(August 6, 2020 / JNS) The national leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) rebuked the president of its Philadelphia branch, Rodney Muhammad, but stopped short of firing him, for sharing an anti-Semitic meme a couple weeks ago in defense of black celebrities who have come under fire lately for anti-Semitism.
The NAACP’s leadership was “saddened and deeply disappointed by the harm caused by Mr. Muhammad’s actions” and believed that Muhammad “now recognizes the offensive nature of the imagery and post,” NAACP spokesperson Austyn Ross told The Philadelphia Tribune on Wednesday.
“Hate speech has no place at the NAACP, and such language and imagery are reprehensible,” said Ross, who added that NAACP president Derrick Johnson and Muhammad will meet with faith and community leaders in the coming weeks to “open a dialogue and continue the educational conversations.”
Meanwhile, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia said on Aug. 2 that it will no longer work with the Philadelphia NAACP as long as Muhammad is there.
“While Mr. Muhammad still has yet to fully apologize for his most recent actions, an examination of the social-media channels maintained by him and the mosque he leads shows an alarming amount of bigoted and anti-Jewish sentiments,” said the Federation in a statement. “While we are willing to engage in dialogue with NAACP national president Derrick Johnson, the Pennsylvania Conference and other local NAACP chapters, our obligation to oppose hate and discrimination will prevent us from working with the Philadelphia chapter while Mr. Muhammad is employed there.”
In his second official statement since the backlash began, Muhammad said on July 30, “I do regret the insult, pain and offense it caused to all, particularly those of the Jewish community by this unfortunate episode. Our aim now is to engage in thoughtful, meaningful and we hope productive dialogue between our communities.”
‘They use it as a trick’
On his Facebook page, Rodney Muhammad shared the meme, which has pictures of rapper Ice Cube, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, and actor, rapper, director and TV host Nick Cannon—all of whom have lately been accused of anti-Semitism and/or posting anti-Semitic rhetoric—with a caricature below of a Jewish man with a long and crooked nose wearing a kipah that is engraved on the wrist with a large, bejeweled hand pushing down on a group of people.
The meme includes a quote misattributed to the French philosopher Voltaire: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”
The quote is actually attributed to American neo-Nazi, Holocaust denier and white supremacist Kevin Strom.
The meme suggested that the pushback against Ice Cube, Jackson and Cannon, as well as apologies from the latter two, was part of a controversy orchestrated by Jews.
When contacted by a reporter, Muhammad deleted the post, initially claiming that he didn’t recall sharing it. He eventually acknowledged the meme, but noted that he didn’t know that the image was anti-Semitic, reported local PBS affiliate WHYY.
“To be real honest with you, I didn’t even pay attention to the picture,” he said.
Muhammad, who also goes by “Rodney Carpenter,” did not apologize, instead saying that black people were being silenced by “members of it in agencies with other agendas” that decry anti-Semitism as a way to rebuke people.
“They use it as a trick,” he said. “If you’re in Europe and you criticize any of them like that, or if you’re in America, it’s anti-Semitism.”
Muhammad has praised Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has an extensive history of anti-Jewish rhetoric, on social media.
In a 2012 interview with Loyola University in Chicago, Muhammad slammed the Jewish people for their rebuke of Farrakhan’s statements.
“This is how much they think of themselves, that we’re supposed to [be] prioritizing their concerns before we deal with ours,” he told the interviewer. “What arrogance, man? That’s arrogance!”
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