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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Juan Williams, the well-known NPR radio and TV commentator, recently told Fox
News’s Bill O’Reilly that he gets nervous boarding planes when he sees people in
“Muslim garb.” Williams said the fear stems from the terrorist attack of
September 11, 2001 when 19 Muslim Arabs hijacked four planes and crashed three
of them into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
there is much wrong with what Williams said, beyond his prejudiced
I’ve been to many clothing stores, including many at the world’s
largest mall, the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. When I ask for the Muslim garb
section, they look at me strangely. They don’t have a Muslim garb
I was more disappointed in Williams because he is
African-American, although his first name is Hispanic.
When I was growing
up in America in the 1960s, most white people used to say that they feared going
into black neighborhoods because, well, you know, blacks spend all their time
murdering people to pay for their drug habits.
It was this kind of racist
stereotype that roused fear in the minds of most Americans and resulted in
racial clashes and conflict for years, forcing the government to adopt civil
rights legislation. That legislation which protects black Americans today helped
Williams make millions as a media superstar.
Williams knew he was walking
into bad territory when he said it, and tried to soften the blow, adding that of
course everyone in America has rights, including those Arabs and Muslims in
their Muslim garb.
But it doesn’t cut it.
Williams was fired by
NPR, although it appears that his racist comment wasn’t the main reason. NPR, a
liberal media institution, is upset because Williams appeared on a competing
Many Americans are upset that Williams was fired for making
these comments. They were not upset when allegations of racism, prejudice and
inappropriateness were directed against people like Helen Thomas, Octavia Nasr
and Rick Sanchez. All three were fired because they made comments critical of
Israel, or that Israelis and American Jews were not happy with.
a campaign in the US now to boycott NPR for firing Williams, because, well, most
Americans don’t care when you are racist against Arabs or Muslims.
GUESS racism in America is a lot like beauty; it’s all in the eye of the
beholder. It’s racist to criticize Israel or express sadness at the death of a
Muslim leader, but not racist to criticize Arabs and Muslims who terrorize
America in Muslim garb.
The only problem in all this is that I saw the
pictures of the 19 hijackers – crazed fanatics who claimed their actions were
done in the name of Islam. Who appointed them as spokespeople for Islam? I don’t
know, but that doesn’t seem to matter.
Yet I don’t think they were
dressed in Muslim garb at all. In fact, if I remember correctly, most were
wearing blue jeans. One had a cardigan college sweater. Another few had
two-piece pinstripe suits, the kind you find on the nefarious characters in the
banking industry who rip Americans off by charging excessive interest rates on
credit cards, or their robber baron cousins in the insurance industry, who do
I’ll remember to shiver the next time I am boarding a plane and
see someone next to me wearing a college cheerleader’s outfit.
people in their Western garb. They can be so frightening sometimes.The
writer is an award-winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host.