(by Randy Hall, Aug. 22, 2005, CNSNews.com) – An Islamic civil rights group Monday praised the firing of a Washington, D.C., radio talk show host it criticized for claiming that “Islam is a terrorist organization.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) welcomed Michael Graham’s ouster from WMAL following his initial suspension without pay for controversial remarks against Islam.
“Just as Michael Graham has the right to hold bigoted views, so, too, does our society have the right to live free of hatred and incitement,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad in a statement.
“We are saddened that Michael Graham would not take responsibility for his hate-filled words, but we do welcome WMAL’s action as a step toward reducing the level of anti-Muslim bigotry on our nation’s airwaves,” said Awad.
On July 25, CAIR called on WMAL to punish Michael Graham, who had hosted a mid-morning talk show until he made such comments on the air as: “Islam is a terrorist organization,” “Islam is at war with America,” “The problem is not extremism. The problem is Islam,” and “We are at war with a terrorist organization named Islam.”
As Cybercast News Service previously reported, CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said at the time: “Such hate-filled and inflammatory remarks only serve to encourage those who would turn bigoted views into violent or discriminatory actions against ordinary American Muslims.”
The initial incident led to Graham’s suspension without pay from WMAL and ABC Radio three days later “for comments deemed ‘hate radio’ by CAIR.”
CAIR then announced that the talk show host’s punishment was insufficient and demanded he be fired. “I have now been fired for making the specific comments CAIR deemed ‘offensive’ and for refusing to retract those statements in a management-mandated, on-air apology,” Graham said in a statement.
“ABC Radio further demanded that I agree to perform what they described as ‘additional outreach efforts’ to those people or groups who felt offended,” Graham said. “I refused. And for that refusal, I have been fired.
“It appears that ABC Radio has caved to an organization that condemns talk radio hosts like me but has never condemned Hamas or Hezbollah, and one that wouldn’t specifically condemn al Qaeda for three months after 9/11,” added Graham.
After Graham’s suspension on July 28, WMAL received more than 15,000 phone calls and emails protesting his removal from the airwaves.
“It wasn’t about me,” Graham said. “The listeners I spoke to said they felt betrayed by my suspension because the vast majority of them agree with me on the subject of Islam. By labeling my statements as unacceptable, these listeners felt that WMAL management was insulting them, too.”
Stating that he cares about his listeners, Graham added: “I could not dishonor their principled support for free speech by giving in to these demands. I cannot join ABC Radio in bowing to CAIR’s wishes. And I will not apologize for my opinions or retract the truth.”
Graham said that “the conversations my listeners and I had on this subject were not offensive or bigoted in the least. In fact, Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR — who appeared on my show several times — credited ‘criticism from talk radio’ in part for the recent fatwa against terrorism issued by a group of U.S. Muslim scholars.
“Ironically, it was issued the day before I was suspended,” Graham added.
“When CAIR is able to quell dissent and label every critic a ‘bigot,’ the chilling effect is felt far beyond ABC Radio and 630 WMAL,” Graham said. “If anyone is owed an apology, it is the moderate, Muslim community that has been failed once again by the mainstream media.”
Calls to WMAL seeking response for this article were not returned by press time. However, WMAL has removed all references to Graham from its website.
Reprinted here with permission from CNS News. Visit the website at www.CNSNews.com.
1. Who is Michael Graham? Until recently, where did he work? Why was he initially suspended and then fired? On what grounds did Mr. Graham refuse to apologize?
2. Substitute ‘Christianity’ for ‘Islam’ in Mr. Graham’s remarks that got him fired:
Christianity is a terrorist organization. Christianity is at war with the [Middle East]. The problem is not extremism – The problem is Christianity. We are at war with a terrorist organization named Christianity.
If a radio host made such remarks about Christianity, would he be fired? Should he be fired? Explain your answers.
3. Read the entry on CAIR from the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Is CAIR a legitimate organization? Explain your answer.
(To read what CAIR says about itself, click here. To read what others say about CAIR, click here.)
4. Were Michael Graham’s comments genuine criticism of radical Islam or “Islamophobia”? Explain your answer.
(Further comments by Mr. Graham from his website MichaelGraham.com include: “That’s the real tragedy here. The people who most need free speech and open dialogue on the issues facing Islam today are America’s moderate Muslims. These are people of good will who have the difficult job ahead of reforming and rescuing their religion. They need all the help they can get.”
5. Were Mr. Graham’s First Amendment rights violated? Should he have been fired? Explain your answers.
6. Does society have a double standard for what type of critical speech is allowed in public discourse? Explain your answer.