Michael Graham Fired for Saying Islam is Terrorist Religion

Michael Graham, a talk radio host on Washington D.C.’s ABC station (WMAL AM630), was fired for saying that “Islam has, sadly, become a terrorist organization.”

Talk Show Host Graham Fired By WMAL Over Islam Remarks (WaPo, C1)

Washington radio station WMAL-AM fired talk show host Michael Graham yesterday after he refused to soften his description of Islam as “a terrorist organization” on the air last month. Graham had been suspended without pay from his daily three-hour show since making his comments July 25. The station had conditioned his return to the midmorning shift on reading a station-approved statement in which Graham would have said that his anti-Muslim statements were “too broad” and that he sometimes uses “hyperbole” in the course of his program. WMAL also asked Graham to speak to the station’s advertisers and its employees about the controversy. But Graham refused both conditions, prompting the station to drop him.

According to WMAL, Graham said “Islam is a terrorist organization” 23 times on his July 25 program. On the same show, he also said repeatedly that “moderate Muslims are those who only want to kill Jews” and that “the problem is not extremism. The problem is Islam.”

The comments drew complaints and prompted an organized letter-writing campaign against WMAL and its advertisers by a Muslim group, the Council on American-Islam Relations (CAIR) of Washington. The protests led several advertisers to ask WMAL to stop airing their ads during Graham’s weekday show, although the station says it didn’t lose any advertisers amid the controversy.

In a statement yesterday, Graham blamed CAIR for his firing and defended his comments: “As a fan of talk radio, I find it absolutely outrageous that pressure from a special interest group like CAIR can result in the abandonment of free speech and open discourse on a talk radio show.”

So, a talk radio host made statements that were too broad and hyperbolic? I’m shocked. Shocked!

Andrew McCarthy has a sample of Graham’s remarks:

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 re-claim their religion.

This is incredibly careful language for talk radio, which usually dispenses with the many disclaimers in that paragraph. And, as McCarthy points out, not without merit.

Islamic theology is amenable to the interpretation that it promotes violence. This cannot be open to debate among serious people at this point. The scriptures speak for themselves, including some of the final (chronologically, that is) verses in the Koran — specifically, the Ninth Sura’s verse 5 (“… [F]ight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war) …â€); and verse 29 (“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the last day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of truth, from among the people of the book, until they pay the jizya [a poll-tax required in Islamic lands from those who do not convert to Islam] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.â€)


More to the point, Islamic theology has in fact been construed to promote violence, repeatedly, by Muslims — including several Islamic clerics deemed to have special authority in the religion due to their education and training. The resulting carnage is the defining issue of our era. Surely that cannot be denied by reasonable people.

Why has brutality in the name of Islam endured? Well, it is because, as Graham posits, this violence — driven by an interpretation of scriptures that self-evidently lend themselves to just such an interpretation — has long been coupled with “an organizational structure that allows violent radicals to operate openly in Islam’s name.â€

The eminent Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis described the phenomenon in his 1993 book, Islam and the West. Divergences among Muslims in the interpretation of Islam, Lewis explained, are not easily labeled “heterodox†or “heretical,†for such notions are Western ones that have “little or no relevance to the history of Islam, which has no synods, churches, or councils to define orthodoxy, and therefore none to define and condemn departures from orthodoxy.â€

Taken together, the lack of formal hierarchy, the plain language of Koranic passages, and what is, indisputably, the military tradition out of which Islam emerged, have made it difficult for Muslims convincingly to condemn terrorism as antithetical to their creed. Meanwhile, acts of terrorism have continued unabated. Thus, the system is open to the reasonable conclusions that: (a) it promotes violence, (b) it has spawned violence, and (c) it has been unable to restrain violence despite the vastly superior number of non-violent adherents.


[The over-the-top nature of the remarks are] substantially mitigated by Graham’s closing sentiments. He pointedly left his listeners with the “good news†that the vast majority of Muslims do not support terror committed in the name of their religion. And he offered what sounded like a very sincere hope that they can and will take steps to marginalize and discredit the militants’ use of Islam.

Avendon Carol disagrees, drawing a parallel with the latest idiotic statement by Pat Roberson:

[I]t’s nice to know that at least in a market like Washington, DC (the real one) such language is beyond the pale, but in the fake Washington – the one that’s always the center of political news – that kind of bigotry is no longer surprising to a lot of people and can be found all over the right-wing blogosphere as well. You’d have trouble reminding these people that Christianity, too, has its bloody history, and the showing it’s making in Iraq right now is nothing to be proud of, either. Indeed, our most prominent terrorists at home are loudly calling themselves Christians.

Of course, Robertson is profusely condemned by other Christian conservatives and, in any case, isn’t actually murdering innocent people but merely advocating the murder of a single bad man. And Christianity’s bloody history is centuries past.

I’ll leave it to the reader to decide why calling Islam a terrorist religion is “bigotry” whereas saying Christians are terrorists is not. Let’s line up all the Christian and Islamic clergy who advocate the murder of innocents and count noses, shall we?

Tbogg, meanwhile, sees a rough justice at work. He recalls a past Graham statement:

In America, it is impossible to suck badly enough to get fired anymore. The CIA completely misses the 9/11 attacks, but does George Tenet get fired? Bill Clinton was caught red-handed committing perjury and obstructing justice, does anybody care? Janet Reno started her career by burning dozens of children to death and ends it as America’s longest-serving Attorney General.

Let’s play the old child’s game, shall we. Which of these is not like the other?

– Gross incompetence that failed to prevent the death of thousands.
– The nation’s chief law enforcement officer flouting the law.
– The murder of children.
– Expressing a controversial opinion.

Mark Tapscott
, meanwhile, muses,

Any second now we will hear the first barrages of outrage from the civil liberties brigades on the Left protesting the silencing of a media voice for expressing a controversial opinion about Islam, right?

I believe we already have our answer on that one.

Update: Law professor Stephen Bainbridge points out that this is not a First Amendment issue since a private firm, not the government, is doing the firing.

This sort of rights talk, claiming to have Constitutional protections one obviously lacks, is particularly disappointing coming from a conservative. I thought one thing almost all conservatives agreed upon was that judges and courts had taken cognizance of too many social issues better left to politics and/or markets. The kind of lose talk in which Graham engaged undercuts that understanding by implying he has some sort of legally cognizable right under the First Amendment to continued employment.

Quite right. WMAL is well within their rights to fire Graham. It’s spineless, not unconstitutional.

FILED UNDER: Media, Religion, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Avedon says:

    “I’ll leave it to the reader to decide why calling Islam a terrorist religion is ‘bigotry’ whereas saying Christians are terrorists is not.”

    Excuse me, but where did I say that “Christians are terrorists”, let alone that Christianity is a terrorist organization?

    Some terrorists are Christians and some are Muslim, but that says nothing about whether the religion as a whole is terrorist. The point is that both religions contain people who have claimed to find justification for outrageously anti-human behavior in their holy books, but it no more means that all Muslims are terrorists than it means that Quakers are terrorists.

  2. James Joyner says:


    What, then, is the implication of, “Indeed, our most prominent terrorists at home are loudly calling themselves Christians”?

    Saying, “Some terrorists are Christians and some are Muslim” is both true and grossly misleading. The vast number of organized terrorists in the world and of those committing terrorist acts are Muslims. It’s true that the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists, of course, but the proportions are wildly different.

    No one is saying that “all Muslims are terrorists,” certainly not Graham. He is expressing the common frustration that the Muslim leadership and rank and file are not more outspoken against those who kill in the name of their faith.

  3. Anderson says:

    How can you say “Islam is a terrorist organization” and not be saying that all Muslims are thus participants in terrorism?

    Let FOX hire this guy if he’s so wonderful. ABC is quite free to decide not to be associated with him.

  4. John Burgess says:

    Graham went way over the line when he suggested (rather clearly) that all Muslims were terrorists. Simple syllogism:

    1. X, by definition, is a terrorist org.
    2. James is a member of X
    Therefore James is a terrorist

    He offended listeners–and I’m sure that they got others who would be offended had they heard it involved. The offended complained to management. Management said, “Graham’s stupid, but we’ll give him a chance to fix it.” Graham says, “Do not crucify us on this cross of gold…” Oops, no, Graham says, “Like hell.”

    Management says, “hit the bricks.” Graham cries like a little girl that his First Amendment rights are being kicked around.

    Clue for Graham: He has no First Amendment rights in relation to his boss, WMAL, or Disney. They make business decisions. The decision here was that Graham was no longer offering sufficient benefit for the salary they were paying.

  5. Irate Savant says:

    Michael Graham is a Cosell, not a Cassandra. ‘Tis folly to attribute his firing to anything other than the aboiement suffered by all in his profession coupled with a stubborn refusal to issue a retraction.

  6. Kent says:

    Graham went way over the line when he suggested (rather clearly) that all Muslims were terrorists.

    He did what? One of us is hearing things. I heard him say: “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 re-claim their religion.” What did you hear?

    Not incidentally, I disagree with Graham’s characterization of Islam. I’m not sure I would fire him over it, but it would be a reason for me not to hire him in the first place.

    What disturbs me about ABC’s conduct is that they appear to have fired Graham under pressure from an organization whose stand on Islamicist terrorism is highly suspect.

  7. jennifer says:

    Talk radio exists to make money. It is a commercial venture.

    When a group of consumers states we do not like your message and if you don’t change this message we will hurt you commercially, the radio station decides which stance will make it a better profit.

    And while Islam has problems, there is no way of establishing a generalized “Christianity” that clearly and unambiguously argues against genocide, slavery or a large list of other abominations. Individuals who identify themselves as Christian hold nasty attitudes, historically they have driven nations in that direction and logically the definition of a “true Christianity” is pretty much impossible. Something like Jehovah’s Witnesses might begin to qualify, but even there I don’t see many selling their possessions and giving them to the poor.

    Now it is quite possible that Islam has fewer social conventions and more adherents of a wilder philosophy that reminds us of the days when heretics were burned, heathen converted or killed, serfs told their godly chosen place was serving, women…

    Certainly it is a fascinating and perhaps important debate. I would argue that it goes against Karl Rove’s injunction because it involves “understanding,” looking at the mechanisms that influence social and individual behavior, perhaps even arriving at pragmatic ways to tweak them.

    And as a social mechanism this particular act of firing will spur larger debate, it is neurons going off.

    Sadly or perhaps interestingly many of the mechanisms of social balance do not involve ideas of depth or complexity, they are relatively simple pulses that shift institutions one way or another.

    Given the propensity of certain “Christians” to want an excuse to go out and do vigilante things on Muslims, then a radio station, a part of the establishment saying there are consequences is useful.

    “Hey we think it might be a better strategy for reducing terrorism by striving not to overly alienate certain groups among us, rather than having you guys go out drunken groups and hassle Sikhs or anyone else you deem suspicious.”

    In other words we are using a part of the system, to encourage a certain degree of etiquette and good sense. This was the position conservatives once argued for.

    Nowadays both sides are ambivalent about it, and haven’t really thought through their position on the larger social philosophy. What they do is base their response to specific situations based on partisan notions.

    At this point you have alleged right leaning individuals arguing that if you disobey your employer or do not meet the specifications of a client, they have no right to fire you because you are standing up for your principles. Boy how these same people would snort if this argument came from the other side!

  8. LJD says:

    This would almost be comical if it weren’t such an indicator of deeper problems in our society.

    The left loves to scream about First Amendment “Free Speech”, until it offends the bounds of political correctness.

    If some one had said Christians are terrorists, infidels, killing innocent Muslims, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation, would we?

    I thought controversial talk radio was intended to encourage listeners to call in and voice their opinion, not make power plays to have an individual silenced.

  9. Herb says:

    I feel so sorry for all those people who are offended. You know, those whose skin is so thin that you just can’t say anything to them that doesn’t offend them.

    Being offended is the best medium for anyone who is seeking their fifteen minutes of fame. We see it everywhere these days and quite frankly, It makes one sick to the point of throwing up.

    Graham called it as he sees it and I agree with him, I am tired of those who don’t have the ability to face the reality that Islam is a violent religion and as Graham stated, if the islamist don’t want to be known that way, then Let them denounce the terrorist in a forceful way.

  10. Anderson says:

    Kent, he contradicts himself, but compare the passage you quote with this from JJ’s post:

    According to WMAL, Graham said “Islam is a terrorist organization” 23 times on his July 25 program.

    Okay, al-Qaeda is a terrorist organization. Say I belong to al-Qaeda. Are you going to accept my argument that I’m not a terrorist?

    The main thing I draw from the post is that this Graham fellow is both stupid and vicious. Perhaps I’d have to listen to his show to discover his good qualities.

    Anyway, being fired by ABC for being a stupid, anti-Muslim bigot sounds like a ticket to ready employment with some other corporation (Clear Channel, anyone?).

  11. John Burgess says:

    The world is not a better place for the existence of CAIR. They cry wolf far too often to be taken seriously. This case, though, seems to have gone far beyond a press release from CAIR. The statement is offensive to anyone who abhors bigotry, for that is exactly what it is. Graham’s piece said that all Muslims (that is, followers of the relgion known as Islam) are terrorists. That is a falsehood. To paint an entire population as anything, based on the behavior or characteristic of some members of that population, is what we call bigotry.

  12. mike irwin says:

    By Michael Graham’s logic, Supreme Court nominee John Roberts is also a terrorist. After all, he defended radical anti-abortion protestors who not just supported clinic bombings with silence, but actually made public statements in sympathy with the bombers. So, his, like his boss’s reluctance to publicly condemn the violent perps, by Michael Graham’s logic, makes him as guilty as the bombers themselves. So, NARAL = Michael Graham. Hmmmmmmmmm…….

  13. mike irwin says:

    By Michael Graham’s logic, Supreme Court nominee John Roberts is also a terrorist. After all, he defended radical anti-abortion protestors who not just supported (Grahamlogic) clinic bombings with silence, but actually made public statements in sympathy with the bombers. So, his, like his boss’s reluctance to publicly condemn the violent perps, despite the lack of a direct relationship, by Michael Graham’s logic, makes him as guilty as the bombers themselves. So, NARAL = Michael Graham. Hmmmmmmmmm…….

  14. osama says:

    Graham helps me recruit new jihadis.

    I am happy.

  15. Ali says:

    I would be glad if Mr. Graham would count the number of human beings killed by the followers of every religion, starting from the repeated massacres of the Jews, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the colonialism, the World Wars and so on and so forth.
    Could Mr. Graham please, tell me if Heroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by Muslims. And for that matter the name of the first and the only country in the world that has used Atomic weapons and has the largest stockpiles of Atomic, Chemical, biological and conventional arms and related paraphernelia and is dangerous enough to attack any country even on the falsest and insanest of reasons.
    Could Mr. Graham please, tell me if the World Wars (where millions died) were fought between the Muslim countries.
    Could Mr. Graham at least tell me the name/s of the country/ies, who educated, trained, equipped, organized, funded, supported and un-leashed Osama bin Laden and company, first against Russia and now for the promotion of their interest inthe region.
    Could Mr. Graham please, tell me the name of the country who refused to take Osama bin Laden, when offered by a Muslim country, Sudan.
    Could Mr. Graham please, tell me if 6 million jews were killed by Muslims and the Nazis were Muslim terrorists.
    Could Mr. Graham please, tell me if 60,000 humans killed in a single day, in the first crusades in Jerusalem, were killed by the Muslims.
    Could Mr. Graham please, confirm that in the second Crusades’ not even a single human was killed after the city was retaken by the same people, who were killed in multitudes, in the first Crusades. Could he please, tell me who re-took the city.
    I don’t think Mr. Graham will be able to use the free speech thing here to answer these questions in a straight forward manner, but I wish to tell him that it takes just one history book to know the answers to all these questions.
    Islam is the religion of peace and will always remain so. And I do not have to claim it. Just please, go through the translations of all the Quran and not the misconstrued verses which are taken out of context. And if your heart has an iota of freedom, you will definitely understand the true message of Islam.
    Muslims have proved it for more than a thousand years that they value human life above anything and they will do so, till the day of judgement, even if others kill multitudes, in the name of “quickly ending the War”, country, peace, freedom, democracy, race, witch hunt and God knows how many other names.
    Just please, remove your agents from our ranks and files, I mean Osama, AlZawahiri, and so many others, who have been trained, equipped, financed, supported and un-leashed by the governments of your country for the basest of reasons, means the oil.

  16. Fiery_Phoenix says:

    Funny you should bring up the Nazis, Ali. Guess who stopped them, and who collaborated with them? I’ll give you one: the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem certainly didn’t do much to stop them…

  17. Tom says:

    Sorry, lefties. Like it or not, Islamic teaching is being used as a justification for ongoing terrorism and genocide. CAIR’s leadership has been quoted as wanting to make the United States ruled by Islam.
    The partial recounting about the crusades is endless. Should we not remember that the crusades were an effort to recover the holy lands that were brutally conquered by Muslims over centuries of conquest. Mohamed and his Muslim followers spread their totalitarian philosophy through continual violence over 14 centuries, and they continue that today. If there is a majority of peaceful Muslims, where is their outcry against the islamist terrorists? How many terrorist cells have they helped stop? Where is their support for the nations that they have chosen to live in?
    Surely all world views have been used for ill by some people, not just religious views. Stalin, Hitler, China, and others murdered tens of millions for secular reasons.
    Unfortunately, humans do awful things due to greed or pride or fear or sadism or hunger or evil spiritual influences. Hopefully, we can learn to cooperate before we destroy ourselves. It’s not going well…