Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Local talk-radio station WMAL is under assault from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group that has savaged journalists, critics of radical Islam, even the Fox TV show “24” — but which just as steadfastly has refused to specifically condemn various Islamic terrorist organizations.

CAIR has instigated a campaign to pressure the Disney-owned WMAL to fire its already-suspended midday host, which came on the heels of its initial effort to have him suspended.

Though the outcome is uncertain in the current situation, two things are certain: 1) CAIR will continue demonizing genuine criticism of radical Islam as “Islamophobia,” and 2) it will never specifically condemn radical Islam or Islamic terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

At issue are remarks made by mid-morning host Michael Graham, in which he said that “Islam has, sadly, become a terrorist organization.” But what is lost in most media accounts — and is never mentioned by CAIR — are the surrounding statements made by Mr. Graham, which put the thrust of his comments in an entirely different light.

Mr. Graham’s comments, in fact, were not met with immediate condemnation or outrage. He wasn’t suspended until July 28, almost a week after his on-air remarks. In the interim, CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper even came on Mr. Graham’s show — telling him that CAIR didn’t want him fired, just punished. Once Mr. Graham was suspended indefinitely later that week, CAIR quickly called for his head.

Here are Mr. Graham’s remarks, with full context:

“Because of the mix of Islamic theology that — rightly or wrongly — is interpreted to promote violence, added to an organizational structure that allows violent radicals to operate openly in Islam’s name with impunity, Islam has, sadly, become a terrorist organization. It pains me to say it. But the good news is it doesn’t have to stay this way, if the vast majority of Muslims who don’t support terror will step forward and reclaim their religion.”

Plenty of people can — and should — take issue with the framing of the religion itself as a “terrorist organization.” But his surrounding comments have more than a ring of truth. Islamic theology is used to promote violence. And in many parts of the world, radicals have taken control of Islam—and the moderates have been effectively silenced.

And Mr. Graham’s desire that moderates reclaim control of Islam is shared by many, though likely not by CAIR or groups of its ilk.

CAIR was founded in 1994 by two former high-ranking officials with the Islamic Association of Palestine, a rabidly anti-Semitic organization known as Hamas’ biggest political booster in the United States.

Since September 11, CAIR officials have been careful to avoid the appearance that they support Islamic terrorism. But not before September 11. In November 1999, CAIR President Omar Ahmad addressed a youth session at the IAP annual convention in Chicago, where he praised suicide bombers who “kill themselves for Islam”: “Fighting for freedom, fighting for Islam ? that is not suicide. They kill themselves for Islam.” (Transcript provided by the Investigative Project.)

Though CAIR’s mission is not to serve as an overt Hamas partisan, the organization has refused to specifically condemn the terrorist organization. Ditto for Hezbollah, which is responsible for murdering more Americans than any other terrorist group besides al Qaeda. And CAIR refused to condemn bin Laden or al Qaeda by name until three months after September 11.

The Washington Post in November 2001 asked a CAIR spokesman to condemn Hamas or Islamic Jihad. He refused, explaining, “It’s not our job to go around denouncing.” Asked a similar question about Hamas and Hezbollah by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in February 2002, Mr. Hooper called such queries a “game,” and added, “We’re not in the business of condemning.”

Of course, CAIR is very much “in the business of condemning.” The group gleefully slams critics of radical Islam, television shows, and talk-radio hosts. But when it comes to Islamic terrorist organizations or prominent Muslims who endorse terrorism, CAIR’s silence is deafening.

To provide cover — and further perpetuate the myth that CAIR and other American Muslim organizations are genuinely “moderate” — various fundamentalist Muslim leaders recently issued a fatwa against “extremism” and “terrorism.” It was classic CAIR obfuscation: It condemned terms that were intentionally not defined. Not coincidentally, no terrorist organizations were named. Sadly, many media outlets were snookered.

The question is: will WMAL be snookered? The station, for its part, refuses comment, with one official calling it a “human resources issue.” And the station has never acknowledged that CAIR was responsible for its decision. So it is possible that something else may be at play. There are even some signals that the host might be back behind the microphone before long. At press time, he had not been reinstated.

Regardless of whether or not CAIR is successful in ousting Mr. Graham, though, it’s only a matter of time before the group launches its next smear campaign. There’s no telling whom CAIR would target next for condemnation, though it is clear who would not be.

Joel Mowbray writes occasionally for The Washington Times.

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