Thursday, August 20, 2020

VOA Urdu Chief Suspended For Covering Pro Biden Muslim American PAC

Voice of America (VOA) Urdu language service chief Kokab Farshori and the managing editor for digital operations Tabinda Naeem have been suspended by VOA CEO Micheal Pack who was recently appointed by President Donald Trump. They are accused of violating a federal law by showing a 2-minute promotional video clip of Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden's speech to Emgage, a pro-Biden Muslim-American Political Action Committee.  The clip shows Biden promising "I will end the Muslim ban on day one".

Suspended VOA Urdu Chief Kokab Farshori
The Emgage video clip used by VOA Urdu Service has VOA Urdu logo and Urdu subtitles. Voice of America CEO Mike Pack’s office has alleged that the video “can only be described as an apparent election advertisement for [the] presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.” Prior to this action against VOA Urdu staff, Pack's shake-up of senior leadership positions had raised concerns among current and former staff, press freedom groups and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle that the editorial independence of VOA and other U.S.-funded media was at risk, according to NBC News.

Nearly 3.5 million people globally follow the VOA Urdu Facebook page, and the service has more than 184,000 Twitter followers, according to Voice of America. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed there were 397,500 Urdu speakers in the U.S. between 2009 and 2013.

There are only 3.5 million Muslims – about 1.1% of the total US population – and there has not been a serious effort to reach out to Muslim voters in prior elections. But this election appears to be different. And this has been brought out in the revised Urdu content of the July 22 video, which triggered the probe. “The number of Muslim voters in several key US states could play a significant role in the upcoming presidential election. In the 2016 election, President Trump won Michigan with less than 11,000 votes. The number of Muslim voters in this state is 1.5 million".

Here's US Democratic Party's Presidential Nominee Joseph R. Biden Speaking to Muslim America PAC Emgage:

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Riaz Haq said...

There were no Muslim voices at #DemocraticNationalConvention. #BidenHarris denunciation of #Muslim activist Linda Sarsour for her support of #BDS movement may cost #Democrats #Michigan with its 1.5 million #Arab-Muslim vote. #Election2020

There is a realistic chance that November's presidential election may be decided by who wins Michigan. In 2016, President Donald Trump won the Midwestern state by a mere 10,000 votes.

Michigan also happens to be home to large Arab and Muslim communities - a constituency in the hundreds of thousands that could sway the election one way or another.

On Thursday, prominent Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour told supporters that Joe Biden's campaign decision to disavow her earlier this week may affect the Democratic Party's chances of winning the state in November.

Sarsour said she knows how to organise and excite Muslim and Arab voters that the former vice president will need in Michigan and other states.

In remarks broadcast on social media, the activist said that by denouncing her for supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement, the Biden campaign antagonised Arab, Muslim and progressive voters who share her views in advocating for Palestinian human rights.

"The Democratic Party will say we are a 'big tent'. 'Big tent' means that you are going to have to come to terms with having people in your party that you don't agree with; that is what a big tent means," Sarsour said.

The controversy started on Tuesday when Sarsour spoke for three minutes about moblising the Muslim vote at an official panel at the Democratic convention.

Right-wing media outlets and Trump's campaign seized on that brief appearance, producing videos and news stories accusing Sarsour of antisemitism and slamming Democrats for giving her a platform.

Although Sarsour is a well-liked figure on the left flank of the Democratic Party with ties to many prominent progressives, the Biden campaign rushed to condemn Sarsour and distance itself from her.

"Joe Biden has been a strong supporter of Israel and a vehement opponent of anti-Semitism his entire life, and he obviously condemns her views and opposes BDS, as does the Democratic platform," campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement late on Tuesday.

"She has no role in the Biden campaign whatsoever."

A non-apology
Sarsour said Bates's remarks were a "big mistake".

"I'm over here chilling because I don't have any white managers for anybody to call. I did not have a role in the campaign for anyone to claim that I don't have a role."

Several groups representing a wide range of communities and ideologies had said accusations of antisemitism against Sarsour and Palestinian rights defenders are unacceptable, and demanded an apology - or at least a retraction - from the campaign.

Organisations that spoke out in defence of Sarsour include the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Arab American Institute (AAI), the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and Emgage, Jewish Voice for Peace and many others.

'Linda is a fierce advocate for justice and freedom, and a leading antiracist and organizer against antisemitism'

Riaz Haq said...

#BidenHarris distance from ex Women's March leader #Muslim activist Linda Sarsour after #DNC appearance. DNC says Sarsour 'has no role' in the campaign. She supports #BDS movement that calls for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel #FoxNews

"Joe Biden has been a strong supporter of Israel and a vehement opponent of anti-Semitism his entire life, and he obviously condemns her views and opposes BDS, as does the Democratic platform," Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement, referring to Sarsour. "She has no role in the Biden campaign whatsoever."

The DNC platform, which was approved Tuesday, also condemns the BDS movement, while recognizing the rights of individuals who may feel otherwise.

"We oppose any effort to unfairly single out and delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, while protecting the Constitutional right of our citizens to free speech," the platform states.

Sarsour's rhetoric has gone beyond merely calling for boycotting Israel.

"Nothing is creepier than Zionism," she tweeted in 2012, referring to the movement for Jewish self-determination in the land that is now Israel.

She has also claimed that it was wrong to "humanize" Israel in the context of its conflict with Palestinians, and falsely stated that Israel was "built on the idea that Jews are supreme."

Sarsour was involved in this year's primary season, however, as she was a surrogate for Bernie Sanders' campaign. In February, she reached out to the Muslim Democratic Club of New York trying to drum up support for Sanders, The Intercept reported.

Sarsour appeared on screen during the convention on Tuesday when cameras showed a meeting of the Muslim Delegates Assembly. A Democratic official claimed that the meeting was not run by the Democratic National Committee or the Biden campaign, according to CNN's Jake Tapper, however the event was on the official convention schedule and was streamed live on the convention's website.