The Tunnel Vision of Philadelphia's Commission on Human Relations
When a video of Muslim children singing horrifically anti-Semitic songs threatening violence was uploaded to social media, coverage forced the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) to investigate. But now that the furor has died down, and despite pressure from U.S. congressmen, the PCHR seems content to whitewash the incident, and is unwilling to hold anyone accountable.
On April 17, 2019, the Muslim American Society of Philadelphia (MAS Philadelphia) and its affiliate Leaders Academy posted a video of Muslim school children singing lyrics including,
“we will sacrifice our souls without hesitation…we will chop off their heads and we will liberate the sorrowful and exalted Al Aqsa Mosque …we will subject them to eternal torture…those who accept humiliation what is the point of their existence… we will lead the army of Allah fulfilling his promise.”
Mass media, elected officials, and religious and organizational leaders condemned this horrendous teaching of hatred and called for an investigation.
The Philadelphia Commission for Human Relations took on the task. Five months later, after no word from the PCHR, two congressmen, Lee Zeldin (NY) and Scott Perry (PA) sent a letter to the PCHR requesting an update on their findings.
Their letter pointed out that the Muslim American Society is an documented arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, with several of its members designated as terrorists; that contrary to MAS’ statement claiming Leaders Academy was a separate entity, evidence showed otherwise; and that the problem may not only be limited to Philadelphia, considering that nationwide there are 50 MAS chapters.
PCHR’s response on October 7 avoided answering any of these tough questions. In fact, the statement merely mimicked and accepted at face value the public statements made by MAS. Specifically, they asserted that the video was a mistake; that Leaders Academy, the organization that taught the class and created the video was not affiliated with MAS; that the only person responsible, a “volunteer” was dismissed; and that CAIR-Philadelphia’s executive director was enlisted to conduct “anti-bias” workshops.
At a minimum, PCHR could have listened to Muslim scholar and member of the Council on Foreign Relations Qanta Ahmed, who provides commentary on numerous media outlets including CNN and BBC. Ahmed was interviewed on Fox News about the incident on May 3 and May 5, 2019 -- before PCHR met with the leadership of MAS and the Leaders Academy on May 13. Ahmed called the Muslim Brotherhood “the mother ship of terrorism” and said that the video comes,
“right from the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist playbook for American youth in Pennsylvania where they are being taught to glorify and romanticize martyrdom, Jew hatred, death to Jews and delegitimization of Israel.”
Congressman Zeldin said in an email that he does not believe the PCHR addressed his concern about the relationship between MAS and the Muslim Brotherhood, and noted, “Unfortunately, PCHR has not held anyone accountable yet for this horrendous act.”
While it may not be part of their job to track terrorist-related entities, there is nothing stopping PCHR from acknowledging a serious and worrisome link between MAS and the Muslim Brotherhood and recommending further investigation from appropriate government agencies.
The question of who is responsible remains an open one. Only one volunteer has been blamed by MAS for the performance. Yet there’s reason to believe MAS is using this volunteer as a scapegoat for the behavior of the school as a whole.
Past executive director of the ADL in Philadelphia Nancy Baron-Baer notes that teachers -- more than one -- were in the room leading the class in the performance.
“It’s incumbent on the adults in the room,” said Nancy Baron-Baer, “to understand what was being said and recognize that words like that are absolutely unacceptable at any time, in any language.”
Susie Dym, a spokesperson for the Israeli NGO Mattot Arim agrees:
“Where’s that teacher who taught kids to behead people? Does it really make sense that only one single adult heard the speech rehearsed -- although the speech was doubtless practiced many times, since children need lots of practice?”
When asked for information about the person dismissed, PCHR avoided the question by responding that its “considered private information that we are not privileged to share.”
PCHR is shielding not only a bigot, but, Dym argues, a potential criminal.
Dym proposes that the Philadelphia district attorney indict this anonymous teacher on charges of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor.”
Good idea in theory, but in practice the current Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is notorious for allowing even admitted murderers back on the street, and has had a cozy relationship with MAS, attending a MAS prayer service in January 2019.
PCHR also relies heavily on claims that MAS completed “anti-bias” workshops conducted by CAIR-Philadelphia, but offers little information about this supposed remediation. When did it take place? Who attended? What was the itinerary? Was there any follow up with the children forced to sing these songs in the video? Congressman Zeldin says he believes PHRC should, “definitely have found out more about what went on at this workshop.”
PHRC should also have asked whether CAIR-Philadelphia is the appropriate organization to conduct this so-called “anti-bias” workshop, considering that MAS and CAIR both have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. As federal prosecutors once noted, “CAIR and MAS omit reference to a shared background that limits their membership to those of a particular political bent, and undercuts their credibility.”
And CAIR’s own executive director Jacob Bender has admitted his own bias:
"We should be careful not to conflate criticism of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians with anti-Semitism. Jews like myself are critical of the oppressive policies of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu.”
In other words, CAIR-Philadelphia does not believe these songs were anti-Semitic, they were just anti-Israel.
Regrettably PHRC showed complete indifference to what took place at the workshop. “Any questions about the details of the CAIR trainings would need to be answered by MAS Philly and/or CAIR Philadelphia. “
All efforts to get clarity on PCHR’s understanding of MAS’ relationship with Leaders Academy were also ultimately rebuffed. In its letter to the congressmen, PCHR went along with MAS’ self-serving and clearly false statement of May 4 that MAS is not affiliated with Leaders Academy, but then acknowledged the contradictory statement of May 15 issued jointly by MAS and Leaders Academy.
Yet on May 8, the Investigative Project posted evidence of an overlapping relationship between MAS and Leaders Academy, including a shared location and identical corporate officers. The Investigative Project also found that “the school is called MAS Leaders Academy and posted “many school videos on MAS social media.” Additionally, Congressman Zeldin has “inquired with PHRC to see whether they looked at the documents that suggest there was a closer relationship than previously stated. “
PCHR’s curt reply was “PCHR has already provided our comments on this request.”
The question remains; why does the PCHR refuse to give credence to credible evidence and valid concerns about MAS? Why do they stubbornly stand by the specious narrative that the whole affair was an unfortunate mistake and accept MAS’s apology?
The reason may be is that doing so would force PCHR to admit MAS lied to them, that MAS did indeed know it was engaging in radical indoctrination of children, and that would mean they would have to do something about it, which is the last thing the PCHR wants.
In words often attributed to Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.” But doing nothing seems to be all the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations does.
Leonard Getz, CPA, is the Philadelphia Associate of the Counter-Islamist Grid and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the American Thinker, the Algemeiner, PJMedia, the Clarion, the Daily Wire, Lifestyles Magazine, Nostalgia Magazine, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Jewish Exponent, and the Lock Haven Express.