Bill Handel, a morning radio talk-show personality with KFI-AM (640), has apologized to his Islamic listeners for parodying January's hajj stampede that killed about 350 pilgrims traveling to Mecca. It was the second time in two years that he has asked their forgiveness.
"The wound was very fresh for a lot of Muslims, and the comments were out of line," Handel said on his show last week, about a month after the skit aired. "And for that, I am sorry."
Handel first begged pardon from his Islamic listeners in March 2004, when one of his sketches suggested that Iraqis wanted to kill Jews, marry camels, avoid bathing and meet Japanese schoolgirls in heaven.
"We had hoped we'd never have to go down this street again," said Sabiha Khan, Los Angeles spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "If we continue to say it's OK to say derogatory things on radio and TV, it only dehumanizes people and makes it OK for others to go a step further."
Regardless, KFI marketing director Neil Saavedra said Handel's goal remains the same: to satirize the absurd. "We employ big personalities with big opinions," he said.
"We can't fire them for offending people; you're always going to offend someone."
Just this week, the council, with help from Islamic groups across the U.S., launched a nationwide campaign to educate people on the prophet Muhammad.
The council's Southern California chapter kicked off its local effort in Anaheim.