With a desperate Republican campaign playing fear-mongering card to prop up John McCain, the bigotry and Islamophobia is filtering down to local politics. A Muslim candidate, Todd Gallinger, for Irvine City Council (California) has reported receiving a phoned death threat after being smeared by a council member’s Islamophobic remarks.
Attorney Todd Gallinger, a Muslim convert, told the Los Angeles Time Thursday that a man called his office Tuesday, about three weeks after Councilman Steven Choi spoke at a forum and urged voters not to support him because he worked for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a leading Muslim civil rights group.
The council, which has 35 offices in the United States and Canada, is "a dangerous Islamic organization," Choi told 150 business leaders. The LA Times said that although Choi did not name Gallinger, the comment was clearly aimed at the 29-year-old lawyer, who has done legal work for the council's Southern California chapter in Anaheim.
Gallinger represented CAIR-LA in two class action lawsuits against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI relating to delayed background checks for naturalization applicants.
Gallinger said the caller thought he was talking to him but told an employee, "I want to cut off your head just like all the other Muslims deserve." Gallinger pointed out that it is clear that the person was motivated by the political attacks against him by his opponent.
Those attending the forum reported that Choi called Gallinger "a born-again Muslim” and questioned if such a person is fit to represent the residents of Irvine.
The LA Times recalled that last month, retired Irvine Police Lt. Patrick A. Rodgers, who is also running for a seat on the council, sent an e-mail to reporters describing himself as "a conservative American red, white and blue thru and thru," and invited them to investigate Gallinger. Rodgers called his opponent "at best a terrorist group sympathizer."
And a recent campaign mailer addressed to "Irvine Republicans" accused Gallinger and other Democratic candidates for mayor and City Council of "touting" the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which it described as "a group with terrorist ties."
The Gallinger episode comes at a time when McCain campaign has notched up attacks on Barak Obama who is riding an advantage in national opinion polls and in several states that hold the key to the election. Alarmingly, a fear-mongering card is being played that has direct bearing on Seven-million strong American Muslim community.