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L.A. rabbi, running for U.S. Senate, draws fire for anti-Islamic comments

by Jonah Lowenfeld

May 16, 2012 | 3:01 pm

Rabbi Nachum Shifren, Republican Candidate for US Senate (www.rabbiforsenate.com)

A rabbi based in Southern California who is running for U.S. Senate has come under fire for anti-Islamic comments that were captured on video.

In the video, Rabbi Nachum Shifren, who is known as the “Surfing Rabbi,” was seen telling a cheering audience in San Mateo, “I am an Islamophobe, and everything we need to know about Islam we learned on 9-11.”

Responding to a call from an interfaith coalition led by the California branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA), Republican leaders have since disavowed Shifren’s candidacy.

“Anyone who espouses hatred, we don’t have room for them in our party,” San Mateo County Republican Party Chairman Chuck McDougald told the Forward.

A spokesman for the California Republican Party also disavowed Shifren’s candidacy, the Forward reported.

In his bid for Senate, Shifren is one of more than 20 candidates, including 14 Republicans, attempting to unseat incumbent U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. The California Republican Party endorsed Elizabeth Emken, but under California’s new “top two” system of elections, the two highest vote-getters in the open primary on June 5 will advance to the general election in November.

Shifren does not appear to be mounting much of a campaign. According to the Federal Election Commission website, Shifren’s campaign has not yet declared any financial activity.

Shifren has run for public office at least twice before. He ran for California State Senate in a special election in 2009 and again in 2010.

In support of one or both of those bids, Shifren claimed to have received endorsements from well-known Republican elected officials, including two sitting congressmen and three members of the California State Senate.

On a still-active page of the website from his 2010 campaign for State Senate, Shifren claimed endorsements from Rep. Tom McClintock, Rep. Dana Rohrbacher, State Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, State Sen. Bob Huff, State Sen. Tony Strickland, Assemblyman Chuck Devore and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovitch.

Other sections of Shifren’s earlier campaign website include language similar to the remarks seen on the recent video.

In a 2009 post, Shifren urged voters to “declare a war to the death on ‘multiculturalism,’” describing it as “nothing but propaganda and inculcating our youth to hate America, while yielding to the forces of Islam and radical activists whose target is middle class America and it’s [sic] values.”

CAIR-CA, Jewish Voice for Peace, Progressive Christians Uniting and Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace released a joint statement condemning Shifren’s comments.

“There should be no place for hate speech of any kind in our nation’s political discourse,” the statement read. “Whenever one faith or ethnicity is targeted by hate, it is our duty as Americans to challenge that hatred and to instead promote mutual understanding and tolerance.”

Jason Aula, director of communications for Shifren’s campaign, rejected the idea that the candidate’s comments constituted hate speech.

“He’s entitled to say what he wants to say,” Aula said.

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