Philadelphia’s NAACP president Rodney Muhammad, a prominent civil rights figure and local Nation of Islam leader, is facing mounting calls to resign after he shared an anti-Semitic meme on Facebook.
Muhammad sparked outrage last week when he posted the meme which featured photos of Ice Cube, DeSean Jackson and Nick Cannon – all of whom have been criticized recently for making anti-Semitic comments – over of a drawing of a yarmulke-wearing man using his hand to crush a group of people.
The image was accompanied by a quote wrongly attributed to the philosopher Francois Voltaire which read: ‘To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.’
Philadelphia’s Jewish leaders demanded Muhammad’s resignation over the weekend, and on Monday he issued a statement explaining that he hadn’t realized the anti-Semitic connotations.
But his explanation did little to subdue the outrage, as Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro have now joined the calls for Muhammad to step down as NAACP president.
Muhammad on Monday said that he deleted the meme after he learned that the images it contained had previously been distributed by white supremacists.
‘I later learned that not only was the quote I used misattributed to the philosopher Francois Voltaire, but in fact, the quote and image had been used previously by white supremacists,’ he wrote in a statement late Monday night.
‘I immediately removed both the quote and the offensive images. It was never my intention to offend anyone or cause any hurt.
‘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.’
Muhammad has not returned media requests for comment this week but did speak briefly to local news outlet BillyPenn on Friday.
‘To be real honest with you, I didn’t even pay attention to the picture,’ he said.
The real source of the quote on the meme is Kevin Strom, an American neo-Nazi, Holocaust denier and white supremacist who was convicted on child pornography charges in 2008.
DeSean Jackson, a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, was included in the meme after he was accused of anti-Semitism earlier this month when he shared quotes attributed to Adolf Hitler on Instagram.
Actor and rapper Ice Cube faced similar accusations last month after he posted a series of tweets that contained ‘creepy symbols and images’ implying Jews were responsible for the oppression of blacks.
Comedian Nick Cannon was also struck by a scandal in June after he made anti-Semitic and anti-white comments on his podcast.
Jackson and Cannon apologized for their posts and comments, while Ice Cube did not.
Several city leaders have said Muhammad’s initial decision to post the meme called his leadership into question during a time when the NAACP’s mission is vital as the US sees an unprecedented wave of anti-racism activism.
The NAACP’s national office has not yet publicly commented on the controversy within its Philadelphia chapter.
The Jewish Federation of Philadelphia first issued a statement calling for the NAACP to remove Muhammad on Friday.
It doubled down on that demand in another statement on Tuesday, in which it rejected Muhammad’s reasoning and decried the fact that he didn’t apologize.
‘Mr. Muhammad’s statement regarding his anti-Semitic Facebook post is utterly insufficient,’ the organization wrote.
‘Given the chance to apologize for his actions, he declined to do so.’
Gov Wolf condemned Muhammad’s ‘vile’ meme on Twitter, writing: ‘Sharing this type of racist content is unacceptable—especially from a civic leader.
‘I’m joining the call for Minister Muhammad to resign. Hate has no place in Pennsylvania.’
AG Shapiro offered an even more scathing statement, tweeting: ‘As soon I learned about Rodney Muhammad’s post I reached out to him directly to understand what happened and ask for a sincere apology. His response to me was offensive and we are all still waiting for that apology.
‘He has undermined the progress we need to make together to combat anti-Semitism and structural racism that has been baked into our society through generations.
‘That is just one reason why I join so many Black leaders in calling on Rodney Muhammad to resign as President of the Philadelphia NAACP. The NAACP is a crucial civil rights organization that deserves better than Rodney Muhammad.’
Pennsylvania State Sen Anthony Williams argued that Muhammad no longer deserves to represent the NAACP.
‘The NAACP and any other organization that claims it’s concerned and wraps its arms around humanity and dignity for all people has to acquire a standard of its leaders,’ he said.
‘And that standard can not allow for a slip of the tongue, a mistake of a thought, but most importantly, publicly posturing around racism and anti-Semitism.’
‘The meme was insulting, not just to Jews, not just to African-Americans, but anyone who fights in this country for what the standard is supposed to be,’ Williams added.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney stopped short of demanding Muhammad’s removal and instead called for him to apologize.
‘I share the outrage of Philadelphia’s Jewish community to this offensive message, and I am extremely disappointed that Minister Muhammad saw fit to post it,’ Kenney said in a statement.
‘It perpetuates vile anti-Semitic rhetoric, and it compounds the hurt caused by DeSean Jackson’s earlier post, for which Jackson has appropriately apologized.
‘Our city and nation need healing and unity now, not the sort of division and hatred that this post creates.
‘I call on Minister Muhammad to apologize to our Jewish community and to all those who fight every day for religious and racial tolerance.
‘I know Minister Muhammad to be a bridge builder, and I hope he is up to the task of rebuilding the bridges that his unfortunate post has now damaged.’