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.”
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 Ã¢€” rightly or wrongly Ã¢€” is interpreted to promote violence, added to an organizational structure that allows violent radicals to operate openly in IslamÃ¢€™s name with impunity, Islam has, sadly, become a terrorist organization. It pains me to say it. But the good news is it doesnÃ¢€™t have to stay this way, if the vast majority of Muslims who donÃ¢€™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 Ã¢€” specifically, the Ninth SuraÃ¢€™s verse 5 (Ã¢€œÃ¢€¦ [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) Ã¢€¦Ã¢€); and verse 29 (Ã¢€œFight 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.Ã¢€)
More to the point, Islamic theology has in fact been construed to promote violence, repeatedly, by Muslims Ã¢€” 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 Ã¢€” driven by an interpretation of scriptures that self-evidently lend themselves to just such an interpretation Ã¢€” has long been coupled with Ã¢€œan organizational structure that allows violent radicals to operate openly in IslamÃ¢€™s name.Ã¢€
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 Ã¢€œheterodoxÃ¢€ or Ã¢€œheretical,Ã¢€ for such notions are Western ones that have Ã¢€œlittle 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.Ã¢€
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 GrahamÃ¢€™s closing sentiments. He pointedly left his listeners with the Ã¢€œgood newsÃ¢€ 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 militantsÃ¢€™ use of Islam.
[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.