The group the Islamic Circle of North America, based in New York, scheduled a dinner in Yorba Linda, California, for February 13, to raise money to fight hunger and homelessness. They invited several speakers to talk about charity work -- among them were Imam Siraj Wahhaj and Amir Abdel Malik Ali, long targets of the right-wing, for reasons described by the OC Register:
Many in the crowd outside the event said they were concerned about past anti-American statements by the event's two keynote speakers, Imam Siraj Wahhaj and Amir Abdel Malik Ali. Wahhaj is an imam at a mosque in Brooklyn. A U.S. attorney named him and 169 others as co-conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Wahhaj was never charged and has denied involvement.
Malik Ali is a Bay Area Islamic activist who spoke at "Israeli Apartheid Week" at UC Irvine in 2010. There he said he supports Hezbollah, which the CIA labels a terrorist group.
ICNA spokesman Syed Waqas told the Register in response that the protesters "should know the facts. We have no links to any overseas organization. We absolutely denounce violence and terrorism."
He also told Justin Elliott of Salon: "We invited the speakers for their social services work in Brooklyn and Oakland, and not because of their political stances on the Middle East -- which we may or may not have agreed with."
But a number local residents were not allayed. Some of them organized a protest against the event, and even managed to get a few lawmakers involved, including Villa Park Councilwoman Deborah Pauly (R), Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), and Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA). Groups like Act! For America, whose leader Brigitte Gabriel has made a number of anti-Muslim remarks, We Surround Them OC 912, a part of Glenn Beck's 912 Movement, and anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller all endorsed the event.
The CAIR video is a montage of clips from the main protest, along with clips of what the Register described as a "splinter" group of about 100 protesters. This group broke off from the speeches and gathered around the entrance to the community center, jeering as Muslims arrived for the dinner. The chants ranged from "Go back home" and "USA", to individuals yelling out "Mohammed was a pervert, Mohammed was a fraud," "terrorist lovers - your hands are bloody," and "stupid terrorists go home, go home, go home. No sharia. You beat your wife too? Are you molester?"
The difference between the two protests is clear from the video -- the lawmakers spoke during the day, from behind a flag-draped podium, while the other protests take place at night around the community center:
The protest started at about 3pm, and, as the OC register puts it, had a "July 4 picnic" kind of a feel -- but had some anti-Muslim rhetoric as well. Particularly virulent was Villa Park Council Member Deborah Pauly, who is also Vice-Chair of the Orange County GOP. "What's going on over there right now," Pauly said of the fundraiser, "make no bones about it -- that is pure, unadulterated evil."
I don't even care if you think I'm crazy anymore. I have a beautiful daughter, I have a wonderful 19 year old son who is a United States Marine. As a matter of fact, I know quite a few marines who will be very happy to help these terrorists to an early meeting in paradise.
Rep. Ed Royce argued that "a big part of the problem we face today is that our children have been taught in schools that every idea is right, that no one should criticize other's positions no matter how odious."
"They call it multiculturalism," Royce continued, "and it has paralyzed too many of our fellow citizens to make the critical judgment we need to make to prosper as a society."
He added: "Be peaceful, be composed, but let's send a signal that people in this country are waking up."
Rep. Gary Miller also made remarks, saying: "I am proud of you, I am proud of what you're doing. I am proud of this country and what we believe in, and let's not let people who disagree destroy it."
Here's the full, uncut video of the speakers. Royce comes in at 20:28, Miller at 30:50, and Pauly at 42:32:
Some of the attendees distanced themselves from the "splinter" group. Royce defended his appearance at the protest in a statement, but condemned the language of the other protests:
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. 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 though should deflect from the radicalism of Wahhaj and Malik-Ali.
Act! For America called the video "grossly deceptive" and "an edited stringing together of at least three different videos, shot at different times and in two different places." The group also denied sponsoring the rally, like the video claims, and added: "We are confident the truth about radical Islam speaks for itself, and the kind of tactics employed by some of the protestors we consider abhorrent, disrespectful and counterproductive."
Miller and Pauly did not return TPM's request for comment.
Late Update: Munira Syeda of CAIR-LA sent TPM this statement on the protests:
The authenticity of the video is beyond doubt. The 5-minute content is a compilation from about two hours of news coverage and our own raw footage of the same protest. Instead of re-writing the history of this anti-Muslim incident, public officials in attendance should have the integrity to take responsibility for enabling the shameful hours-long protest against peaceful families, including many children. Anti-Muslim incitement and slurs were expressed at every stage of the protest, during the speeches and once Muslim families started arriving to the event.