In an earlier entry where Steve highlighted some disturbing transcripts from Muslim radio station Voice of the Cape, an article was posted in the comments section by a visitor to It's Almost Supernatural who used to serve on the management structures of VOC. He goes by the pseudonym Abu Ghaib.
Steve and I decided that his opinion is worth listening to and so you can click the Continue Reading link to view his opinion. I follow it up with a response of my own. But first some context...
In September 2004 a virulently anti-Semitic broadcast took place on Voice of the Cape (VOC), a Cape Town based Muslim radio station. The show featured an interview with Shaykh Mogamat Colby, a local Muslim studying at a madrassa in Egypt. Colby, encouraged by the host, made various extremely denigrating remarks about Jews and Judaism, referring frequently to The Protocols of The Elders of Zion (a banned publication in South Africa). Amongst other things, he stated:
“They [the Jews] believe that they have been created to enslave and subjugate humanity and take full control of all matters of life”; “the Yehud are controlling all our land, all the means of the radio stations, the newspapers, the televisions – and this is how they have full control over the whole world”;
“This is their protocols. They say: we will carry out any form of destruction and killing and slaughtering and murdering and raping without any mercy whether it is children, mothers, babies… this is what governs them, this what they believe in.”
In response to this blatant hate speech, the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) lodged a complaint with ICASA. VOC subsequently did post an apology on its website (I have searched its website, but cannot find a copy of the apology - I will link to it if someone locates it.) This was allegedly vague and evasive. It did not constitute a genuine repudiation of the offensive material and the SAJBD wrote again to ICASA pointing this out and requesting that it deal with the matter.
Earlier this year ICASA ruled in favour of the SAJBD, finding that VOC had breached the broadcasting code by providing a forum for hate speech. The ICASA decision obliged the VOC to broadcast an apology and a retraction of the statements made during the anti-Semitic broadcast. I am unaware if VOC has ever fulfilled this obligation.
|Hate speech ruling against VOC – Jewish Board of Deputies misses target|
From Abu Ghaib
A HEADLINE in the South African Jewish Report (September 30) trumpets that the Board of Deputies “won” a “hate-speech” hearing against Voice of the Cape, a Cape Town based Muslim community radio station with a daily audience of about 200,000 listeners.
A similar report appeared on the international web-site of the Co-ordinating Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism in which it was stated that the SAJBD had won a “precedent-setting” suit against VOC.
This happened after the SAJBD had lodged a complaint with the Independent Communications Authority (ICASA) about the contents of a religious programme aired on 10 September 2004.
In this programme a senior al-Azhar student studying in Cairo had stated that there was no difference between Judaism and Zionism. During the broadcast, Muhammad Colby had frequently (and clumsily) referred to the “Protocols of Zion”, a chestnut of a document that outlines a “blueprint” for world Jewish domination.
Colby’s outlandish deviation from his radio topic, in which he accused Jews of unspecified collective rape and murder, would probably have never been taken seriously by anyone with a modicum of intelligence had a report on the programme not appeared in the Mail and Guardian. Who informed the M & G, and why, is another question.
Nevertheless, VOC management did respond with alacrity, immediately issuing an apology and stating that Colby’s views were not representative of the station. This apology was carried by the M & G, widely broadcast on VOC’s bulletins and posted on its web-site. Colby, however, remained unrepentant.
In spite of VOC’s proactive response (long before the SAJBD’s “reaction”), the SAJBD refused to accept VOC’s apology. It claimed that it was inadequately worded and lodged an official complaint with ICASA that was forwarded to the Broadcasting Monitoring Complaints Committee.
In this respect, it is revealing that the SAJBD chose to cite Section 5 of ICASA’s Code of Conduct for South African broadcasters in its complaint against VOC. Section 5 entrenches the right to freedom of speech, but withdraws protection for those who indulge in “propaganda for war” or those who stir up violence or advocate hatred “that is based on race, gender or religion”.
It is interesting, if not instructive, that the SAJBD spurned Section 36, which deals with programmes covering similar matters. This clause allows the aggrieved party to state its case, or to refute the views expressed. With VOC’s accommodative stance, the SAJBD could so easily have followed this less costly –and more conciliatory – route by taking to the airwaves.
Why VOC admitted “guilt” to Section 5 is another curious matter. But as a station official commented privately: “Rather than becoming distracted by the SAJBD’s semantic nitpicking, we felt it prudent to show the better behaviour, to apologise if we were wrong, and to move on. We certainly do not see this as a sign of weakness.”
But as the Cape Town community newspaper, Muslim Views, argues in its October issue: “Was the radio programme really about hate speech as the SAJBD contends? Was Colby actually inciting people to hatred and to war? Or did the programme just deal with a controversial issue?”
There are many who would lean towards a controversial issue. And whilst a BMCC hearing did rule against VOC on the basis of its “guilty” plea, its chairman did make a pointed statement. Bemused as to why the SAJBD was so adamant in pursuing prosecution, he is reported to have asked the SAJBD’s legal representative whether he had come for his “pound of flesh”.
Other observers have noted that the SAJBD’s truculent paranoia indicates just how out of touch it is with the complexities of the Middle East, and the local Muslim community – the overwhelming majority of whom are not hostile to Jews. They argue that Colby’s wayward editorialising needs to be understood in context, something beyond the capacity of the SAJBD.
They say that as a person who has been studying in Cairo for many years, he is more au fait with the “Arab perspective” than the local one. Gross injustice in Palestine, including Nakba denial, has inflamed passions so much in the Arab world that a distinction is no longer made between Judaism and Zionism. This is something that not only the SAJBD needs to understand, but also world Jewry in general.
Furthermore, the “Protocols of Zion” – a well-known Czarist forgery – is seen by many misinformed people as the ultimate Zionist project. In the Arab world where democracy is a desert mirage, people have to fill in the information gaps with rumour and conspiracy.
In that light it is sweetly ironic that VOC, the one South African Muslim radio station endeavouring to span the divide, has to be tarred and feathered with “hate speech” by the SAJBD. Perhaps the SAJBD needs to be reminded that the VOC (which is not the voice of the MJC, the IUC, the MYM or Qiblah) has pursued an active policy of open dialogue on critical matters, even if it has meant rough edges at times.
To this effect, SAJBD members seem to have forgotten that they too have been featured guests on VOC shows! Furthermore, VOC can hardly be accused of imbalance and bias like the other Muslim media institutions the SAJBD so fondly likes to demonise. VOC has, over the years, not only interviewed Dr ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Rantisi of Hamas, but also people like Yuval Steinlitz of Likud as well as the Israeli ambassador.
Very intriguingly, the SAJBD has taken no action against Muhammad Colby, the source of all its ire. In litigation – or matters of libel – only serving notice on the agent, as opposed to the author, is highly unusual – if not legally absurd. It is the equivelant of those in the Zuma trial indicting corruption, but not Zuma himself!
But if the views of a guest have to attribute to a media institution – as the SAJBD seems to believe – then perhaps its lawyers should also consider indicting al-Jazeera, the BBC, CNN, Fox and the SABC for featuring anti-Semitic personalities such as Usama bin Laden, Eugene Terreblanche, the Klu Klux clan and Scrooge MacDuck.
In conclusion, the SAJBD’s short-sighted expediency may well have won itself a few sexy headlines. But that is all. For in reality the slandered party is not the SAJBD, but VOC itself. The station now has to live with an undeserved anti-Semitic slur. As the Muslim Views report stated: “The label of hate speech is easily flung, but not so easily removed.”
The only consolation is this: VOC has discovered that not all Jews in Cape Town are happy with the SAJBD. They have been asking why the SAJBD has been hounding the one Muslim voice that has had the courage to accommodate the very people whom this body claims to so nobly defend.
Abu Ghaib is a pseudonym for a person who used to serve on the Management Structures of Voice of the Cape. He writes here in his personal capacity.
I would like to begin my response to your detailed comments by commending you for engaging. I believe that dialogue between Jewish and Muslim South Africans is vital to preventing the Arab-Israeli conflict from spilling over into our streets. I also believe that both peoples must honestly express their views even if at times it is uncomfortable. Nevertheless a line must be drawn at hate speech.
While the distinction between controversial statements and racial/religious incitement is often grey, the nature of the remarks you refer to made on the VOC radio station is clear. Using the notorious anti-Semitic forgery the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to explain Israeli foreign policy is not legitimate debate. Demonising an entire people by accusing them collectively of rape and murder is incitement to racial hatred. The VOC, in fact the entire South African Muslim community should have publicly distanced themselves from these comments.
Rather than openly condemning them as racist and anti-Semitic, you have unfortunately attempted to justify these remarks. The lack of democracy and freedom in the Arab world does not excuse using Jews as scapegoats. ‘Nakbar denial’ does not justify falsely accusing Jews of desecrating the Temple Mount. It is unfortunate that the oppressed masses in the Arab world have chosen to take out their frustration on Jews and Israel rather than their own leaders who are in fact responsible for their plight.
In addition, you condemn the Jewish Board for pursuing legal action against VOC. Your warped logic is telling. The Jewish community are the victims of an anti-Semitic outburst on your station. The Jewish board as the official reprehensive of that community are pursuing legitimate means to ensure that such events do not happen again. Your comparison of their actions to those of Shylock in the Merchant of Venice serves to further reinforce my concern that many in the Muslim community in South Africa harbour deep anti-Semitic sentiments. The Jewish Board was not as you put it demanding their pound of flesh, rather attempting to protect Jewish lives by limiting the amount of hatred and incitement to violence that is a common feature of your radio station.
The Merchant of Venice is perhaps an appropriate prism through which to analyse the rhetoric of much of the Muslim world in general and your radio station in particular. Like the Christian’s of Shylock’s Venice, you refuse to acknowledge Jewish victimhood. The prevalence of Holocaust denial in the Muslim world is a symptom of this same phenomenon. Then when Jews attempt to legitimately pursue justice for themselves, you decry their lack of mercy and label them as aggressors. As Shylock explains ‘If you prick us do we not bleed; if you poison us do we not die, if you wrong us do we not revenge?’
At a recent talk of the Seeking Refuge exhibit at the Goethe institute, the German ambassador to South Africa explained that anti-Semitism/the holocaust was not only a great catastrophe for the Jews but also for the Germans. The negative consequences of anti-Semitism/racism will forever scare Germany. The Arab/Muslim world has already almost entire been ethnically cleansed of Jews. I am sure, the cultural and economic consequence of that have already been tremendous. Islamic terrorism, hatred’s most extreme manifestation, once only directed at Jews has now turned on innocent Muslims as well. Continued anti-Jewish hate speech will only serve to further poison your societies.
Muslim societies will only be restored to their former glory when, courageous Muslims stand up to confront this evil. I hope that you might be such a person.
(These views are my own and in no way represent those of the Jewish Board or any other Jewish organisation)