Thirteen Black and Jewish elected officials and community leaders called Tuesday for Minister Rodney Muhammad, the leader of the NAACP in Philadelphia, to apologize for an anti-Semitic image he posted on his Facebook page last week.
Some demanded that Muhammad resign or be removed from his post.
State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, a Philadelphia Democrat, said he would no longer work with the local NAACP if Muhammad remains in charge.
“I cannot accept anything less ... than an apology and, frankly, stepping out of the way,” Williams said in a conference call hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
Muhammad had already faced calls for his resignation after posting and later deleting the image Friday. It showed photos of Ice Cube, DeSean Jackson, and Nick Cannon above a caricature of a hook-nosed, yarmulke-wearing figure on the sleeve of an unseen person who is crushing a mass of people with a ring-bedecked hand.
The image included a quote — “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize” — often misattributed to Voltaire. The quote has been traced to a neo-Nazi convicted on a federal child pornography charge in 2008.
Williams and others on the call noted that the image is used widely by white supremacists.
The Rev. Kenneth Huston, president of the Pennsylvania conference of the NAACP, and others on the call said they hoped Muhammad’s misdeed would further mobilize the combined efforts of groups combating racism and bigotry. Huston said his group is in “deep conversation” with the NAACP’s national leadership about Muhammad.
“We are anxiously awaiting to see what our national direction will be,” Huston said. “And we’re prayerful that we will get that answer expeditiously.”
Muhammad, in an interview Friday, said he paid no attention to the image in his post. He has not apologized for sharing it.
“If the image of that man on that sleeve is offensive, then you’re opening me up to a sensibility,” he said. “I’m not going to share it anymore.”
Muhammad insisted that his point was about conversations being shut down through censorship.
“History has shown us that there have been ruthless totalitarian regimes that have shut down voice and opinion,” he said. “That certainly can’t build a healthy society.”
Steve Rosenberg of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia again called on Muhammad to resign during Tuesday’s conference call.
“We cannot allow this type of behavior from anyone, much less a leader of one of our nation’s most prolific and important civil rights organizations,” he said.
Ryan Boyer, business manager for the Laborers’ District Council, said he told Muhammad the Facebook post was “evil.”
“It dehumanizes people,” Boyer said. “It’s hurtful.”
State Sen. Sharif Street, a Philadelphia Democrat, noted that the local NAACP leader is elected by the group’s membership.
“There will be a reckoning for this, either now or in the future,” he said.
City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier said Muhammad “has repeatedly displayed his lack of compassion and understanding of the dangers of anti-Semitism.”
“The idea that a civil rights leader would not just share [an] anti-Semitic message, but then refuse to take ownership of it and apologize, it’s not just disappointing, it’s completely unacceptable,” she said.