(JTA) — Jewish groups in Philadelphia have called for the firing of the head of the local NAACP, Rodney Muhammad, who posted a known anti-Semitic meme on his public Facebook page.
The meme, known as “the Happy Merchant,” is an anti-Semitic image used by extremists that the Anti-Defamation League says is commonly used by white supremacists. The meme on Muhammad’s Facebook page included photos of Ice Cube, DeSean Jackson and Nick Cannon, Black celebrities who recently posted anti-Semitic comments on social media, and the quote “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize,” falsely attributed to French philosopher Voltaire, but which originated with Kevin Strom, an American neo-Nazi. (Jackson and Cannon have both apologized.)
Muhammad, 68, is a civil rights figure and local Nation of Islam leader who often praises Louis Farrakhan, who has called Jews “bloodsuckers” and “termites,” the news website Billy Penn reported. He had previously posted criticism of the backlash that Cannon, Jackson and others have faced after posting anti-Semitic content on social media.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia in a statement calling on the NAACP to remove Muhammad from his position “immediately,” said that Muhammad “intentionally initiated the spread of anti-Semitism on his Facebook page. This vile behavior from a civic leader is incredibly dangerous for Jewish communities across the world.”
“It is inconceivable that a person who theoretically works to uphold civil rights would engage in such blatant hate. To defend the anti-Semitic rhetoric of others is bad enough, but to post virulently anti-Jewish symbols and conspiracy theories is simply unacceptable,” Shira Goodman, ADL Philadelphia regional director, said in a statement that noted the ADL’s longstanding collaboration with the NAACP.
Muhammad’s post was taken down amid the backlash, and he said in a statement that he had not known the image before sharing it.
“I was not familiar with the image at the bottom of the post,” he said in his statement, which the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. “I was responding to the individuals not able to speak out. I have worked with many in the city over the years. I would be happy to have a discussion with other leaders to better understand our history.”