ADC Concerned by Stigma Against Arab-American Political Discourse
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), expressed concerns from the delegitimization of Arab-American political discourse associated with the cancellation of a radio program in Washington, DC. In late December, the owners of WWTL radio, based in Walkersville, Maryland, canceled the =93Freeway Radio=94 (broadcast in English) and =93Al-Hilm Al-Arabi=94 (in Arabic) programing of Mr. Hikmat Beaini. The programming consisted mainly of political discussions and call-in programs and was also broadcast in Detroit and Chicago. In response to a letter of inquiry from ADC and other concerned organizations about the circumstances of the cancellation of the programing, attorneys for the station owners cited =93the broadcasting of inflammatory programming which attacks other racial or ethnic groups=94 as one of the reasons for ending the broadcasts.
ADC is concerned that this seems to be yet another instance in which the political discourse of the Arab-American community is stigmatized and held to a different standard than that applied to conversations in other communities. In any radio call-in format, there is bound to be a wide range of dialogue, including comments that are both intelligent and foolish, reasoned and emotional, tolerant and intolerant. This range of opinion and the space for all of it to be voiced and reasoned through by a society and community is normally considered the very essence of responsible broadcasting and public conversation. All too often, however, the Arab-American political conversation is held to a special standard, and is easily labeled 93 inflammatory,93 controversial, 94 and 93 intolerant 94 In the prevailing environment in AM talk radio, dominated by hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and G. Gordon Liddy, the normal standards for political discourse must be seen as very broad indeed. The letter from WWTL=92s attorneys to ADC and the other groups claimed that Mr.Beaini was =93interviewing representatives of groups generally described as terrorists and that the program content contained material which, in my client=92s judgement, went beyond the area of legitimate controversy and intruded into the realm of irresponsible attacks on other groups.=94 Similar claims were made to the Jerusalem Post newspaper.
It would strongly appear that, for whatever reason, the owners of WWTL are appealing to a common perception that forums which provide a full range of views from the Arab-American community are illegitimate. It also seems that no distinction is being made between what callers and those interviewed may have said, and the views of the hosts of the programming, a crucial distinction in the world of talk radio. ADC is deeply concerned by the persistent labeling of Arabs and Arab Americans as =93terrorists=94 or terrorist sympathizers, a pattern which is reflected in WWTL=92s statements. It is a form of incitement that is not only irresponsible but dangerous. Moreover, a kind of guilt by association that would make journalism all but impossible is being implied.
ADC Update: Date: Mon, 22 Jan 2001 15:56:42 -0800