Though there is some disagreement between local talk station WMAL and fired mid-morning host Michael Graham over the details of his recent termination, one thing is not in dispute: the big winner is the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which called for his ouster, yet has never specifically condemned Islamic terrorist organizations such as Hamas or Hezbollah.
In a year that started with it blasting away at the Fox television show “24”—because it had terrorists who were Muslims—CAIR has garnered more attention than ever before. Now with the firing of Mr. Graham, it has achieved perhaps its greatest feat yet—at least in perception, which is typically tantamount to reality.
And a stronger CAIR almost inevitably means a weakened culture of free speech.
Mr. Graham was fired last week by Disney-owned WMAL for his on-air comments on July 21 that Islam is a “terrorist organization.” After initially defending him, however, the station suspended him without pay on July 28—three days after CAIR launched its initial campaign.
In an official statement, the station dismissed the coincidence of timing, saying, “we make our decisions independent of external pressures or third parties.” But given that the station went abruptly from supporting Graham to suspending him, it seems difficult to believe that the CAIR-stirred controversy had no impact on the sudden switch.
Graham likely was not immediately shown the door after making the comments on July 21 because they were rich with context, with the logic and rationale for his labeling Islam a “terrorist organization” well laid-out. The remarks were far from flippant, and seen in context, they don’t read as the rantings of a fire-breathing bigot.
Here is a representative 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.”
Focusing solely on the “terrorist organization” soundbite obviously makes Mr. Graham’s comments indefensible—and legitimately an outrage. But with his clearly spelled-out reasoning, there is still much room with which to disagree with his labeling—but it is much harder to pillory his comments as bombastic bigotry.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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