The mayor of Redding got into hot water with some comments he made about Islam last week.
The occasion was a prayer event held Thursday on the steps of the Shasta County Courthouse and emceed by state Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale.
Redding Mayor Ken Murray said Christians and Muslim extremists are engaged in “a war to the spiritual death of one of us,” according to a Redding Record-Searchlight article.
According to the newspaper, Murray attacked the smaller of the two branches of Islam, the Shiites, saying adherents believe lying, cheating, stealing and killing are acceptable if they are done to glorify Allah.
These remarks and others he reportedly made brought Murray criticism in the form of an editorial by the Record-Searchlight.
In addition, a national Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) sent out an e-mail bulletin calling on “Californians to repudiate” the mayor’s remarks.
In a phone interview Monday afternoon, Murray said he apologized on a Redding radio station that morning, but he wasn’t sure his apology would satisfy all his critics.
According to the Record-Searchlight, after the prayer event, Murray said he distinguished between “mainstream” Muslims and Shiites, whom he called “wing nuts.”
The newspaper reported Murray said, “Either the Judeo-Christian philosophy will survive or the Islamic philosophy will survive.”
Asked by the Enterprise-Record if he’d been quoted accurately, Murray said, “not exactly.”
The E-R asked Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for CAIR, about the Shiites and the mayor’s remarks.
Hooper said the comments didn’t make sense. Like the larger Sunni group, the Shiites include millions of ordinary Muslims who are not violent or lawless, he said.
The differences between the two groups aren’t as great as those between Catholics and Protestants in the Christian world, he said.
Ali Sarsour, a Sunni Muslim from Chico, said he’s known many Shiite Muslims from Chico and Yuba City and found them to be “fantastic people,” who love peace and obey the laws.
On the radio talk show he hosts in Redding, Murray explained Monday morning that he’d used the wrong term. He said “Shiites” while meaning the Wahhabi.
According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, Wahhabism, named after a leader who lived in the 1800s, is the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Its followers seek a very pure form of the religion, the article stated.
But Hooper, of CAIR, said no Muslims today would call themselves Wahhabis. It’s become a pejorative term that means an extremist or violent person, he said. The only people he hears using it, he said, are those who “aren’t very fond of Islam.”
Hooper said he thought Murray and maybe others in the north valley could benefit from meeting with some Muslims and learning about their religion. He offered to facilitate such a meeting.