May 07, 2019
Your politics and ideology shouldn't matter: a video of children singing about beheadings, martyrdom and wars for liberation should qualify as – at a substantially understated minimum – disturbing.
Over this past weekend, such a scenario was amplified nationally and internationally because of a few-minute clip posted to the Facebook page of the Philadelphia chapter of the Muslim American Society.
If you haven’t heard about it already, PhillyVoice recapped the controversy over a video of children wearing Palestinian scarves at an April 17 “Ummah Day” celebration at the Muslim American Society Islamic Center in North Philadelphia. The video was posted to the Facebook page of the Philadelphia chapter of the Muslim American Society.
On Friday, an unverified – but jarring – translation of the video was shared by the Middle East Media Research Institute showing children saying "we will chop off their heads" and "we will subject them to eternal torture."
A day later, the Muslim American Society added to its “preliminary statement” to condemn the words used in the video and promised to investigate. That came after the Muslim American Society Islamic Center said the video derived from a group that had rented the space at the center, not the center itself.
“The school board has informed us that it has taken immediate actions and dismissed the person in charge of the program,” that statement read. “Unfortunately, the video from the school was uploaded to the chapter’s Facebook page without verifying the content of the video for appropriateness and making sure it conforms to our hate-free policy and values.”
As damage control goes, this is par for the course. Get on the record with what you comfortably know about the situation, and talk about how it was, in essence, a teachable moment.
Still, there are troubling aspects that can’t be quickly explained away that go beyond the abhorrent notion of teaching children to hate.
At first, as best I could tell over the weekend, the story barely pierced the social-media bubble as it caught fire on conservative media outlets. (Heck, with life away from the computer being what it was, I hadn’t even heard about it until my often diametrically- and politically-opposed father texted about it on Sunday.)
That runs counter to the vast amounts of attention paid to politically charged issues like, say, the smirking Covington High School Boys vs. a drumming Native American Elder confrontation at the Lincoln Memorial, which instantaneously prompted so many rushes to judgment back in January.
As a result, I buy into cries from the conservative side about egregious double standards.
"In this day and age, I wasn’t surprised to hear such vitriol." – Nancy Baron-Baer, ADL
What we had here were young children singing hateful words, and those hateful words resulted in very little blowback from liberal corners.
Now, some may say a rush to judgment is not good. They would be right. But a rush to decry hate should have filled in the gaps until the full story was known.
The lack of reaction reeks of hypocrisy or fear of backlash that comes anytime someone is perceived to pick a side in the eternal conflict between Israel and Palestine. And it fuels criticism of the media itself, whether justified or exaggerated.
This situation should not get swept aside with blame chalked up to a lapse in "oversight."
Nancy Baron-Baer, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, expanded on her group's statement in speaking with me on Monday about how her organization has not yet had any conversations with the Muslim American Society about the video.
She also said that it’s not yet been disclosed publicly who, exactly, rented the MAS space.
“I hope they’ll condemn what happened, and then do something about it. Not enough people do that.”– Marwan Kreidie, founding member and executive director of the Arab-American Community Development Corp.
“It would be great to know who the entity is,” she said.
It's incumbent that that changes soon. The ADL, and all of us, are owed answers about who is teaching their children to loathe others, whether they realize it yet or not.
Baron-Baer was asked to describe her feelings on seeing the video for the first time.
“It was combination of shock, horror and sadness," she shared. "Shock and horror that young people were taught to say and sing such words. Sadness that they were taught and said those words and no one seemed to be appalled or angered."
But it wasn't surprising.
“In this day and age, I wasn’t surprised to hear such vitriol, but it’s important that the adults who put this together understand what their words mean and what they’re doing to next generation,” she said.
For his part Marwan Kreidie, founding member and executive director of the Arab-American Community Development Corp. and current candidate for city commissioner, said a tangible response will soon arrive.
“What happened slipped through the cracks. It was a school decision, not a mosque decision, and it’s being taken seriously, trying to constructively teach what anti-Semitism is, going to mosques with predominantly immigrant populations to do that,” he said. “Legitimate criticism [of] Israel as a state is permissible. What’s complicating this is that people are saying any criticism is anti-Semitism when that’s not always the case.”
He wasn’t trying to defend the video, but wanted to add context to what he’s seen missing from the aftermath.
“I can’t speak for that mosque, but they realize what happened, that people of goodwill do make mistakes,” he said, noting that a statement and action plan could be forthcoming as early as Tuesday. “I hope they’ll condemn what happened, and then do something about it. Not enough people do that.”
They sure don’t, but they had better this time.
After all, kids singing about beheading their enemies isn't the sort of image people soon forget, provided they see it in the first place.
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