On October 18, the Phoenix City Council removed an individual named Marwan Ahmad from his position on the Phoenix Human Relations Commission (PHRC). The mission of the PHRC, comprised of "volunteer citizens appointed by the Mayor and City Council," is to "advocate and promote respect and understanding among all groups, to discourage all manner and manifestation of discriminatory practices and to monitor any such abuses and to aid in correcting such practices." Mr. Ahmad, through his words and deeds, has demonstrated time and again that he is incapable of living up to such lofty goals, and as such, the City Council made the correct move in taking him off the PHRC.
Ahmad, a Phoenix-based publisher, produces two radical newspapers, the English language "Muslim Voice" and the Arabic language "Arab Voice." The editorial position of both papers is unapologetically pro-Hamas, including a February 2006 editorial in the "Arab Voice" hailing Hamas' election victory in the West Bank and Gaza. A March 2006 article by Mr. Ahmad in the "Muslim Voice" invokes an Islamic parable to attack the position of the U.S. government and the international community on withholding support for the Hamas government until it renounces violence and recognizes Israel; Mr Ahmad further complains about the Treasury Department's closing of the Hamas-linked charity, the Holy Land Foundation, whose leadership is set to go on trial next year for funneling millions of dollars to Hamas.
Ahmad does not reserve his venom for U.S. foreign policy. He also uses his newspapers to attack members of the Muslim community who disagree with his extremist positions. In a 2005 edition of the "Muslim Voice," Ahmad ran an editorial cartoon depicting a moderate member of the Arizona Muslim community as a ravenous dog.
That moderate is Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, an Arizona-based physician and activist. And why did Ahmad's paper attack Dr. Jasser? Because Jasser takes the time to monitor and translate Ahmad's publications and alert the local community about his fierce level of extremism. Jasser's courageous work, shining the light on bigotry and hatred, should be applauded, and can be seen at his website, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.
But Ahmad's bigotry is not limited to his newspapers. His company also publishes a phone book of sorts called the "Multicultural Yellow Pages," which, according to a report in the Arizona Republic, includes a map of the Middle East with the word "Palestine" where Israel is located and omits all area Jewish cultural institutions, including all "area codes, airlines and restaurants associated with Israel."
Its page listing foreign embassies and consulates in the Arizona and the U.S., for example, does not mention any Israeli mission, nor does its page on world currencies mention the Israeli shekel. The page on international area codes lists "Palestine" instead of Israel, and states that such cities as Haifa, Netanya, Ashkelon, Afula, and Akko – all well within the 1967 borders – are part of Palestine.
With all of Ahmad's pro-Hamas, anti-Israel, anti-U.S. positions, as well as his attack on moderate Muslims, it should come as no surprise, then, that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has come to Ahmad's defense. CAIR, which often describes itself as a "prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group," has a well-documented history of extremist, anti-American and anti-Israel positions and was founded by members of a now-defunct group, the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), an organization that was a losing defendant in a 2004 case stemming from the murder of an American citizen by Hamas gunmen, resulting in a $156 million civil judgment against IAP and several co-defendants. In the case, the judge noted that there is "evidence that IAP provided material support to Hamas."
Additionally, several CAIR officials have been convicted of terrorism related offenses, including Ghassan Elashi, the founder of CAIR-Texas, who, on October 13, was sentenced to 6 years and 8 months in prison for, amongst other charges, laundering money for Hamas. Elashi is also slated to go on trial next year for his role in the leadership of the Holy Land Foundation.
Ahmad told the Arizona Republic that "the (Phoenix) City Council is 'under the influence of the pro-Israel groups, and they're putting Israeli interests before the city's interests.'" This is a view that CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad probably shares, as Awad himself stated at an October 28, 2000 anti-Israel rally in Washington D.C., "Brothers and sisters, we are at least 8 million people, but there are 265 million people in this country who have been deceived, who have been misinformed, who have been intimidated by a small group of people who have been hijacking the political process."
Upon Ahmad's dismissal from the PHRC, the Arizona chapter of CAIR scheduled a press conference to proclaim that Ahmad's First Amendment rights have been violated. The Arizona chapter of CAIR, along with several other pressure groups, issued a statement announcing a press conference to state their "demands," including that the Mayor and City Council of Phoenix revoke Ahmad's "termination and to reinstate Mr. Marwan Ahmad's membership on the Phoenix Human Relations Commission." CAIR also "insist(s) that the Mayor and the City Council issue a formal apology to Marwan Ahmad and to the entire Phoenix Muslim Community for demonstrating unprecedented governmental interference on citizens' free speech rights, and for setting a bad example of governmental violation of citizens' due process rights guaranteed by our Constitution."
Of course, the City of Phoenix has neither taken away Mr. Ahmad's free speech rights nor has it violated the First Amendment n any way. Ahmad is free to continue publishing anti-American and anti-Israel rhetoric and attacking less extreme voices in the Islamic community. But clearly he has no place on a civic board designed to "advocate and promote respect and understanding among all groups."
What really should be insisted upon is an investigation into how Mr. Ahmad got a position on the Phoenix Human Relations Commission in the first place. But recognizing their mistake, the Phoenix City Council deserve great credit for taking the action they did and for standing up to the Islamic militant lobby in their city.