Art Barrios, a former El Monte city councilman, shared a news article on Facebook with the headline “China makes major moves to ban Islam.” If he had stopped then, he might have been OK.
But then he added a comment: “Sounds good maybe the rest of the world should do the same.”
Facebook has not been kind to public officials in Los Angeles County recently. Or maybe it’s public officials who have not been kind on Facebook.
Last week a Silver Lake neighborhood council member resigned after posting rants on Facebook that were considered anti-Mexican and racist.
In the posts, since deleted from Facebook, Karen Speitel said that she's been in L.A. “a loooong time and the distruction [sic] I see all over is from Mexicans. All other immigrants make pockets of this city nice. Go To Chinatown. It's clean and fun.”
In a separate post captured by the Eastsider LA blog, she wrote: “All illegals should have to work like slaves for free for every single legal citizen who came here the right way.”
Now Barrios, an El Monte city planning commissioner is being criticized by the Council on American Islamic Relations over his Facebook comment regarding Islam.
The article, posted on the website Louder with Crowder, details steps China is taking, including banning head coverings for females and discouraging men from growing long beards.
Barrios said he was unaware of the CAIR email calling for his resignation until he was reached by a Los Angeles Times reporter Wednesday. He said he hadn’t heard any feedback on the post, which he said went up a couple of days ago.
He added that his Facebook post was in reference to Islamic extremists “that are going out and killing other people.”
“I thought it was about time that we stop kowtowing to the Islam that’s doing the racist things and doing the things that are bad for any religion,” Barrios said about the post. “I’m an American citizen. I have the right to think anything I want to think … I have the right to do what I want to do. [CAIR] have the right to do what they want to do.”
Barrios said he shares news articles on his Facebook page perhaps twice a week, sometimes thanking service members for their work and other times criticizing politicians for not doing their jobs.
CAIR called for an apology from Barrios and for his resignation.
“Neither the article nor Mr. Barrios’ comment on the article give any indication that he was talking about Muslim extremists,” said Haroon Manjlai, public affairs coordinator for CAIR-L.A. “It sounded like he was talking about the religion as a whole and that is extremely insensitive and un-American.”
Manjlai said CAIR was reaching out to Muslims who live in the area to see how they would like to proceed, as well as asking available individuals to attend El Monte’s next city council meeting to express their views on the matter.
“It is extremely alarming when somebody in such a position expresses their bigoted views against any minority,” Manjlai said. “Next time there is a matter involving the Muslim community in the city of El Monte it’ll be very hard for Muslims to believe that any decision rendered against them was not driven by this bias that Mr. Barrios clearly holds.”
Barrios said he has no plans to resign. He said he has since edited his Facebook post to specify that he was referring to “Islamic extremists of the world and not Islam the religion.”
“I am sorry if I have offended anyone, particularly those who practice Islam,” Barrios said he wrote in the edited post. “As an American, I welcome all and encourage open discussion and I do not wish to belittle the freedom that we have. Lastly, I wrote hastily and my point was far off from my intended thought and I’d like to apologize for it.”