Opponents of plans for a Muslim school in Rancho Santa Margarita issued a statement Monday condemning racist telephone calls made last week to a group supporting the project.
The statement by Citizens for a Safe Rancho Santa Margarita condemned "in the strongest possible manner any racist or discriminatory statements that may have been made by any person against the supporters of the proposed New Horizons School."
The statement went on to say that the group "will provide complete and immediate cooperation to the Orange County Human Relations Commission as they look into this matter. We do not believe that any member of our organization has ever made such remarks. However, if any individual within CSRSM is proven to have made such hateful and despicable remarks, that person would be immediately expelled . . . and reported to the proper authorities."
The remarks in question were made Friday in two telephone calls to the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles in which an unidentified caller said, among other things, "Go back to the desert. Go back home. This place is only for Christians and Jews."
Tony Beall, a spokesman for the Rancho Santa Margarita citizens group, said Monday that the organization felt compelled to issue the statement to distance itself from the racist comments and stay focused on the issues. "We don't believe that there's any place in this land-use debate for hate and racism," Beall said. As a result of the racist phone calls, he said, "the entire community of Rancho Santa Margarita has been labeled as, at best, ignorant and, at worst, racist. Clearly this is wrong."
The issue of the school is expected to be taken up in January by the new city council of Rancho Santa Margarita, whose citizens recently voted overwhelmingly to incorporate. Proponents say the school is necessary to give South County members of the growing Muslim community a school close to home. Critics have argued that such a school is prohibited by the community's master plan and would generate excessive traffic.