Yesterday, the "New York Post" broke the story of an anti-Government, anti-Semitic speech made by the chief Imam of New York City's Department of Corrections. On an audio tape obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) at a 2005 Muslim Students Association conference in Arizona, Umar Abdul-Jalil, also the Imam of the Masjid Sabur mosque in Harlem, complained that "the greatest terrorists in the world occupy the White House" and that the "Zionists of the media" have portrayed Islam in a negative light. Responding to the news of Imam Jalil's comments, New York City has placed him on administrative leave pending a further investigation. As reported by the Post:
At one conference session, Abdul-Jalil charged that Muslims jailed after the 9/11 attacks were being tortured in Manhattan, according to the tape. "They [some Muslim inmates] are not charged with anything, they are not entitled to any rights, they are interrogated. Some of them are literally tortured and we found this in the Metropolitan Correctional Facility in Manhattan. But they literally are torturing people," Abdul-Jalil said.
Abdul-Jalil also accused the Bush administration of being terrorists, according to the tape. "We have terrorists defining who a terrorist is, but because they have the weight of legitimacy, they get away with it . . . We know that the greatest terrorists in the world occupy the White House, without a doubt," he said.
At another session, Abdul-Jalil urged American Muslims to stop allowing "the Zionists of the media to dictate what Islam is to us" and said Muslims must be "compassionate with each other" and "hard against the kufr [unbeliever]."
Not surprisingly, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has a long history of espousing and defending extremist, hateful and anti-Semitic speech (see Steven Emerson's "The American Muslim Leaders' 'Fatwa' Is Bogus"), is defending Imam Jalil's right to preach his views while earning $76,000 in taxpayer-supported salary and holding a position of public trust, supposedly involved in the rehabilitation of convicted criminals. Of course, CAIR won't defend the rights of newspapers when publishing cartoons which CAIR deems insulting.
For his part, Imam Jalil, after initially denying that he made the comments at all, admitted to the "New York Post" that he had in fact made the incendiary remarks, but that they were being taken out of context. According to the "New York Daily News," Jalil insists that he is not anti-Semitic and has lashed out at those who he feels have questioned his patriotism. As reported by the Daily News:
Yesterday he insisted he wasn't anti-Semitic, adding that his mother was Jewish, having converted to Judaism in 1959.
"I'm more Jewish than most who espouse the Jewish faith," he said.
Into the controversy steps CAIR on the Imam's side. As reported by New York's ABC affiliate, Wissam Nasr, CAIR-New York's Executive Director, said:
"There are other things that are the truth in his statements. For example, harsh treatment of Muslim prisoners at the Metropolitan Detention Center and the jails in New York, so I think we can't mix the two together. And even if it was his opinion, this is America and we are allowed to express our opinions publicly."
The report continues: "[w]hile the Council on Islamic Relations (sic) doesn't agree with all the statements, the director examined the transcripts with us and defended the imam's right to expression." CAIR's position as a defender of "free speech" concerning incendiary and hateful remarks is rather dubious in light of their views on the recent Danish cartoon controversy. Parvez Ahmed, the Chairman of CAIR, wrote in an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News (and issued on the Islamic Broadcasting Network site), "[f]ree speech, like every other freedom, comes with the responsibility of good judgment. Newspapers ought to have the freedom to speak the truth, but a cartoon that defames does not further debate." One wonders if Parvez Ahmed believes that rants about the "Zionist controlled media" and terrorists running the White House helps to "further debate." And just two weeks ago, at a CAIR-sponsored event at the University of Pennsylvania on the Mohammed cartoons, CAIR board member Mazhar Rishi said, "[t]he right to free speech is not absolute."
In CAIR's view, when Muslims are offended, free speech is not absolute and should be exercised responsibly. But when a Muslim in a position of authority receiving a government salary says something offensive, free speech becomes an unlimited, cherished American right. In other words, everyone but Muslims must exhibit responsibility when exercising their right to free speech.
The IPT's Joshua Shrager appeared on WABC's broadcast to discuss the issue (click on "Eyewitness News Video" under "Related Links" to watch).