(LOS ANGELES, CA, 2/9/10) — The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA), the Islamic Center of the North Valley (ICNV) in Lancaster and the American Islamic Institute of Antelope Valley (AIIAV) in Palmdale today welcomed an apology from a mayor in that state who recently said he is “growing a Christian community.”
Last week, CAIR-LA sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) calling for an investigation into a possible violation of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause by Lancaster, Calif., Mayor Rex Parris.
SEE: Lancaster Mayor Comes Under Fire from Muslim Organization (LA Times)
In his “State of the City” address, mayor Parris said: “We’re growing a Christian community, and don’t let anybody shy away from that…I need (Lancaster community) standing up and saying we’re a Christian community, and we’re proud of that.”
[Media reports indicate that Mayor Parris is now going to reimburse the city for its cost of putting on the event in question.]
On Monday, Mayor Parris held a news conference with religious leaders to apologize for his earlier remarks. In his statement, Parris said: “I sincerely apologize to anyone who felt excluded…I think that communities are robust and vibrant when we do everything we can to facilitate all churches, all religions, all faiths to have a robust, vital part of that community.”
Also on Monday, the Antelope Valley Human Relations Task Force voted unanimously to send strong letters of condemnation to Mayor Parris and to Lancaster Councilwoman Sherry Marquez, who recently made anti-Islam statements.
SEE: Panel Votes to Condemn Remarks
“We welcome Mayor Parris’ apology and his outreach to the diverse faith leaders in the city,” said CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush. “This episode demonstrates that we must all come together as Americans to uphold the constitutional principle of separation of church and state and to maintain the values of inclusiveness and fair treatment.”
Kamal Al-Khatib, AIIAV Founder & President, said: “We accept the mayor’s apology and hope that he will work with the rest of the community to help heal the division and tension that his remarks caused over the last sixteen days.”
Dr. Bassam Hadaya, chairman of ICNV, a mosque in Lancaster, said: “We appreciate Mayor Parris’s courage for taking the necessary steps to reconcile with the community. We also welcome him and his fellow council members to visit the local Islamic centers and meet with his Muslim neighbors.”
Ayloush said Lancaster Councilwoman Sherry Marquez also took part in Monday’s news conference and apologized for inflammatory anti-Islam remarks she made in a recent Facebook post. He invited both Mayor Parris and Councilwoman Marquez to work with local community leaders to take appropriate measures to ensure a secular and inclusive government representative of all residents.
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
CONTACT: CAIR-Los Angeles Communications Manager Munira Syeda, 714-776-1847, 714-851-4851, E-Mail: email@example.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, E-Mail: email@example.com