HATE MESSAGES HAVE NO PLACE IN OUR COMMUNITY
A STATEMENT ISSUED BY THE MIAMI-DADE COUNTY COMMUNITY RELATIONS BOARD
Did South Florida’s most prominent newspapers place profit over community when they distributed to thousands of their subscribers an inflammatory DVD depicting the alleged activities of religious extremists? The non-profit Clarion Fund claims that the documentary “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” was distributed to 28 million U.S. households in order to promote national security. However, the Executive Committee of the Miami-Dade County Asian-American Advisory Board called the video “a hateful message that maligns Islam and paints all Muslims with a broad brush as a hateful bunch hell-bent on violence.”
Subscribers to the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, The Sun Sentinel, and Palm Beach Post received the DVD in an advertising insert in their Sunday newspapers on September 14, 2008. The DVD, that was originally released three years ago, was distributed last week by thirty-six major daily newspapers, most of which serve so-called “swing states” that are considered critical to the upcoming U.S. Presidential elections. At least two newspapers, the Greensboro News & Record in North Carolina and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch declined to distribute the DVD calling its content “divisive.”
The Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board (CRB) supports the freedom of all people to express their opinions without fear of censorship. However, in the United States of America, individuals and organizations also have a duty to act responsibly to protect the lives and liberties of their fellow residents, no matter their race, religion or ethnic heritage. The CRB joins with those who support the human rights of all persons.
In Miami-Dade County, the presence of many individuals of varied religions, ethnicities, and national origins is a source of strength. Our diversity also presents some challenges along with its attractions. At this time of heightened anxiety over international conflict and terrorist threats, responsible people must demonstrate their commitment to our nation’s core values of equality and mutual respect. No one should be singled out for hatred, prejudice, or blame based on ethnic origin, nationality, or religion. The CRB strongly condemns speech or other expressions of opinion that are intended to incite people to acts of harassment, intimidation, or violence.
Historical events have demonstrated the volatility of passions in Miami-Dade County. Reports of extremist activity locally or in other parts of the country, have been met with a marked increase in acts of discrimination and hate crimes directed against persons suspected of being associated with the extremist group. The CRB has been warned that this latest depiction of alleged terrorists in our midst is likely to generate similar responses from people who fear the religion or ethnic heritage of their neighbors.
Hate crimes, discrimination, and anti-Muslim acts must not be tolerated by our leaders, our government, or our residents. An attack on any segment of our community is an attack on all of us. The CRB encourages all law enforcement agencies, schools, government agencies, faith-based organizations, and community-based organizations to act swiftly and decisively to prevent acts of hatred and discrimination, and to challenge them whenever they occur.
In the coming weeks, the Miami-Dade CRB will be asking our elected officials to join with our board members, with religious leaders of all faiths and with citizens of good will to reject this latest threat to our common values of fairness, equality, and justice for all. Everyone in our community will be asked to join with the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners and our Mayor in a Resolution calling for peace, tolerance, and mutual respect in response to messages of hatred and division. Everyone will be asked to support one another and to take personal responsibility for protecting the safety and security of all of members of our community. No one should be silent in the face of discrimination or injustice.
Rev. Dr. Harold A. Vieux, Chairman
Miami Dade County
Community Relations Board