WASHINGTON – Michael Graham, the Washington, D.C., talk-show host suspended for linking Islam and terrorism, has been fired by ABC Radio following weeks of pressure applied by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group with its own well-documented connections to terrorism.
Graham was the popular mid-morning host on WMAL in the nation's capital until three weeks ago when CAIR demanded he be punished for his on-air statements about Islam. After initially backing the host, WMAL suspended him without pay July 28.
"CAIR immediately announced that my punishment was insufficient and demanded I be fired," Graham said in a statement to WND. "ABC Radio and 630 WMAL have now complied. I have now been fired for making the specific comments CAIR deemed 'offensive,' and for refusing to retract those statements in a management-mandated, on-air apology. ABC Radio further demanded that I agree to perform what they described as 'additional outreach efforts' to those people or groups who felt offended. I refused. And for that refusal, I have been fired."
CAIR is a spin-off of a group described by two former FBI counterterrorism chiefs as a "front group" for the terrorist group Hamas in the U.S. Several CAIR leaders have been convicted on terror-related charges.
Graham's suspension stemmed from characterizing Islam a "terrorist organization." Graham explained that when a significant minority of a group conducts terrorism and the general population of that group does not denounce it, it is safe to conclude that the group promotes it.
He drew an analogy between Islam and the Boy Scouts.
"If the Boy Scouts of America had 1,000 scout troops, and 10 of them practiced suicide bombings, then the BSA would be considered a terrorist organization," he said. "If the BSA refused to kick out those 10 troops, that would make the case even stronger. If people defending terror repeatedly turned to the Boy Scout handbook and found language that justified and defended murder – and the scoutmasters in charge simply said 'Could be' – the Boy Scouts would have driven out of America long ago."
Graham is furious that CAIR is now able to exert this kind of influence in the U.S. media.
"It appears that ABC Radio has caved to an organization that condemns talk radio hosts like me, but has never condemned Hamas, Hezbollah, and one that wouldn't specifically condemn al-Qaida for three months after 9-11," he said. "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. As a conservative talk host whose job is to have an open, honest conversation each day with my listeners, I believe caving to this pressure is a disaster."
Graham said he couldn't accept the idea of apologizing "for the truth and I cannot agree to some community-service style 'outreach effort' to appease the opponents of free speech."
"If I had made a racist or bigoted comment – which my regular listeners know goes against everything I believe in – I would apologize immediately, and without coercion," he said. "When I have made inadvertent fact errors in the past, I apologized promptly and without hesitation. But we have now gone far beyond that, with demands that I apologize for the ideas my listeners and I believe in."
Though Graham's characterization of Islam was blunt, it was also tactful.
"I have great sympathy for those Muslims of good will who want their faith to be a true 'religion of peace,'" he said and wrote at the time of the controversy. "I believe that terrorism and murder do violate the sensibilities and inherent decency of the vast majority of the world's Muslims. I believe they want peace."
Graham was backed by supporters from coast to coast after his suspension.
"It is not a coincidence that, after my suspension July 28, WMAL received more than 15,000 phone calls and emails protesting my removal from the airwaves," he said. "Why such a huge response? It wasn't about me. The listeners I spoke to said they felt betrayed by my suspension because the vast majority of them agree with me on the subject of Islam. By labeling my statements as unacceptable, these listeners felt that WMAL management was insulting them, too."
Graham said he could not dishonors his listeners and other Americans who agree with him by apologizing or retracting the truth.
"The whole point of the Michael Graham show is what my listeners and I call the 'natural truth,' those obvious facts about modern life that the PC police and mainstream media believe should never be discussed," he said. "That includes the tragic, but undeniable relationship between terrorism and Islam as it is constituted today."
Graham reiterated that the conversations of the controversial subject matter on his program were not designed to be offensive or bigoted.
"In fact, Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR (who has appeared on my show several times) credited 'criticism from talk radio' in part for the recent fatwa against terrorism issued by a group of U.S. Muslim scholars. Ironically, it was issued the day before I was suspended. That's the real tragedy here. The people who most need free speech and open dialogue on the issues facing Islam today are America's moderate Muslims. These are people of good will who have the difficult job ahead of reforming and rescuing their religion. They need all the help they can get."
But it is the capitulation to what he perceives to be an extremist group by ABC that bothers Graham most.
"The decision to give CAIR what it wants – a group with well-publicized ties to terrorists and terror-related organizations -- will make it harder for the reformers to successfully face Islam's challenges," said Graham. "Still worse, silencing people like me will make it easier for Islamist extremists to dismiss all sincere calls for reform as mere 'bigotry.'"
In April, the founder of the Texas chapter of CAIR, Ghassan Elashi was found guilty of supporting terrorism. Elashi, along with two brothers, was convicted in Dallas of channeling funds to a high-ranking official of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, Mousa Abu Marzook. Elashi was the third CAIR figure to be convicted on federal terrorism charges since 9-11.
CAIR is a spin-off of the Richardson, Texas-based Islamic Association For Palestine, or IAP, which was founded by Marzook. Former FBI counterterrorism chief Oliver Revell has called the IAF "a front organization for Hamas that engages in propaganda for Islamic militants."
Marzook, deputy chief of Hamas' political bureau in Syria, founded the IAP in 1991. At its conferences in the U.S., the IAP hosted leaders of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Marzook was deported in 1997.
It was not the first conviction for Elashi. As chairman of the Holy Land Foundation charity in Dallas, Elashi was convicted last year of making illegal technology shipments to two countries on the U.S. list of terrorist-sponsoring states, Libya and Syria. Four brothers, including Bayan and Basman, also were convicted.
Other CAIR figures convicted since 9-11 are Randall Todd "Ismail" Royer, a former communications specialist and civil rights coordinator, and Bassem Khafagi, former director of community relations.
Royer was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges he trained in Virginia for holy war against the United States and sent several members to Pakistan to join Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Kashmiri terrorist group with reported ties to al-Qaida.
In a plea bargain, Royer claimed he never intended to hurt anyone but admitted he organized the holy warriors after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.
After his arrest, Royer sought legal counsel from Hamas lawyer Stanley Cohen, who said after 9-11 he would consider serving as a defense lawyer for Osama bin Laden if the al-Qaida leader were captured.
Khafagi, was arrested in January 2003 while serving with CAIR and convicted on fraud and terrorism charges.
Current CAIR leaders also have made statements in support of Hamas and the domination of the U.S. by Islam.
As WorldNetDaily reported, CAIR's chairman of the board, Omar Ahmad, was cited by a California newspaper in 1998 declaring the Quran should be America's highest authority. He also was reported to have said Islam is not in America to be equal to any other religion but to be dominant.
"When CAIR is able to quell dissent and label every critic a 'bigot,' the chilling effect is felt far beyond ABC Radio and 630 WMAL," said Graham. "If anyone is owed an apology, it is the moderate, Muslim community who have been failed once again by the mainstream media."
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