ANAHEIM, Calif., Oct. 12 (UPI) -- The Southern California office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has condemned "smear campaigns and fear-mongering" in the state.
CAIR's Los Angeles office, also known as CAIR-LA, in a statement released Tuesday criticized what it called the targeting of candidates of Muslim or Arab background or those who associate with the California Muslim community.
"We call on all Californians to repudiate attempts to spread fear of Islam and Muslims by falsely labeling Arab-American and Muslim candidates seeking office as extremists," said CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush. "It is disturbing to see public officials exploit growing anti-Muslim prejudice and bias within by using smear campaigns and fear-mongering."
Ayloush said Bill Dalati, a Republican candidate for Anaheim City Council had been targeted for personal attacks by former state Republican Party Chairman Shawn Steel who is backing Dalati's opponent, Rep. Bob Hernandez, R-Calif.
In a letter, Steel called Dalati a "Manchurian candidate" and questioned his patriotism for supporting elected officials who have been critical of President George W. Bush's Iraq policies, CAIR-LA claimed.
CAIR-LA said Steel also criticized Dalati's participation at a rally this summer that called for an end to the latest round of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. However, "That rally was attended by Christians, Jews, Muslims and people of other faiths," the CAIR-LA statement said.
The statement said that Muslims believed Steel had a history of Islamophobia and that he once described Islam is a diseased religion.