Politics

California Rep. Loretta Sanchez: 5-20 percent of Muslims want caliphate

FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2015, file photo, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., joined at left by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and others, responds to questions during a Congressional Hispanic Caucus news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.
FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2015, file photo, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., joined at left by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and others, responds to questions during a Congressional Hispanic Caucus news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

California Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who's also running for Barbara Boxer's U.S. Senate seat, has received criticism over comments she made saying that between 5 and 20 percent of Muslims support a caliphate, which is a form of Islamic theocracy.

Sanchez, speaking Wednesday on "PoliticKing with Larry King" about President Barack Obama's approach to terrorism in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings, said:

"Certainly, we know that there is a small group, and we don't know how big that is — it can be anywhere between 5 and 20 percent, from the people that I speak to — that Islam is their religion, and who have a desire for a caliphate, and to institute that in any way possible, and in particular, go after what they consider Western norms — our way of life."

Sanchez went on to say that those who believe in a caliphate are willing to use terrorism, while also saying that it was a misinterpretation of Islam.

"They are not content enough to have their way of looking at the world. They want to put their way on everybody in the world. And again, I don't know how big that is, and depending on who you talk to, but they're certainly, they are willing to go to extremes. They are willing to use and they do use terrorism. And it is in the name of a very wrong way of looking at Islam."

Watch her full comments here:

Liberal activist group the Courage Campaign has called for Sanchez to drop out of the Senate race. The group's Eddie Kurtz said in a statement that suggesting that even 5 percent of Muslims would potentially resort to violence is "racist, idiotic nonsense." He went on to say that "While Rep. Sanchez has a legacy of leadership, these comments make it clear that she does not have the skills, or the judgment to represent our beautiful state and all its people in the U.S. Senate."

Reshma Shamasunder, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, released a statement with the group demanding that Sanchez apologize.

"At a time when bigoted, Islamophobic rhetoric is spurring troubling incidents of hate across the country — including in Orange County — Representative Loretta Sanchez' wildly off-the-mark claims are irresponsible and dangerous. We expect California's representatives to uphold our values of inclusion and diversity, not trample them. We call upon Rep. Sanchez to immediately apologize," Shamasunder said in the statement.

Sanchez spokeswoman Emily Morris responded to the criticism, the Los Angeles Times reported, saying that Sanchez did emphasize during the interview that no one knows how many Muslims support the idea of establishing a caliphate and added that supporting that idea doesn't mean they support actual terrorism. Morris also said the statistic Sanchez cited of 5 to 20 percent comes from the book "Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue" by Maajid Nawaz and Sam Harris, published by Harvard University Press earlier this year.

Sanchez released her own statement, the Times reported, saying, "I strongly support the Muslim community in America and believe that the overwhelming majority of Muslims do not support terrorism or ISIS. We must enlist the voices of the Muslim community in our fight against ISIS instead of alienating them through fear-mongering and discrimination."

This story has been updated.