“Juan Williams, Martyr to Tolerance.” That’s the title of a provocative Ethics Alarms piece by Jack Marshall. Juan Williams was fired by NPR for saying this on to Bill O’Reilly on Fox News:
“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. 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.”
Marshall excoriates NPR’s action as the intolerable “intolerance of the self-righteous heralds of toleration.”
I’m conflicted over this one. I don’t think Juan Williams should have been fired, but I find his statement very unfair, and somewhere between ignorant and bigoted.
Ignorant, because Muslims wear all kinds of garb, including the sporty American look that the 9/11 hijackers apparently tried to present. Bigoted, because it’s bigotry to assign stereotypical characteristics to individuals, whether to assume that Jews are money-grubbing, that Irish are drunks, that black men are sex-crazed, or that evangelical Christians are gay-bashers.
For Americans in 2010 it’s particularly hurtful to stereotype Muslims as terrorists, as many on the political right are now doing. A scary portion of the population is buying into the idea of Muslims as “other.” It’s horribly unfair to people who are (more…)