I wanted to post the actual video of what Juan Williams said about muslims. As I’m sure you already know, NPR fired him. To quote the offending words, “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 are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”
This is really quite debatable if it is firing offense. Unless someone is praising Hitler I lean towards allowing public figures to say dumb things and then pay for it by public humiliation. As much as I want to be against the current trend towards fear of all Muslims, I have to say that I don’t think this was enough to fire anyone. If it was an ongoing trend where the journalist was continuously making ignorant comments then after a couple of warnings, sure. NPR has every right to fire Juan Williams–though are they a private organization or a taxpayer funded organization, it’s hard to tell these days with all of the corporate sponsorship? I adamantly defend a private organization’s right to fire and hire who they want but government hiring and firing is a different beast.
While Juan is being honest and expressing what a lot of Americans feel, a Muslim dressed in traditional garb from head to toe is unlikely to be a terrorist. It is more likely to be the guy in casual clothes sweating profusely and checking his watch. It’s unfortunate that we have to lump all Muslims into the terrorist category in every situation. Muslim terrorism is very real and unlike the other major religions, I believe it is going through the labor pains of giving birth to moderation. One such moderate author wrote a piece on Juan Williams for The Wall Street Journal with the title “NPR’sTax-Payer Intolerance.” Being of Arab descent himself, the author Emilio Karim Dabul thought the firing was an extreme reaction. Among other journalists and commentators that seems to be the consensus. That’s because talking pundits and people who write editorials are bound to say something stupid at least once or say something they regret–once it’s out there you can’t take it back. A firing that swift seems to be too unforgiving.
To me, if guys like O’ Reilly and the conservative watchdogs want to target anyone they should focus on Muslim leadership–the clerics–and leave the regular Joe Muslim alone. It is the religious and political leadership that is most to blame for fanaticism and not ordinary muslim civilians. Civilians can hold bigoted views, yes, but mostly they want to live in peace like the rest of us. Imagine if everywhere you traveled someone thought you were going to detonate a bomb? We have to walk a fine line of not ceasing to criticize (and in my case make fun of) the extreme views as well as the religious ideas (and I criticize all religions), but not demonize private individuals. That is, unfortunately, nearly impossible.
My only solution is to continue to openly advocate freedom of religion even as I make fun of it. Also, getting to know Muslims in the community and bringing them out to meet and greet as opposed to assuming all Muslims aren’t friendly is necessary too. It’s not easy. I’m the kind of guy who assumes I can insult your god and then buy you a beer. I know people’s gods are part of themselves and an insult to an idea becomes a personal insult. I’m not sure how you avoid that in a war of ideas. My intent has always been to be friendly and civil to every one (I’m polite to Jehovah’s Witnesses at the door even as I tell them I’m an atheist) but I can’t back off from knocking down nonsense about sky gods.
Because of this firing and publicity, I’m sure Juan Williams has been offered a job at Fox as another token liberal. Hopefully, he’ll get some better offers than that.