A long clip, with things picking up at 7:30 when Hooper demands to know whether Kelly herself has ever felt a frisson of apprehension about flying with passengers in Muslim garb. (Also interesting: Hooper’s acknowledgment at around 3:15 that NPR is reliably liberal and therefore a Democrat like Williams who sometimes agrees with the right might not be a good fit.) Note that there’s no formal charge of bigotry here, just relief that NPR has now rid itself of a man who’d “single out” someone based on their attire. Except, of course, that Williams didn’t say that anyone should be singled out; he described his own reaction to Muslim passengers but didn’t call for any sort of disparate treatment for them based on that. That is to say, this is a true thoughtcrime: Merely thinking of 9/11 when in an airport terminal and in the presence of a (presumptively) devout Muslim is enough to get you fired if you’re foolish enough to admit it.
Fortunately, not all Muslims are willing to play this tool’s game:
Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, took issue with those who wrap themselves in feel-good sensitivity, while denying the fact that the majority of terrorists are Muslim.
Indeed, the threat is real enough even for Fatah, a liberal Muslim, who looks at women in burkas with skepticism. “I am scared when I see women in burkas, how do I know what is behind that?” Fatah said, noting that many Muslims share his concerns…
Stephen Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, echoed Fatah and Jasser. Schwartz told TheDC that he and his organization opposed NPR’s reaction to Williams’ comments.
“Mr. Williams is basically an opinion journalist and he offered an opinion based on an undeniable reality: American Muslims have so far failed in our duty to prevent negative perceptions among our non-Muslim neighbors, and many, unfortunately, have taken the existing concerns among non-Muslims as a challenge to assert Muslim identity more aggressively, through forms of dress as well as speech that are often extravagant and excessive,” Schwartz wrote in an e-mail to TheDC.
I want to highlight this point by Matt Welch too, as it gets to the heart of media hypocrisy on this subject. So fearful are some newspapers about blaspheming Islam that they’ll actually censor themselves before even a single Muslim can complain:
Williams’ firing is a clarifying moment in media mores. You can be Islamophobic, in the form of refusing to run the most innocuous imaginable political cartoons out of a broad-brush fear of Muslims, but you can’t admit it, even when the fear is expressed as a personal feeling and not a group description, winnowed down to the very specific and nightmare-exhuming act of riding on an airplane, and uttered in a context of otherwise repudiating collective guilt and overbroad fearmongering.
I think Williams’ worried/nervous comments were much too broad–I see zero reason to ever feel anxiety if a 100-year-old woman in traditional Islamic headdress is sitting next to me on a plane–and it’s been a long time since I recall the heart rate quickening at the sight of a bearded and nervous young man in Islamic garb standing in front of me in an airport security line. But I have felt that heightened sense of anxiety in the past, and if it wasn’t a common enough sensation you probably wouldn’t see satire like this…
Follow the link above to see which satire he has in mind. David Frum, revisiting several examples in which publishers have torpedoed material critical of Islam due to fears expressed by their employees, reformulates Welch’s point this way: “At most major media organizations, not only is it permissible to share the thoughts that Williams expressed – it is compulsory. But the trick is, after you act on those thoughts, you must forget you ever held them.” That’s Williams’s real offense here — violating the code by which right-thinking media pros decry any double standards towards Muslims while vigorously policing themselves internally for any offense to Islam lest it catch a jihadi’s eye. Repent, Juan!