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San Ramon: Mayoral candidate fends off attacks after staying away from forum

Sethy alleges organizing Muslim group has taken 'anti-Semitic positions'; host calls candidate's motives 'Islamophobia and fear-mongering rhetoric'

A candidate for mayor of San Ramon is taking criticism for declining to take part in an election forum sponsored by a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group over what he called "anti-Semitic positions" taken by the national group.

A statement Monday from the Council on American-Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay Area Office condemned Sanat Sethy for what its leaders said was Sethy's "Islamophobia and fear-mongering rhetoric" in justifying not participating in a Sept. 30 San Ramon mayoral candidates forum carried out on Zoom.

"Sanat Sethy made his intent to divide voters based on bigotry very clear and in doing so missed out an opportunity to pitch his platform and positions," Aliza Kazmi, San Francisco CAIR's advocacy manager, said in a statement.

She noted that San Ramon is home to one of the region's larger Muslim populations and said Tuesday that Sethy's reasoning for skipping the forum wasn't justified.

"(Sethy) accused us of being anti-Semitic; this is a baseless allegation and one that seeks to further divide communities," she said.

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In a release last week, Sethy said he opted out of attending the CAIR forum because of some of CAIR's previous positions -- some of which he views as anti-Semetic -- "do not align with (my) personal values or the values of San Ramon residents."

Sethy, a mechanical engineer and businessman, expanded Wednesday on those statements. He said he takes exception to a number of statements over the past several years by CAIR leaders, notably by San Francisco CAIR Executive Director Zahra Billoo. One tweet from Billoo in 2015 read, "Israel commits war crimes and terrorism as a hobby." Another, from 2018, reads, "Israel is an apartheid, racist state, which engages in terrorism against Palestinians."

These tweets, Sethy said, "are just the tip of the iceberg" for Billoo.

"As a person of color and immigrant, I passionately condemn racism, discrimination, and prejudiced beliefs against all persons," Sethy said Wednesday. "Spreading false and baseless accusations of Islamophobia takes attention away from authentic issues that need media coverage. Muslim-Americans face enough real instances of prejudice -- there's no need for fictitious ones."

Billoo acknowledged the tweets Wednesday. "I stand by those stated critiques of the apartheid and violence perpetrated by Israel, and funded by U.S. tax dollars," said Billoo, adding that Sethy is conflating a critique of Israel and anti-Semitism.

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Sethy, in his statement last week, said he also passed on the Sept. 30 CAIR forum because CAIR is a national organization, and that "attending a debate centered around a national organization is unnecessary and counterproductive."

Sethy is one of six candidates in the Nov. 3 general election seeking to succeed Bill Clarkson, who is termed out this year after serving four terms as mayor since first being elected in 2011. Current City Council members Dave Hudson and Sabina Zafar are among the six mayoral hopefuls.

Three candidates -- Hudson, Zafar and Aparna Madireddi -- took part in the Sept. 30 San Ramon mayoral forum sponsored by CAIR. The 50-minute forum covered several local issues, including COVID-19 response and reopening local businesses, homelessness, traffic safety, racial justice and economic development.

Kazmi said Tuesday that the other two candidates who didn't take part in the Sept. 30 forum -- Susmita Nayak and Dinesh Govindarao -- told CAIR that schedule conflicts prohibited them from participating.

Imad Abboushi, president of the San Ramon Valley Islamic Center, said in a statement Monday he wishes Sethy had taken part in the Sept. 30 Zoom forum.

"Community leaders need to support all of their constituents," Abboushi said. "It is quite disappointing to see a mayoral candidate ignore the needs of a minority group in his community."

The Bay Area chapter of the Jewish Voice for Peace also sided with CAIR on Monday. "We stand with CAIR in condemning Sethy's actions. CAIR-SFBA has been an invaluable partner in the Muslim community in supporting Jews against rising antisemitism," said a general statement from the group.

On Wednesday, Sethy said, "The truth is, this whole situation has come as a little bit of a shock to me, and I feel hurt by the nature of the allegations." The fact several entities issued news releases criticizing him at nearly the same time, Sethy said, "was simply a PR stunt from CAIR."

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San Ramon: Mayoral candidate fends off attacks after staying away from forum

Sethy alleges organizing Muslim group has taken 'anti-Semitic positions'; host calls candidate's motives 'Islamophobia and fear-mongering rhetoric'

Uploaded: Thu, Oct 8, 2020, 12:27 pm

A candidate for mayor of San Ramon is taking criticism for declining to take part in an election forum sponsored by a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group over what he called "anti-Semitic positions" taken by the national group.

A statement Monday from the Council on American-Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay Area Office condemned Sanat Sethy for what its leaders said was Sethy's "Islamophobia and fear-mongering rhetoric" in justifying not participating in a Sept. 30 San Ramon mayoral candidates forum carried out on Zoom.

"Sanat Sethy made his intent to divide voters based on bigotry very clear and in doing so missed out an opportunity to pitch his platform and positions," Aliza Kazmi, San Francisco CAIR's advocacy manager, said in a statement.

She noted that San Ramon is home to one of the region's larger Muslim populations and said Tuesday that Sethy's reasoning for skipping the forum wasn't justified.

"(Sethy) accused us of being anti-Semitic; this is a baseless allegation and one that seeks to further divide communities," she said.

In a release last week, Sethy said he opted out of attending the CAIR forum because of some of CAIR's previous positions -- some of which he views as anti-Semetic -- "do not align with (my) personal values or the values of San Ramon residents."

Sethy, a mechanical engineer and businessman, expanded Wednesday on those statements. He said he takes exception to a number of statements over the past several years by CAIR leaders, notably by San Francisco CAIR Executive Director Zahra Billoo. One tweet from Billoo in 2015 read, "Israel commits war crimes and terrorism as a hobby." Another, from 2018, reads, "Israel is an apartheid, racist state, which engages in terrorism against Palestinians."

These tweets, Sethy said, "are just the tip of the iceberg" for Billoo.

"As a person of color and immigrant, I passionately condemn racism, discrimination, and prejudiced beliefs against all persons," Sethy said Wednesday. "Spreading false and baseless accusations of Islamophobia takes attention away from authentic issues that need media coverage. Muslim-Americans face enough real instances of prejudice -- there's no need for fictitious ones."

Billoo acknowledged the tweets Wednesday. "I stand by those stated critiques of the apartheid and violence perpetrated by Israel, and funded by U.S. tax dollars," said Billoo, adding that Sethy is conflating a critique of Israel and anti-Semitism.

Sethy, in his statement last week, said he also passed on the Sept. 30 CAIR forum because CAIR is a national organization, and that "attending a debate centered around a national organization is unnecessary and counterproductive."

Sethy is one of six candidates in the Nov. 3 general election seeking to succeed Bill Clarkson, who is termed out this year after serving four terms as mayor since first being elected in 2011. Current City Council members Dave Hudson and Sabina Zafar are among the six mayoral hopefuls.

Three candidates -- Hudson, Zafar and Aparna Madireddi -- took part in the Sept. 30 San Ramon mayoral forum sponsored by CAIR. The 50-minute forum covered several local issues, including COVID-19 response and reopening local businesses, homelessness, traffic safety, racial justice and economic development.

Kazmi said Tuesday that the other two candidates who didn't take part in the Sept. 30 forum -- Susmita Nayak and Dinesh Govindarao -- told CAIR that schedule conflicts prohibited them from participating.

Imad Abboushi, president of the San Ramon Valley Islamic Center, said in a statement Monday he wishes Sethy had taken part in the Sept. 30 Zoom forum.

"Community leaders need to support all of their constituents," Abboushi said. "It is quite disappointing to see a mayoral candidate ignore the needs of a minority group in his community."

The Bay Area chapter of the Jewish Voice for Peace also sided with CAIR on Monday. "We stand with CAIR in condemning Sethy's actions. CAIR-SFBA has been an invaluable partner in the Muslim community in supporting Jews against rising antisemitism," said a general statement from the group.

On Wednesday, Sethy said, "The truth is, this whole situation has come as a little bit of a shock to me, and I feel hurt by the nature of the allegations." The fact several entities issued news releases criticizing him at nearly the same time, Sethy said, "was simply a PR stunt from CAIR."

— Bay City News Service

Comments

a human
Registered user
San Ramon
on Oct 8, 2020 at 6:26 pm
a human, San Ramon
Registered user
on Oct 8, 2020 at 6:26 pm
13 people like this

I'm not surprised that this organization (CAIR) categorizes legitimate criticisms as 'Islamophobia', and tries to bully folks into silence. Apparently we are to believe that the nasty things they say about Israel are never anti-Semitic, but of course any criticism of CAIR is always Islamophobic.

It's funny that the country they love to hate (Israel) happens to be one of only two countries in the Middle East that is a democracy (the other being Lebanon, which is in a mess). Though issues exist, most Arabs living in Israel have a positive opinion about it. Arab countries in the region are warming up to Israel and criticizing the Palestinian leadership for failures in reaching settlements. CAIR needs to focus on legitimate issues, instead of name calling.


Herman Glates
Registered user
Danville
on Oct 9, 2020 at 8:12 am
Herman Glates, Danville
Registered user
on Oct 9, 2020 at 8:12 am
10 people like this

Kazmi attacks Sethy saying, “he made his intent to divide voters based on bigotry.”

In fact, that is what Kazmi is doing by baselessly accusing Sethy of bigotry.

Why would Kazmi make these false accusations? If you know Kazmi’s background, it becomes clear.

On CAIR’s website, Kazmi says she “applies a lens of race and social justice” to her work.

It says Kazmi earned her undergraduate degree in Gender and Women’s Studies: including a focus on community organizing in the context of local housing justice and national Occupy Wall Street movements.

People like Kazmi should not be allowed to try to destroy people’s careers by falsely accusing people of bigotry, racism, or worse.

Shame on this newspaper for giving people like Kazmi a platform to spread lies.


akhalil
Registered user
San Ramon
on Oct 24, 2020 at 6:38 pm
akhalil, San Ramon
Registered user
on Oct 24, 2020 at 6:38 pm
1 person likes this

As far as I can see Sanat did his research. Good to see that he did distance himself from such anti-Semitic and anti-Israel groups.

First why are highly divisive national religious-political groups involving themselves in local city elections? Candidates should not feel compelled to indulge such groups which have no bearings at the local level.

Muslims are an important minority voice like others in San Ramon and deserve to be heard, not hijacked by CAIR.

CAIR and JVP are fringe groups who freely throw out words such as Islamophobia or bigotry when someone doesn’t believe in their views. Ironically, CAIR, in particular, is dangerously silent on its own bigotry.

Below are court case details CAIR is facing here in California showing mysogynistic, bigoted practices towards women and non-Muslims. They are being accused of discrimination based on religion, gender, age, and political views. This should raise eyebrows for everyone.
Web Link

Details of the lawsuit are below where Billoo is specifically mentioned for her anti-American behavior (for example, she removed all American flags on display in CAIR offices because she deemed them to be offensive).
Web Link

Here is also another lawsuit which resulted in CAIR being kicked out of the San Diego Unified School district for a discriminatory and unconstitutional program in its schools.
Web Link

Jewish Voice for Peace is also a fringe group which represents a small sliver of the Jewish community. The Boston Globe’s article outlines how they are apologists for terrorism and anti-Israel.
Web Link

San Ramon voters need to do the proper research on the groups funding, peddling and attempting to influence our local elections. We and our candidates should demand that religious global politics be kept out of it. This newspaper could also do a better job to present the true nature and background of these polarizing groups rather than loosely quoting their misguided accusations of bigotry and Islamophobia.


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