The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia announced in an Aug. 2 statement that the organization no longer will be partnering with the Philadelphia NAACP so long as Rodney Muhammad stays as its president.
The statement expressed extreme disappointment at the national NAACP “for excusing Mr. Muhammad’s anti-Semitic posts and refusing to remove him from his position as a leader of a civic organization.”
Muhammad had posted an image to his Facebook page on July 24 that featured a Jewish man with a hooked nose and a sinister grin. It also had words that read, “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”
The image attributed the quote to French philosopher Voltaire but it is believed to have been written by neo-Nazi Kevin Alfred Strom.
“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,” the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s statement read. “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.”
On Aug. 5, NAACP spokesperson Austyn Ross said in a statement to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star that while the NAACP is disappointed in Muhammad, he “now recognizes the offensive nature of the imagery and post. Hate speech has no place at the NAACP, and such language and imagery are reprehensible.” Johnson and Muhammad will be meeting with community leaders in Philadelphia in the coming weeks.
The Capital-Star noted that Ross’ Aug. 5 statement was “nearly identical” to an unsigned statement reportedly from the NAACP about Muhammad on July 31.
Muhammad had addressed the matter in a July 27 statement, saying that he didn’t know about the image’s anti-Semitic connotation and once he did, he took it down.
“It was never my intention to offend anyone or cause any hurt,” Muhammad said. “The NAACP strongly condemns any offensive language or imagery and stands against all forms of hate speech and anti-Semitism. I stand with all members of the Jewish faith in the fight for social justice, and I intend to use this opportunity for thoughtful conversations with both the Black and Jewish communities.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Philadelphia chapter said in a statement that while the Jewish group appreciated the national NAACP’s “clear denunciation of anti-Semitism and their recognition of the vile nature of Mr. Muhammad’s posts … it’s disturbing and disappointing that someone who seems to have no remorse or respect for other communities will remain in a leadership position. This was not the first time that Mr. Muhammad expressed hateful views. We only can hope it will be the last.”
ADL Philadelphia noted that the ADL and NAACP have a “historic relationship” and that Muhammad has been an outlier in it.
“We regularly work with NAACP chapters across the country,” the Jewish group added. “We also have done so at the national level for decades. We hope to engage in dialogue with NAACP about this ugly incident so that we can continue our partnership fighting against hate.”
A member of the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference told the Capital-Star on Aug. 4, “There are a lot of people in the state organization who want [Muhammad] out.” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) and Attorney General Josh Shapiro also have called for Muhammad’s resignation.