California Democrat Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) protested Monday that she is not anti-Muslim, after remarks last week that “anywhere between 5 and 20 percent” of Muslims support an Islamic caliphate “in any way possible.”
“I’ve never attacked Muslims,” she said, according to multiple news reports.
Over the weekend, Sanchez’s staff emphasized that she had not said 20 percent of Muslims support terror specifically. On Monday, Sanchez reiterated that claim, and said she was speaking about Muslims internationally, not in the U.S.
“Of course I would believe and I know this to be a fact that U.S. Muslims are significantly less supportive or sympathetic to terrorism and the cause of ISIS and others,” the Los Angeles Times quoted Sanchez as saying.
Sanchez also said she understood the negative reaction some Muslims had to her words.
“I think they ranted because, honestly, they’re under attack,” Sanchez said, according to the Orange County Register. “They’ve seen the burning of a mosque or they’re afraid right now because of people who are in politics who have gone after them as the scapegoat for all of the wrong things that are going on.”
Sanchez added that the Muslim community had a role to play in keeping extremism abroad from harming Americans at home: “They have to help us understand this and they have to help us,” she said.
Sanchez was in Buena Park to receive the endorsement of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters for her U.S. Senate campaign to replace liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who is retiring effective January 2017.
Curiously, Sanchez is not backing away from the factual basis of her claims, which came in the wake of the San Bernardino terror attack Dec. 2. “I believe that most Muslim Americans are committed to peace and democracy,” she said on Monday–which does not contradict what she said last week, in an appearance on PoliticKING with Larry King on Ora.TV.
Recent survey data have shown that roughly five percent of American Musilms have favorable views of Al Qaeda–a small but significant minority.
The Register notes that while Sanchez may have faced some criticism, she is also drawing new support from more conservative voters who see her as a viable alternative to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, currently the frontrunner in the race.
“I do not think by her comments she is fomenting hatred, but rather taking a rational approach that, yes, some percentage of Muslims are radicalized,” one voter told the Register.
The first paragraph has been corrected to replace “Linda” with “Loretta.”