manifestation of this fear has become increasingly apparent.

A child covers his ears as the shofar is blown, a sound that one protester says, “(announces) to the enemy that God’s army is coming.”

Mimicking the national discourse surrounding American Muslims, protesters that Sunday yelled absurdities and vulgarities at families and their children attending the dinner, with Councilwoman Deborah Pauly even volunteering to “help these terrorists [event organizers and attendees] to an early meeting in paradise.” What’s most disturbing is not the protest itself or the ignorance expressed; in fact we at ICNA fully affirm the right of protesters to free speech. What should be of real concern to Orange County residents is the lack of civility displayed on their own front lawns.
Deborah Pauly, local Councilwoman & Vice Chair of the OC GOP referred to organizers and attendees of the event as “enemies of America” and “unwelcome invaders.” “I know quite a few Marines who would be very happy to help these terrorists (i.e. organizers and attendees) to an early meeting in paradise,” she said. She called the dinner “pure, unadulterated evil,” and compared it to a terrorist event urging the crowd to “pick a side, we must stand strong… we must resist evil.”

To protesters, I remind you that prejudice and fear mongering will simply incite hatred. It is only through civil dialogue that we will be able to create an atmosphere of mutual understanding and peace. We must leave bigotry behind and work toward an Orange County that promotes cooperation, collaboration and respect for one another and ultimately upholds the American values of inclusion and fair treatment. The future of our nation depends on these principles, as our children will belong to a more diverse and multicultural society than our own. They will need to learn respect and tolerance to coexist with their fellow Americans, and the responsibility to teach them lies with us; what will remain of these honorable traits if they are already in such short supply?
These qualities should be foremost represented in our elected officials, yet it is with great disappointment that we witnessed Congressmen Ed Royce of Fullerton and Gary Miller of Diamond Bar being complicit in the toxic, inflammatory rhetoric that was spewed against the half million American Muslims they have sworn to protect. Their participation in such rallies is inappropriate and irresponsible, to say the least, and essentially shows a lack of leadership and judgment.
To Congressmen Ed Royce and Gary Miller—it is your civic duty to represent all constituents, yet time and again you have stood beside those who seek to strip American Muslims of their fundamental rights. You distribute flags at a rally against our fundraising dinner, but do not extend that service to the dinner itself. You speak out against American Muslims in Yorba Linda, but do not speak for us. Your biased actions contribute to a climate of hate and intolerance, and suggest that American Muslims are somehow less American simply by virtue of their faith. I urge you to revisit your oath and uphold the constitution and your responsibility to the citizens of your district.
Waqas Syed is a long time resident of Orange County and the current Deputy Secretary General of ICNA. E-mail: ICNA PR Email
[Photo Credit: Orange County Register]

42 Responses

  1. I just sent Deborah Pauly this message:
    Ms. Pauly: I am shocked and disgusted by, and condemn unequivocally, your horrifying hate speech against Muslims. One of the lessons of the Holocaust for humanity is that never again must any nation allow itself to be pulled over to the dark side by the forces of irrational hate. That you use your son, a marine, as a weapon in your bigotry makes you all the more of a disgrace to our entire nation. I wonder if you realize that the Sears Tower in Chicago, an icon of the American heartland, was structurally engineered by a Muslim. Shame on you. I intend to contact the Muslim groups you protested and let them know that you are dishonorable and that I support their liberties in our society. Is there anything anybody could say to you that would make you comprehend how hateful and vile your views are? I am truly appalled by your behavior. Sincerely, Scott Rose

  2. I think it horribly ironic that people complain about the antagonizing and violent ideology of Islam, yet every protest I see involves hateful and vitriolic speech directed from others at Muslims, who are peaceful and even welcoming of those with opposing views in an attempt to create understanding.
    I wish more people would simply tone it down. Not everyone will agree with the teachings of a religion, but this message goes far beyond that. It is not American, it is not what the country or its constitution represents, and it makes me sad to see them treat fellow Americans this way.
    While I do not think any plea for civil discourse will be answered by the type seen in the footage of the dinner event, it is a nice gesture, and I admire the patience of so many people who have to put up with this sort of thing every day; and for every one of them, there are countless others who are open-minded, accepting and welcoming to others, even if we do not fully understand them. This too will pass.
    Keep it up. Peaceful discussion and the offer to teach are two important things that they who would call themselves patriots would do well to follow. Sanity and reason are not as loud of voices as bigotry and hate, but they do exist, and from one sane person in the world, you are welcome here, and have our support.

  3. I am a grandchild of holocaust survivors. I am also a social worker for a youth homelessness prevention/intervention program. There are no words that can accurately reflect how truly appalling the behaviour of these protestors was. As a fellow human being I am truly sorry that those families had to endure such hatred.

  4. All what anyone can say is as the prophet SAW said when he was prosecuted by his own people “Forgive them God, as they don’t know”.
    I disagree with the harsh word sent aginst the protestors. I will just enlight them with more knowledge. Obviously their knowledge about Islam is reflrcted only of what they see and hear from what is going on from the radical muslims (muslims?). Islam is all about equality, unity, and peace as it had been throughout the history.
    No religion should be built or stand on hate to anyone, regardless of what other ethnic, religious, or social background is.
    It is so nice to live in a diversiied world, so we have to cherish this gift from god and not take is as an insult.

  5. As a Christian I would like to thank your organization for all you do by helping those in need. I hope that a few uneducated folks who do not know the true meaning of love, service, and mission will not deter you from carrying on the important work that you do.

  6. America! Wake up and understand this is by far a welcome party for Al-Qaeda Activist. You have some extremist in every religion, they will lay down their life to protect it. In this case, putting enough fuel to turn ones head around and make him do crazy stuff would be a unfortunate incident.
    Protest, mockery, insult to one’s religion will ignite the fire for revenge. Treat others the way you like to be treated. That’s is what I learned from the “Proper” context of Islam. I think these protest does not reduce the problem, it expands it by two-third proportions.

  7. To those of you who have commented above, a heart-felt ‘thank you!’ Watching this pack of wolves (audaciously draped in the Stars and Stripes – as though it is theirs to claim) is quite jarring on the senses and leaves me clueless about where to start with such naked impudence, such small-mindedness. What they are saying about Islam and Muslims couldn’t be further from the truth. Shariah law in the United States? Muslims can’t even decide when Ramadan starts or who to elect to their board of directors, let alone implement Shariah law across the United States of America. ‘I bet you beat your wife up every night?’ You’ve got to be kidding me! Seriously?
    What troubles me just as much is two members of Congress not not seeing a problem with it all, and adding to the fuel by showing support of their activities. Troubling to say the least! Surely, they must know better.

  8. I am an East Indian American and I am republican and I am against terrorism. I was embarassed to see what happened to the members of your association. Here you are trying to help those in need and this is what your organization has to suffer through. I felt so much pain watching your children go though that aweful path to the building. Those politicians involved and protesters should be ashamed.

  9. It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
    -Thomas Jefferson

  10. Thankyou to all who have written comments above and given me hope. Its good to know that there are still people in American who are thinking on their own and not letting the media mould their views. It is our responsibility, as Muslims, to be good role models and educate the masses about the truth. Little do these protesters know that a lot of American laws are shariah laws…since they are based on justice for all, protecting life, freedom of religion…Believe it or not but these are Shariah laws as well.

  11. I saw this video yesterday and I’ve been disgusted ever since. As a fellow American, I am appalled by this hatred and wanted to reach out to you and express my deep sorrow that this ignorance, hatred, and verbal violence was hurled at you. As a Jewish woman, I decry the statements by the rabbi in attendance and want to reiterate that I support religious freedom and learning across boundaries. I am so sorry that your members and donors had to experience this, and wanted to reach out to stand in solidarity against hatred.

  12. World watches the leader of the free world and some of it’s politician and their cronies…their true color.What a shame what a shame!

  13. I am horrified by these attitudes. The ignorance displayed by these protestors shows on so many different levels. I am both disgusted and ashamed by these actions. I’m Canadian but the changing political climate makes me feel concern over bringing my fiance (an Indonesian Muslim) to this continent in general. I was welcomed in his country with open arms… but I fear this side of the world may be too ignorant to reciprocate.

  14. I’d like to apologize on the behalf of a few select idiots who are too narrow-minded and stupid to apologize themselves. I will be emailing Ms. Pauly (I don’t live in California, so I don’t think she cares- oh well). I am also Jewish and I am INCREDIBLY sorry to see a member of the Jewish faith acting so hatefully. Please continue with the good works that you do.

  15. Jazakallahu Khair to the individuals who have given such supporting words to us Muslims. May God bless you all with your loving hearts. Ya know – I have grown up in So Cal – Los Angeles. Being raised by Democratic hippies, I was raised with this sort of hatred towards OC people. I was always told they were Republican Nazis.. LoL. Anyway, when I converted to Islam in 2004 – I was very shocked to see that largest Muslim community was in the O.C. So, I guess, when I read the hatred that goes on in this article – I am not surprised. I have told so many of my Muslims friends (who were not raised in So Cal) – “Why do you want to live in the O.C. – ick?” LoL – but, again, this just sort of reiterates what my parents taught me many, many moons ago. Anyway.. hang tight my O.C. Brothers and Sisters and if all else fails – move the San Fernando Valley – we are rockin here… 🙂

  16. The vast majority of this country is appalled at such a display of hatred and bigotry. These “protesters” are cruel people fueled by willful ignorance, and I am ashamed that they call themselves Americans.
    I support you and applaud you for all the good work you do. My sincere condolences for the way you have been treated. Please do not be discouraged by those who lack empathy, compassion and the slightest shred of understanding.
    This is your country, too.

  17. real americans are good people, they dont hate fellow americans but there exist some bad apples in all society. some christian churches even allowed muslims to pray in their churches on fridays. continue your good works for america. god bless you!and god bless america!

  18. Peace and blessing of God to all, I think we should not get upset and react negatively to the whole situation, these protesters are iggnorant about Islam, islamic concept of God and the life of Prophet Mohammed. Let’s take this oppertunity to invite the speakers and others to a Muslim dialogue, show them with kindness, generosity who muslims are and Islam is. They were not shouting against Islam and Muslims and disrespecting Allah and his Prophet, but saying why muslims have lost their role as a messenger of Alah, why you have not taught us the values of Islam.Why muslims have peace, values, families, less social and moral issues then us. They came to beg for help. Lets accept the challenge and approach them and fullfil our obligation towards Allah and his Prophet. May Allah guide all of us to the right path.Amen

  19. Do you financially/morally support people who have been sued in terrorist lawsuits?
    Is that Siraj Wahhaj and Malik Ali were invited to your charity event besides the fact that both are involved in extremist positions? What is your response to this and their accusations? Showing children is your way to claim your victim status in this case?
    Regardless the innocent children who were not supposed to be here regarding the real purpose of your organization and the unpopular way some American expressed their “freedom of speech”, you haven’t given any response to them.
    This article and video are “emotional” without any demonstration, explanation, proof of the honesty of your organization and the unjustified hate of those citizens you stated. You guys reject the fact that your “religion” contain “far more violence” than the one expressed by those American who defend the most diverse country in the world (based on ethnicity and belief).
    They are American, because of that, they respect diversity but we cannot accept Islam or even any Islamic organizations like yours which work against what we represent. You fight against our system but you benefit from it in your conquest.
    I’m disgusted about how people who pretend to be American spit on their flag. I’m not American but as an African-French I state like any proud citizen that, you are not welcome in any democracy because of your beliefs and the threat you represent.
    America is based on multiculturalism, nobody care about beliefs or color skins, it’s just that “Islam is not a religion”, “is not peace”, “peace Muslims are just passives”, and your organization and any Muslim worldwide shouldn’t benefit of the protection of our constitutions.
    People like me are going to be awake/aware and throw you out of their country for the maintaining of their democracy.
    Sorry to say Muslims are the poorest contribution of the beautiful multiculturalism of the modern world.

  20. “I know quite a few Marines who would be very happy to help these terrorists (i.e. organizers and attendees) to an early meeting in paradise,”: Ok, so she is saying that she knows quite a few marines that would be very happy to kill the people attending the fundraiser. If she was a Muslim, she would be arrested for incitement and her face would be on the front page with the label “Terrorist”. She is Anwar Awlaki’s counterpart.

  21. I am so sorry. I couldn’t watch the entire video…it sickened me.
    So much hate and fear.
    Most people in this country are not that way.
    Peace and love to you,
    Marilyn Stanley

  22. I cannot express how much disappointment I feel for “my fellow Americans” when I watch that video. It illustrates pure bigotry, and fortunately they constitute a minority. I wish to convey my regards and along with others, send forth positive wishes. I hope that such a misguided group may never deter the efforts of your organization, or the spirit of American Muslims.
    – All the best from Brooklyn, New York!

  23. I am an American Baptist minister and I’d like to apologize on behalf of all those who call themselves Christians but act in ways that Jesus never would. I echo your call to civil dialogue.
    Islam is a beautiful faith. I wish it was easier to see how beautiful Christianity is too, but it’s been muddied by those who act out of fear without recognizing faith.
    It’s ironic; these protesters are doing the same thing to Christianity that extremists have done to Islam: their hate sullies the reputation of a peaceful faith.

    so tell me, how did cair get your org to change how it viewed the protest?
    and why to this day do you make sure that malik ali’s name or image is shown anywhere in connection with this event?
    why did you invite a troofer, anti semite and a hater of america to speak to your group??
    you cannot just dismiss his hate speech….answer the question
    how much of the 60,000 dollars raised will be sent off to hamas, hezbollah and the muslim brotherhood?

  25. @Anthony – Imam Siraj Wahaj was one of the first Muslim-Americans called upon by the American Government and the State of NY for counsel/insite into the Twin Towers tragedy in September, 2011. He has met and was asked to do prayers at the White House when George W was President. I have listened to many of his lectures and met him many times. Not once has he ever preached hatred. He is a kind, loving man.
    And, how DARE you state, “People like me are going to be awake/aware and throw you out of their country for the maintaining of their democracy” – I was born and raised in this country and have every right to practice whatever religion I choose.
    You must remember – the only “true” Americans are Native American Indian. The rest of us are the children of immigrants to this great country of ours. So stick that in your pipe and smoke it..

  26. Hello everybody i am a born and raised American Muslim and i have a solution to combating Muslims from becoming violent extremists and targeting Americas like me, here it goes first instead of singling out one religion like Muslims and putting them on trial for radicalization we have to put first christian extremist on trial like the ones that say god told them to invade Afghanistan and say that this is a crusade and used American secular tax dollar like mine to put bible verses on weapons and use those weapons to go and invade Muslim country’s and kill millions far more than 9/11 pre or post, and occupy their land prop up, fund brutal oppressive dictators for generations that torture,kill & steal the Muslims wealth, while the Neo Cons, and the imperialist crusader christian fascists steal there natural resources (Now i want everyone to imagine that if the Chinese were doing that to the U.S. and how you would feel)…….If we Americans remove all of the Zionist christian neo con extremist fascists who have hi-jacked are foreign policy we will not have Muslims wanting to kill Americans and we wouldn’t be wasting trillions of dollars on this so called war on terror (which is an oxymoron for the fact that war is terror) and that have put this country in debt and its all because of the Jerry farewells,bushes,John Hagee,Joe Lieberman, Rod Parsley religious ideology even though America is not a christian or Jewish or Muslim country it is a secular democratic country so i don’t know how they can invade Muslims country’s which are not and stand on the pulpit and lecture to them about secularism,democracy,tolerance, & freedom while here in America a secular democratic country taking the rights of gays,females,abortionist,minority’s such as myself and other Muslims, well i hope some one out there with a reasonable judgment can fallow what i said but for the record i condemn violence on innocent civilians im just waiting for the peace loving Christians who say they believe that when slapped show the other cheek and love there enemy to just come out for once and condemn the violence that’s done on Muslims from Christians yes Christians the same Christians like bush who called this a crusade and said that god told him to invade…… and a side note to all of the Islamophobes out there you can look in the quran left and right you will not see verses showing how to hi jack planes and fly them into buildings or how to make IEDs it was the CIA in Afghanistan that taught the jihadist and Taliban how to do that by the way in Islam are view on violence is this if you attack me we have the right to self defense so that’s why there are Muslims out there that are wanting to take out the crusader invaders who are plundering are lands and propping up dictators who are taking are freedom from practicing are religion in peace. Thank you for having the patience in reading this even though my spelling and grammar is far from perfect and again hopefully anyone out there can take some advice from what we are saying and i am not anti christian i just don’t like Christian extremist & the double standards when it comes to Muslims or Christians practicing violence that’s all

  27. Dear Muslim Americans, the people protesting at your fundraiser are not actual Americans; they are idiots. Please don’t confuse their use of flags for patriotism, and please don’t assume their behavior is normal. The rest of us are terribly sorry you had to put up with that. It’s a shame that free speech is obliged to allow such nonsense to continue.
    For the record, I’m a generic, boring, white Southerner 🙂

  28. @Anthony, Islam is roughly 500 years younger than Christianity. When Christianity was 500 years younger, Christians were burning people at the stake for being non-Christian and holding Galileo under house arrest for doing proper science.
    I DARE you to actually do some math and tally up the deaths attributable to Christian acts VS Muslim acts. You’ll find that you are a fool, and that the Christians still win that competition by a landslide.
    The Islamic culture is still young and turbulent by anthropological standards. It is coming of age in just the same way every other large scale western culture did so far, and the amount of violence involved is certainly no worse, if not less. They’ve had no Inquisitions, no Crusades, no black plague.
    You fail to acknowledge the role of time in cultural growth, and probably in everything you do. Learn to be a creature with actual functional time-dependent consciousness before spouting your mouth off in “enemy” territory.

  29. @ ALL SUNNIES:-
    You know what – and a lot of you are not going to like it – but how is this Christian bigotry any different than Sunni bigotry against the Shia? Of course not every Christian is like those above and not every Sunni is a bigot and not every Shia is a bigot but we all know they exist and are the the vocal minority as compared to silent majority.
    We – Shia – recieve a lot of hate mongering, vicious lies and fabrications, curses, insults etc. THERE ARE FATWAS TO KILL US. Atlest the muslims above were not murdered and their muderors were not made into heroes such as Zarqawis but in our case we and our families are killed brutally.
    I guess the point i am trying to make is that If you hated and are bothered by what you saw above and were as much as disgusted as i am, then you should be honorable and dignified enough to be willing to give eqaul rights to other minorites those very rights that you want from yourselves as well.
    The very fact that if you want a set of rights for yourselves are not willing to give the same set of right to others makes you Hypocrites and you might as well be one of the hypocrites above since hypocrasy has no religion, faith, nationality or creed.
    Fawad Sayed.

  30. I feel so bad for the kids. They are looking around, so scared and frightened with these jerks screaming insults. I felt really disgusted after watching this video, how can she do this?
    Thank you to all of the Christians and Jews who condemn her and said words of encouragement to us.

  31. @ needs to be said: It is interesting how one website can promote free speech, the “just” stance on issues, and act as the victim, when the mass of Christians are not being represented by the ignorance of the OC protestors. This website and this article is no different from any other article on any other website supporting a certain cause. It takes a stance, and a stance that portrays the entire Muslim community in America to be persecuted. I wish for the ICNA to be a little more open to a variance of ideas, not just posts condemning Christians as ignorant fools. America, since 9/11 is fearful and confused. Many ignorant Christians do not understand that Islam is one of the most peaceful religions, and ironically can be paralleled to Christianity in many ways. The Christians who protest Islam are ignorant, just as ANYONE in this country who practices hate. It’s hard to call Muslim Americans totally peaceful when there exist organizations like CAIR who practically everything-but support Hamas and Hezbollah (while simultaneously condemning Al-Qaeda). In Islam, there is no room for hate, but many Muslims and Christians do not understand that. Fundamentalists, radical Islam does not represent the bulk of Muslims, just as the OC Christians do not represent me or anyone I know as loving and law abiding Roman Catholic-Christian Americans. Surely there is a verse in the Q’ran that discusses removing the plank in one’s own eye before removing the speck in your brothers. Either way you want to look at this unfortunate situation of hateful, despicable protesting, a few can ruin the image of the many. Say no to hate on both ends of the spectrum brothers and sisters.

  32. I just saw this video on facebook, and I really just wanted to say that I am honestly appalled. I’m a non-religious person, but I believe in people’s freedom and right to practice. I never thought such uneducated bigots could exist in this country, but I guess I was wrong. I am so sorry for what everyone at that meeting had to endure. I am proud to have seen so many ignoring the crazy people yelling at them outside. I hate that such terrible things were said, that government officials spoke at this rally and gave it some sort of legitimacy, and that they were so persistent in their hatred. They have no love for freedom, unlike those who were at the meeting. Anyone who has that much hate and acts on it so grievously has no place in America. There is no patriotism in their words, just anger and hate.
    No one deserves to be treated like these so-called ‘protesters’ treated everyone attending the ICNA meeting.

  33. As I have said elsewhere, I don’t agree with the protestors but Muslims have been guilty of violent protests because they didn’t like cartoons or even comments about Mohammed, or beauty pageants. They have stoned people on mere suspicion of violating their behavior codes, and thrown acid in the faces of girls who only wanted to attend school. Were this not the case, I would be more sympathetic. The protestors are rude and intolerant, but their actions are far less harmful than I have seen from Muslims on YouTube.

  34. You can’t blame all Muslims, particularly American Muslims, for what a
    Minority do somewhere else. It’s like saying these extreme protestors represent all Americans.

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