Like it or not, terrorism has become a fact of life for Americans since 9/11. And like it or not, the overwhelming majority of terrorist attacks, attempted attacks, and plots have involved members of a particular religious faith. What’s more, polling data has shown that a significant percentage of members of that religious faith (though not a majority) are supportive of such acts of terrorism. Reasonable people, therefore, can and should have some concern about members of that religious faith in situations akin to those in which terrorist attacks have been carried out or attempted. Such a “gut reaction” is hardly out of line.
NPR fired political analyst Juan Williams Wednesday night over his statement on Fox News that he gets "nervous" whenever he sees people in “Muslim garb” boarding a plane.
“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot,” Williams said on the "The O'Reilly Factor" Monday. “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.”
Now notice what Williams said here. He indicated that he was nervous, worried, and uncomfortable. He did not say that he believed that Muslims should be denied the right to fly, that they should be rounded up and put in camps, or that they should be exterminated. He simply noted that, based upon the undeniable fact of Islamic terrorism, that he has an emotional reaction of discomfort based upon his knowledge of those facts. That is hardly a basis for criticism, much less for firing.
In the not terribly distant past, a scandal rocked the Catholic Church. It involved a small percentage of Catholic priests engaging in sexual misconduct and the failure of the hierarchy to effectively deal with that misconduct. Based upon that misconduct, would it not be understandable that a person might have a similar reaction to proposed unsupervised sleepover for middle school boys at the parish rectory? I’d say that would be a reasonable response, even though it is undeniable that the vast majority of priests are decent men who would not engage in the sort of behavior that was at the core of the scandal And no commentator would ever lose his or her job for admitting to having a negative gut reaction to hearing about such a sleepover if one took place.
Or to consider another such “gut reaction” that was based upon a knowledge of a statistically higher rate of criminal activity among a particular group – and one that came from the mouth of a noted civil rights leader:
“There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see someone white and feel relieved.”
Sadly, there is a statistically higher crime rate among young African-American men. Jesse Jackson, who is not an unintelligent man, knows it and has a reaction to it that is not unreasonable? I won’t call him hateful of bigoted for having a reaction based upon his knowledge of the grim realities of urban crime – I call him a realist.
Will Juan Williams land on his feet after NPR’s fuzzy-minded liberalism resulted in his firing? Sure he will. There is a full-time gig as a columnist and commentator out there for him. I’d actually love to have Juan Williams on the radio as a talk show host, providing that more moderate/liberal voice that has failed so many times as more doctrinaire and less personable figures have tried to fill that role.