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Get Religion provides best insight on Juan Williams flap

October 22, 2010

Most of us would be ashamed to admit it, but most of us probably make rash judgments about people who are different from us or who we find threatening. The 9/11 attacks left us all pretty anxious about flying. And because those attacks were perpetrated by Muslim extremists, many in the U.S. fear people who “look Muslim” (including, apparently, my Mexican-American husband, but that’s another story). (And yes, I know you can’t “look Muslim” anymore than you can “look Christian,” but we’re talking fear and anxiety, not rational thoughts.)

So when NPR analyst and Fox News commentator Juan Williams admitted (on Fox) that he gets freaked out by people in “Muslim garb” at the airports, he was expressing a personal truth — again, perhaps not one he’s proud of — and a universal truth. Many, many, many people experience these fears since 9/11.

NPR’s rash decision to fire him as an analyst, in my opinion, does everyone a disservice. For one thing, it fails to look at the totality of Williams’ comments on that Fox segment (he was actually arguing against painting Muslims with a broad brush). For another, it sends a message that we can’t have this conversation. That if you acknowledge a politically incorrect feeling, you will be punished. This does little to change hearts and minds, and let’s face it, many hearts and minds out there need to be changed when it comes to Muslims.

The only link I’m going to post here is this one from Get Religion because I think it does the best job summarizing what happened, providing the context and looking at NPR’s apparent inconsistency in dealing with cases like this one.  Bravo, GR.

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