LANCASTER – Controversy continues to swirl around Lancaster Neighborhood Vitalization Commissioner Stan Muhammad, who has repeatedly apologized this week for using an anti-gay slur from the podium of the Community Prayer and Call to Action event on July 20.
Muhammad was the subject of discussion during the non-agendized portion of the Lancaster City Council meeting Tuesday night, as speakers gave testimony both for and against removing Muhammad from his commission post.
Palmdale resident Pharaoh Mitchell said he supported Muhammad for acknowledging the mistake and apologizing for it the very same day.
“We’ve all made mistakes,” Mitchell said. “Are we so small as a human race not to forgive people for their mistakes?”
Lancaster Human Relations Tapestry Commissioner David Paul said he too was a guest speaker at the Community Prayer and Call to Action. Paul said Muhammad’s comments did not diminish the event.
“There was a sense of unity and people coming together and grieving and celebrating, and it was actually a wonderful event…” Paul said. “Nothing diminished what was accomplished there and what goes forward from there.”
Brandon Zavala, one of the coordinators for the Community Prayer and Call to Action, gave a deeply personal statement, during which he came out publicly as a gay man. He also described the hurt he felt upon hearing the slur.
“I spent my entire week dedicated to organizing [the] event, and during that event, I was reduced…the man that I am was reduced to six letters,” Zavala said, adding that Muhammad should be held accountable for his words and should be removed as a Lancaster commissioner.
“Mr. Mayor, I call upon you to do this, not out of spite, or anger or resentment,” Zavala said. “We as a city cannot allow and tolerate intolerance by our own government to our people.”
A woman, who identified herself as a member of the lesbian and gay community, said she too was hurt by Muhammad’s remarks. She asked that Muhammad be temporarily removed as a commissioner to allow him some time for diversity training.
“I think it’s fair to ask him to step down…just until at least training has been had,” she said.
Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris called Muhammad’s comments “deplorable” and “inexcusable,” but Parris said he does not have the authority to remove Muhammad from his commission post. He said commissioners can only be removed through a motion by a councilmember and then a vote by the city council as a whole. Parris made it clear that he had no intention of bringing such a motion.
“When people come back up for reappointments, I do consider how extreme they might be [in] whether or not I want to reappoint them,” Parris said. “In this case, I’m anxious to see what Stan does in an effort to fix this thing he created.”
Muhammad has already reached out to and met with local gay advocates, according to an open letter to Muhammad issued by the OUTreach Center. A portion of the letter to Muhammad reads:
“At The OUTreach Center board meeting Monday evening, you submitted to our examination willingly and openly and made no excuses. You admitted ignorance of the LGBT community and culture. The community representatives who were present heard your pledge to educate yourself, your family, and your religious and political communities on issues which affect the LGBT community and their allies.”
The letter also calls for the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale to require training in cultural competence and diversity issues for appointed commissioners, as well as elected officials.
“Our public officials are expected to serve all residents. Going forward, the actions and statements of our community leaders should reflect both the common interests and unique needs of all community groups,” the letter states. (Read the full letter here.)
More controversy as organizers condemn “anti-semitic” statement
Organizers and coordinators of the Community Prayer and Call to Action are condemning another portion of Muhammad’s remarks at the July 20 event. They say during the process of apologizing for his anti-gay slur, Muhammad offended Jewish attendees.
“It has been brought to the attention of the organizer and coordinators of the Community Prayer and Call to Action event that not only did Commissioner Muhammad make an anti-gay slur, but the Antelope Valley Jewish community has notified us of an apparent anti-Semitic statement made by the commissioner during his remarks at the event last Saturday (July 20th, 2013). When referring to the ‘demonic’ nature of the music industry… he states that the industry worships in the “Synagogue of Satan,” organizers said in a press release reiterating their call for Muhammad to be removed as a Lancaster commissioner.
Listen to Muhammad’s apology at the podium, which includes the remarks in question, here: [sc_embed_player fileurl=” http://theavtimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Commissioner-Muhammad-apology.mp3″]
When asked about the remarks, Muhammad said he would not comment on the latest round of criticism. He stressed that he was committed to taking the steps necessary to educate himself on tolerance.
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