By Mahmoud El-Yousseph
As a Muslim veteran and proud father of a US army solider, the DVD “Obsession–Radical Islam’s War Against the West” is very disturbing to me. On the surface, it appears to be an educational DVD. However, below this cleverly-packaged surface one will find anti-Muslim propaganda, spreading fear and hatred towards Muslims. It also creates the illusion that there is a war between Islam and Christianity. Even more disturbing is that the Columbus Dispatch saw fit to distribute the DVD as an insert, thereby making the newspaper complicit in spreading hate speech and profiting from it.
I felt compelled to write after reading Editorial Page Editor Glenn Sheller’s October 4th commentary defending the Dispatch’s decision to distribute the DVD. He was basically contradicting the views on the subject expressed in a letter from Abukar Arman, the President of Ohio Chapter of The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on the same subject, published the same day.
I did appreciate the concerns expressed by Mr. Sheller and his perspective on what law-abiding Muslims have to go through as a result of hate speech, bigotry, and discrimination. But somewhere halfway through his column, he lost me. He stated that free speech is more important than Muslim concerns and that CAIR’s reaction to the DVD is equivalent to suppressing freedom.
However, CAIR’s published response and a previous letter on the subject by Eric Weisgerber, a reader from Hilliard, expressed a similar point. Mr. Weisgerber hit the nail on the head when he posed the question to the Dispatch, "would you do it to any other race or religion if the price is right, and what is the difference?" You and I know the answer would be absolutely not. Such propaganda would be rejected right off hand and dismissed as incendiary hate speech.
Speaking of suppressing freedom, Mr. Sheller sounds like the proverbial pot calling the cattle black. Before the Dispatch accuses CAIR of suppressing freedom and other forms of blackmails, inquiring minds want to know why the Columbus Dispatch twice in the last four years refused to publish paid political ads submitted by yours truly? Cases in point:
On the day Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat died in November 2004, the Columbus Dispatch refused to publish an obituary as a paid advertisement, which I submitted through a funeral home in Westerville. Another central Ohio daily newspaper did. The obituary was short with no mention of Israel in the text. The newspaper that published it took heat as well as praise from readers, and the funeral home received nasty calls accusing the place of supporting terrorism. What a shame!
One reader asked if the paper would also run an obituary for Osama Bin Laden. Finally the paper ran an editorial defending its decision and my right to free speech. There is no place for censorship under a democracy!
Last February I sent an inquiry about placing a paid political ad in several newspapers across central Ohio about lifting the illegal and inhumane siege imposed on 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza. All papers agreed to do it except the Columbus Dispatch. Just for the record: the ad was comprised by a map of Gaza surrounded by a barbed wire with the slogan beneath: "Lift the siege on Gaza," written in Hebrew, Arabic and English. I am proud to say that the first newspaper who agreed to do it was the Jewish Weekly, The New Standard. Surprised by that publication’s response, I asked, “why did you agree to do it when you know you could get backlash from your readers and advertisers? The answer was, "to protect your right to free speech.” Eight months later, I still have not heard from the Columbus Dispatch.
Muslims and Arab living here and elsewhere do not wish to have their faith or ethnicity equated with violence and terrorism. Muslims as well as Arabs are on the forefront when it comes to denouncing terrorism against innocent Jews and Christians here or abroad. In the meantime Muslims and Arabs are subjected to attacks and public insults in both electronic and print media on a daily basis. That is what grinds my gears.
I checked the Dispatch archives about the use of the term "terrorism" as it relates to stories here and in the Middle East. Not one single time was "Jewish terrorism" or "Christian terrorism" used when Muslim were the victims. The aggressors are not Muslims in places like Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Somalia, or Afghanistan. The victims are always killed “in retaliation,” “caught in the cross fire,” or callously referred to as “collateral damage.” Have the folks at the Dispatch and other media outlets ever stopped to think about how obvious is their bias?
Finally, I must admit I am not a CAIR cardholder. I am also forever grateful to the Columbus Dispatch for giving me a forum for 30 years to address issues of concern to the local Muslim and Arab community on a regular basis. Above all, the Dispatch did vouch for my loyalty and patriotism when it came under question. I may have sounded ungrateful to the Dispatch, but that is a constructive criticism with no malicious intent. Freedom of speech is what I treasure the most living here at home in the America that I love and care about. For that reason, I was willing for 20 years to die for America if need be. I took an oath, which I take seriously; to defend America not only against foreign enemies, but also against domestic ones. That said, Muslims like me and those dedicated men and women at CAIR-OH seek fairness, not favors from the Dispatch and other news medium.
-Mahmoud El-Yousseph is a retired USAF Veteran. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.