A city councilman in San Juan Capistrano, California, has come under fire by Muslims and local council members alike for naming his dog Muhammad and later announcing it during a city council meeting. Councilman Derek Reeve is not backing down, however, stating on Tuesday that the decision to name his dog Muhammad was not meant to be offensive but was rather abut his family exercising their freedom of speech.
According to the local SJC Patch, Reeve’s dog-naming came on the heels of the councilman explaining to his children that in some parts of the Islamic world, they could be sentenced to death for using the Muslim prophet Muhammad’s name in a fashion deemed inappropriate.
Reeve reportedly first divulged his dogs’ names, “Muhammad” and “America,” during a September 6 vote on plans for a local dog park.
That’s when some, including fellow councilman Larry Kramer, were rubbed the wrong way, prompting a discussion on proper “decorum” for council meetings to ensue.
“I’m asking for decorum on the dais. Yet if we can’t do that, all is lost,” Kramer said.
“We are in a position of authority. It’s important we choose our words wisely,” Kramer said. “I hope the council will say this kind of speech is not OK.”
Kramer asked the council to discuss its standards of conduct and to rewrite its rules on decorum—requests that went unfulfilled.
Reeve, commenting on the 45-minute discussion that ensued with comments from the public, said, “What’s most offensive [to me] is that we’re not talking about anything important. We’re talking about my damned dog.”
Some residents agreed. Several who spoke during a public hearing said they preferred to have the council focus on other, more “pressing” issues, such as the city’s infrastructure, high water rates and finances.
On Friday, the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) asked Reeve to apologize for his remarks, stating he showed “disrespect toward Islam’s revered prophet Muhammad by making [the] derisive public comment.”
As a result, Reeve, during his subsequent explanation, referred to CAIR as a “terrorist organization” and was reportedly upset over the organization’s reprimand.
But CAIR and Kramer weren’t the only ones to voice disapproval. Citing a Muslim in the audience who was offended by Reeve’s comment, Mayor Sam Allevato weighed in, stating “You have to be really careful about what you say.” He added that “these types of comments are not acceptable” and could lead to a hostile work environment for City Hall employees.
Not all are coming down on Reeve, however. Karen Lugo, a Riverside attorney who specializes in free speech, said “council members are free to speak in their individual capacity as public leaders.”
“There is just simply no authority” to regulate decorum, she said.
Since Reeve’s comments were picked up by local and national media, he has reportedly received roughly 100 emails showing support.
Do you think naming the family dog Muhammad then divulging it publicly was an act meant to offend Muslims, or was Reeve simply exercising his freedom of speech?