Where Was the Anger When Imus Insulted Arabs, Muslims?

Ray Hanania

Posted Apr 18, 2007      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Where Was the Anger When Imus Insulted Arabs, Muslims?

Ray Hanania

While the controversy surrounding racist radio and TV talk show host Don Imus continues to push the African-American community to review how similarly racist comments are used in black rap lyrics, that his career is coming to a screeching halt has Arabs and Muslims in America cheering.

Imus, and his co-hosts and writers including Sid “Vicious” Rosenberg, are among the most vicious, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim haters on American broadcast TV. But, they are not alone. Still, Arab and Muslim Americans are celebrating the demise of Imus who every morning for years on the prestigious MSNBC Cable News Talk channel, and through his New York-based radio syndication promoted hatred against Arabs and Muslims.

For African-Americans, the debate is simple. Why is it wrong for Imus to use the disgustingly vernacular phrase “nappy-haired hos” when referring to black female basketball players on the Rutgers team, but not equally disgusting when black rappers and singers and standup comedians use the same terms in their lyrics and on stage?

But for Arab and Muslim Americans, the debate is wider. Why is it that no Americans cared when Imus and his bigoted sidekicks on radio and TV trashed, slandered and demeaned Arabs and Muslims daily, and only seem to care when the victims of his hatred are black?

The controversy began during a typical morning radio program when Imus referred to eight African-American women who play for the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-haired hos” who have tattoos. Immediately, powerful African-American leaders like Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, denounced Imus and demanded that he be fired.

At first, hoping to head-off a career-ending result, Imus issued an immediate apology saying he crossed the line. He went on numerous media shows to emphasize his “sorrow,” and his white colleagues in the media came to his defense.

But African-American outrage would not let up. MSNBC and his CBS radio syndication, Westwood One, announced after watching the crisis increase for three days, that they would suspend Imus for a two-week period.

And to soften the blow, they said that the suspension would not start for an entire week, so Imus could discuss the controversy on his radio and TV show for the week before the suspension to try and offset the criticism and calls for his firing with his endless and, honestly, whining and insincere apologies. But African-Americans quickly turned their anger against the major advertisers who sponsor Imus’ programs.

Suddenly calling Imus a “shock jock,” a term never used to describe the man that nearly every presidential candidate has sat down with to discuss political issues, American Express and General Motors joined Staples, Proctor and Gamble and Bigelow Tea in a growing list of sponsors who withdrew their advertising money.

In America, money talks more loudly than principle.

The issue involving Imus was never about principle, morality or the ethical limits of American “free speech.” It was never about race of skin color. It is all about one color, green, the color of the American dollar.

Imus has one of the nation’s top rated radio and TV shows. His audiences number in the many millions.

Most galling to me as an Arab American is that Imus is no different than an endless slew of other powerful radio and TV talk show hosts. The list of Imus’ hatred is endless but here are a few samples:

On Nov. 12, 2004, Imus and one of his radio sidekicks started to make comments during the funeral procession for Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

Imus said that Palestinians eat dirt, referred to Arafat’s wife as “that fat pig of a wife,” and then when his sidekicked called them “stinking animals, animals, just animals” as Imus nodded in agreement.

Imus slandered Presidential candidate Barack Obama saying that he has a “Jew-hating name” and said he agreed with politicians who called for the dropping of nuclear bombs on Makkah.

No one listened when Arab and Muslim Americans complained.

Welcome to America. Where some ethnic and racial and religious groups are fair game for hatred, and others are safe only because they have the voices to pressure the bigots to apologize.

It took a week for MSNBC to finally drop Imus and it may be days before Westwood One drops Imus, too.

But even if Imus is gone — and I say good riddance — the hate speech he has come to symbolize is alive and well in America

Originally published in The Arab News - Visit Ray Hanania’s site at http://www.hanania.com