Was Juan Williams FOX's 'Collin Powell' (the sacrificial person with credibility) in what looks to have been a scripted covering for O'Reilly after Bill's controversial appearance on The View? O'Reilly is after all the quintessential FOX host.
In my view this is another case of the Muslim community getting caught in the crossfire of other people's issues.
Muslims and Islam are like the ball that is smacked back in forth in the ping pong match between ideologues on the left and the right. It is clear that NPR and Williams had a contentious relationship and this seems like Williams' statement (text below) was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Williams said: “Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they're identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”
You can watch the clip and read the transcript here.
Any time someone says “I am not a bigot,” you'd better hold on to your seats because a stupid statement is normally the next thing to come out of their mouths. Just remember Glenn Beck and Congressman Ellison.
What Juan said is deplorable and still, the reality is that a lot of people feel the same way.
Clearly popular opinion is not always equal to being correct, moral or just. It is also true that the real audience in a situation like this is made up of members of both the Muslim and the non-Muslim communities.
Was this a civil rights slam dunk? Will we chalk this up as a victory?
Ultimately, it is not Bill O'Reilly or Juan Williams that matters; it is the millions of viewers who need to see Muslims in a positive light. American Muslims cannot afford to play to an emotional base of supporters when we are so misunderstood by our neighbors.
The sooner that the Muslim community understands that peoples' fear of us needs to be dealt constructively and with something beyond just calling it bigotry the better. As a community we need to promote ways to help people overcome these false fears about us.
Was Juan Williams' admission of fear a teachable moment that was missed? Here are two leading Muslim organizations MPAC's and CAIR's statements on the issue. Of the two stances whose was better?
To be fair it must be noted that CAIR's statement came before Williams was fired and did not specify a particular action and MPAC's statement is a reaction to his firing.
View CAIR's release here: http://www.cair.com/ArticleDetails.aspx?mid1=763&&ArticleID=26665&&name=n&&currPage=1
Can you point to a better way?
I believe as a community we should have denied both the left and the right the chance to put us in their crosshairs by following Islam 101 in our actions.
Our Prophet turned so many of his enemies into friends and supporters. This situation is a lot like the hadith of the man who urinated in the Prophet's masjid. We, through our leadership, could have sat Williams down and said this is an inappropriate place to do this. Your remarks are wrong, here is why and you are legitimizing those very fears that you in the same segment hinted are wrong.
We have to see our coverage on national and local media as strategic opportunities to reach a primarily non-Muslim audience. This is because we as Muslims are only 2% of the population and many of us are not regular media consumers anyway. Furthermore, we can reach our own community through our own channels. Quite frankly we also need to come to grips with the fact that most non-Muslims are not really all that interested in us other than to know if we are a threat or not.
If our media spots are indeed seen as opportunities for the community's advancement then we need to have both a strategy and a tactical objective for each exposure. The objectives should be mainstreaming the knowledge of the orthodox teachings of Islam (not allowing the promotion of the lies of Gellar, Spencer and their ilk) and breaking down the gatekeepers monopoly on who gets coverage that prevents truly representative voices from Muslim communities to represent us (not the Irshad Manji and Ayaan Hirsi Ali and etc… types).
To do that we have to send better messages than just that we are upset over peoples ignorance… which is the perceived dominate message we send. Yes, the media doesn't often cover the positive stuff we do — but it is what it is — so it is up to us to be smarter and more effective and to do more of our own productions and ads.
The call for NPR to act was only half the job, and the second half at that. What Muslim organizations could have done is to rally with Sikh and other faith leaders (interfaith because of the garb angle) as well as other minority groups that face profiling with a offer to educate. In the same release highlight the photos of all the airline hijackers because they CLEARLY were NOT in 'Muslim garb' and then asked BOTH FOX and NPR for airtime to address the issue. If any party did not respond, then as a community we should escalate the issue.
We cannot let bigotry go unanswered. However, this is easily being morphed into another free-speech issue (falsely) that is being framed around the perception that the Muslim community is limiting what people can express and now the new twist what we can even feel.
Below are a few interesting links. Muslim Matters is not responsible for the slants of these articles. These links are to articles that this author believe's demonstrates the wide range of angles and views that are often outside the dominate coverage.
Sound off with your thoughts on how this was handled or how it should have been handled and why.