Think Globally, Act Locally-Local Muslim paper prints hate cartoon

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This month’s issue of the print version of the local Arizona Muslim Voice, sadly the only Valley Muslim community newspaper in town, published a pathetically hate-filled half-page feature cartoon on page 2. This cartoon seen above could only be described as despicable hate speech.

Why should this specific cartoon matter to non-Muslim Arizonans if it was only in a throw-away ethnic newspaper with a wide ethnic mostly immigrant distribution in Arizona, Nevada and California? Is it simply crude journalism from a throw away, or is it a manifestation of deep seeded hate speech and an ugly intolerance which is in dire need of the light of day?

For some background, this offensive cartoon is the result of a three month saga where leadership from CAIR-AZ (Council on American-Islamic Relations- Arizona Chapter) gathered their own group of self-appointed Muslim activist leaders and imams to express their disdain for a July 31, 2005 Steve Benson cartoon which appeared in the Arizona Republic. Their initial meeting with the editors in September led to this bizarre accounting in the Muslim Voice. Not only was the veracity of this accounting suspect, but it became clear that their focus was not only Benson�s single cartoon, but there was an inexplicably deep animosity for their fellow devout Muslim activist and columnist, this writer, M. Zuhdi Jasser.

Apparently, CAIR-AZ which intimately shares an office with the Muslim Voice along with a few other �prominent� Valley Muslim leaders were then granted another meeting with the Arizona Republic�s leadership in November. The offensive cartoon with a bizarre and vague patronizing front page editorial by editor-in-chief, Marwan Ahmad, then followed in this month�s issue.

Looking at the cartoon, the Muslim Voice�s publisher and editor-in-chief, Marwan Ahmad seems to be expressing his paper�s opinion that the meetings were a complete waste of time since they were short a formal apology from the Republic. Never mind that Benson�s cartoon actually had many aspects to it which are painfully true for those Muslims willing to set aside their own denials that so many of their mosques are being used to indoctrinate an ideology which condones terror. This founder and former board chairman of the CAIR-AZ chapter wanted the Republic to apologize formally for Benson�s cartoon. Mr. Ahmad even goes further on his front page. Apparently referring to the meeting, he chastises the organizers (his CAIR officemates) stating (sic) �Being active and having connections then compromising in our behalf is not acceptable anymore without consulting the legitimate Muslim leaders and Imams of the community.�

While on the one hand complaining in the Muslim Voice’s same old victimization routine about racism and intolerance, the Muslim Voice then chooses, as it so often is want to do, a grotesquely offensive image of a fellow Muslim and a Republic cartoonist which is beyond hypocritical.

One must also realize that in the Arabic Muslim culture, to call someone or characterize him or her as a dog is to hurl at them one of the most offensive off-color curses one can imagine. Imagine then, the vile nature of characterizing a devout practicing activist Muslim and physician as not only a dog but one who enjoys cannibalizing imams? The ultimate question which must be asked is Why? What deserves this hatred? In fact interestingly, this writer never even participated in any of the meetings between this so-called Muslim leadership and the Republic.

With all that I have written and done in the public record in the effort of defending my faith of Islam against radicalism, terrorism, theocracy and Islamism, why such a deep seeded hatred? Why distribute it in all the mosques and ethnic markets in the Valley? I have been asking Mr. Ahmad and his circle of imams and Muslim community activists for years to speak out against radical and evil Muslims in Al Qaeda, Bin Laden, Zarqawi, HAMAS and others by name rather than in platitudes. Their response has always been to deflect naming names as being �un-Islamic.� It appears that they would rather reserve the naming of names and labeling as a �dog� or kelb in the Arabic vernacular not for the ilk of Al Qaeda and the enemies of America but for an activist secular moderate Muslim.

It�s time for Mr. Ahmad and his sympathizers to articulate for us all what it exactly is about my writings and the activities of AIFD (the American Islamic Forum for Democracy) which deserves this ugly hate speech. The public debate is long overdue. It is time that the likes of Marwan Ahmad and his sympathizers in hatred against moderate secular Muslims be finally publicly pressured into an accounting of why vocally secular moderates and vocally anti-terror Muslims bring on their hatred. It reeks of the tired and pathetic technique of the Wahhabi lobby to vilify and demonize those who threaten their control the most rather than to deal with the core issues they raise.

Every advertiser in the Muslim Voice and every facility which distributes the hate speech in the Muslim Voice must answer for that support. Their business� advertising dollar and each mosque�s and market�s distribution permission is tacit support for Mr. Ahmad and his paper�s crude opinion and speech. Imagine what kind of outcry the Muslim Voice and the so-called Valley Muslim leadership would have if a non-Muslim paper or other media outlet in the U.S. referred to Muslims or Arabs as �dogs on a leash who enjoy devouring non-Muslims�.

As an honored appointee to the Human Relations Commission of the City of Phoenix, Mr. Marwan Ahmad must hold himself harmless to acts of racism against his fellow Arab and Muslim American. I guess I missed the Muslim Voice memorandum or perhaps even the Human Relations Commission memorandum which exempted hate-filled cartoons by Wahhabist sympathizing local community throw-away newspaper editors from the definition of anti-Muslim hate and intolerance which the commission was formed to fight. If this cartoon and ideology isn�t profiling, I�m not sure what is?

This throw-away paper is distributed freely at nearly every mosque in the Valley in addition to a vast number of ethnic markets, schools, and community colleges. The generally free large distribution to religious and ethnic centers while avoiding any free market pressures under which a more legitimate subscriber based newspaper would function has insulated its publisher from any subscriber based accountability to its readership. It is distributed generally freely and is apparently dependent wholly upon its advertisers. In a visit to most of the 10 mosques in the Valley one will find a stack well placed for distribution to all who attend.

The advertisers of the Muslim Voice need to wake up from their deep hibernation about the hate speech they continue to fund. The advertisers need to explain to their Valley business consumers why they are actively contributing financially to Mr. Ahmad�s type of hate against moderate Muslims. The businesses and mosques which are the venues of its distribution must understand that they are accomplices in its campaign of hate. These advertisers need to be accountable to their Valley neighborhoods and consumers for the type of propaganda and hate speech it spews on their streets.

The Muslim Voice�s publisher, Marwan Ahmad, may find this type of literature distributed readily in the mosques of the Gaza Strip or the West Bank against Muslim moderates there, but in the United States all who aid and abet his activities are accountable to the Arizona community at large in this secular democracy. While he may certainly have a first amendment right to distribute hate speech for some bizarre reason against defenders of moderate Islam, the greater Arizonan community also has a right to be painfully aware of the intolerance and radicalism of the Muslim Voice distributed in our own Valley. After all the years of circulation at Muslim and ethnic functions locally, its time for us all to wake-up to the reality of this so-called �Muslim Community Newspaper� and investigate the ideology which it really represents. God willing soon the entire Valley will be asking— does the ideology of the Muslim Voice represent the ideology of its advertisers and distributors? Is the Muslim Voice and its supporters a profound local liability in the war on hate and the war on terror and Islamofascism? This issue is too important locally to ignore any longer.

M. Zuhdi Jasser can be reached at Zuhdi@aifdemocracy.org

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