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Motion Tying Muslims to Terror Dies

Council members Perry and Villaraigosa express regret over 'divisive' resolution blaming group for 2001 attacks and other incidents.

September 12, 2003|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles City Council members Jan Perry and Antonio Villaraigosa said Thursday that they had made a mistake when they signed a resolution blaming Muslims for the Sept. 11 attacks and other acts of terrorism.

The motion, which the elected officials said had been drafted by an advocate for the homeless, Ted Hayes, and which Villaraigosa said he had signed without reading carefully, said that "in remembering the victims of Sept. 11 ... we also remember and acknowledge the truth as to who the perpetrators themselves claim to be, that is, Muslims, carrying out the will of the Deity of their religion known as Islam."

The resolution also called on Muslims to "intensify their ... denouncements of those members within their religion and community who continue to engage in acts of terror throughout the world."

Maher Hathout, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Southern California and senior advisor of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said the Muslim community was outraged by the motion.

"To have that very divisive and very insensitive resolution is really shocking," he said. "It is completely contrary to the spirit of Los Angeles. It is singling out Muslims as a suspected group. It is using language about the religion of Islam that's completely unacceptable."

Villaraigosa said Thursday that he could not agree more.

"I was asked on the council floor to second a council resolution memorializing the Sept. 11 tragedy and did so, unaware of the anti-Muslim language therein," Villaraigosa said. "They put motions like this in front of you all the time. They put it in front of me and I signed it."

Perry also expressed regret. "Some of the language was provocative, in retrospect," she said.

On Thursday afternoon, Perry's office announced that she would be rescinding the motion "as it is not representative of my beliefs and is patently offensive." The motion had been set for a City Council vote today.

Hathout said he thought the retraction was appropriate, but was still astonished that the incident had happened in the first place.

"What is more shocking is to call the City Council and have them tell you, 'Sorry, we didn't read it,' " Hathout said. "What we say is, if you have signed it, you should have read it. If you have read it, you shouldn't have signed it."

Hayes said he would not apologize. "The Islamic leadership is oversensitive," he said. "There is nothing in it that is vicious, nor is it hateful."

On Thursday, Hayes held a sunrise vigil to remember the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

He also issued a press release commending the City Council for "boldly" acknowledging "the 'deafening' silence of the American Islamic community to aggressively denounce terrorism by their kin."

Hayes said Thursday that he was surprised the council members had signed "the politically incorrect" document in the first place.

"They could have prevented this controversy," he said. "If they're not reading this simple document clearly through, what else are they not reading clearly through?"

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