A local radio talk show host touched off complaints from an Islamic civil rights organization yesterday after repeatedly describing Islam on the air as “a terrorist organization” that is “at war with America.”
The organization, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), asked the station to take disciplinary action against Michael Graham, who hosts WMAL-AM’s late-morning call-in program. A station executive, Randall Bloomquist, said yesterday that Graham’s comments were “amped up” but justified within the context of the program. He said the station, which is owned by the Walt Disney Co., had no plans to reprimand Graham.
The show host touched off the flap during a discussion of the Muslim community’s response to recent acts of terrorism. Graham suggested the fault lies with Muslims generally because religious leaders and followers haven’t done enough to condemn and root out extreme elements. “The problem is not extremism,” Graham said, according to both CAIR and the station. “The problem is Islam.” He also said, “We are at war with a terrorist organization named Islam.”
CAIR denounced the comments yesterday as “hate-filled” and “Islamophobic” and asked its members to contact the station’s advertisers to express their dismay.
“It’s amazing,” said Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s communications director. “I talked with Mr. Bloomquist and asked him if he would reprimand someone who used the n-word on the air. He said yes. I asked him if he would reprimand someone who read from the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion.’ He said yes. So I asked him if he would do the same if someone had called Islam a terroristic organization. Well, he said, it’s all about context, but he never quite explained it to me.”
Added Hooper, “The First Amendment allows people to be idiots and bigots. All you can do is embarrass people and have them defend their reputation. If WMAL doesn’t feel embarrassed and doesn’t want to defend its reputation in the face of anti-Muslim bigotry, then there’s not much we can do about it.”