Radio Host Apologizes for 'Out of Line' Remarks on Muslims

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - At a time when the Muslim world is exploding over Danish cartoons, an Islamic civil rights group in this country has wrung an apology from another talk-radio host whom it accused of insulting Muslims.

KFI-AM talk-show host Bill Handel has apologized for "mocking the deaths of Muslims" on their annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the Southern California office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said on Wednesday.

"The wound was very fresh for a lot of Muslims and the comments were out of line. And for that, I am sorry," Handel said on Wednesday's program.

Handel also has been reprimanded in writing by station management for his "insensitive remarks" about a human stampede that killed more than 300 people during this year's Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, the birthplace of the prophet Mohammed. It happened during a ritual where pilgrims throw stones at a symbolic devil. Some of the pilgrims tripped over luggage, press reports said at the time.

In a Jan. 12 segment called the "Annual Stampede Report," Handel imitated people screaming, then joked that Muslim pilgrims should use a helicopter to monitor pilgrimage traffic, just as helicopters monitor traffic on L.A. freeways.

In a letter to the Muslim community sent to CAIR-LA, KFI's parent company, Clear Channel Communications apologized for Handel's comments.

"KFI AM 640 does not condone making light of the deaths of people engaged in religious observances," Clear Channel's Regional Vice President Greg Ashlock wrote.

"On this particular program, we crossed the line in reporting the Hajj incident in an insensitive manner. We have discussed the content and timing of this 'bit' extensively with Mr. Bill Handel and his crew and are confident that everyone now understands the gravity of the situation. Mr. Handel expresses his sincere apology for the insensitive remarks," Ashlock said.

"This incident demonstrates that people of good will working together can successfully challenge hatred and bigotry," said CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush.
Ayloush said CAIR will continue to "monitor and challenge Islamophobia" on talk radio programs.

CAIR is known for its efforts to squelch speech it finds offensive.

Michael Graham, a radio host who lost his job at a Washington, D.C., station rather than apologize to CAIR, has complained that the group portrays any criticism of Muslims as bigotry. (See Graham story)

See Earlier Story:
CAIR Demands Apology From Another Radio Host (27 Jan. 2006)

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