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Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html

Friday, October 22, 2010

Is it America's new pastime to blame Muslims for everything? - A Commentary on the Juan Williams Debacle

Juan Williams stereotypes Muslims. Muslims speak against Williams’ comments. Williams' employer, NPR, fires him. Fox News offers Williams a $2 million contract. Muslims are blamed and attacked for Williams' suffering.  What's wrong with this picture?
Juan Williams might not be a bigot; however, he certainly did not measure his words when he spoke on national television on Fox News. Maybe he misspoke. Maybe he was pandering to Fox News viewers. Maybe he was trying to connect with Bill O'Reilly. Or maybe he should have just qualified his views by voicing how sad a state of affairs we as a country have reached when an educated person like him can have such irrational phobia and prejudice against people who merely appear to be Muslims.

Regardless of the reasons behind his comments, the fact is that Williams fueled bigotry against Muslims as a whole, not just against extremists or terrorists. Imagine if he had said that he feels nervous or afraid every time he sees Blacks, Hispanics, Asians when he walks into a bank, convenience store, or a neighborhood.  People would have been outraged, and rightly so. 

Promoting hurtful and negative stereotypes is wrong, no matter which group of people is being targeted.  This cannot be justified as a person just expressing an honest opinion in a dialogue (especially when both O'Reilly and Williams seem to share the same phobia), unless you also consider publicly expressing racist slurs or negative stereotypes about Jews, Blacks, Catholics, Latinos, and other groups to be acceptable “honest dialogue.”

Words have impact. It was words that preceded every genocide – words that dehumanized and demonized a whole group of people.  As citizens of this world, we all have to be careful about what we say.

With that said, let it be clear that Williams and everyone else has the full right to say whatever they want, no matter how offensive it is. And others have the right to speak against and object to such speech. Free speech is a two-way street; it is a right to all sides of any issue or topic and not just to those we agree with.

One strange aspect to this situation is that Fox News has decided to blame Muslims (and CAIR) for Mr. Williams’ firing by NPR; they are spreading half-truths and distortions to further that story, with the result that many who watch their shows now believe it.

Many Americans, including Muslims and CAIR, were offended by Mr. Williams' inflammatory comments that justified increased unfair targeting and mistreatment of Muslims. We did not ask NPR to fire him.  NPR is an independent institution and, like any business entity, has the right to decide what action by an employee constitutes a serious violation of its standards, practices and guidelines. But in truth, many of us will not be shedding tears about NPR's decision either.  Maybe Muslims were just too busy trying to understand why Williams would gratuitously target us with hatred and then why would so many fellow Americans blame us and target us with hatred after NPR fired him as if all Muslims were the ones who run NPR.

Is it America's new pastime to blame Muslims for everything?


Anonymous said...

At least someone got that right. Well said and done Hussaam.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article masha'llah

Hazem Bata said...

Great article Hussam. Well put.