Muslim “Garb” and the Firing of Juan Williams

Flying While MuslimThere has been a slew of debate about the recent firing of Juan Williams (from NPR) for his comments about Muslims made on the Bill O’Reilly show.  Here is the quote that prompted NPR to “can” him:

“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 a plane, I’ve got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

Hmmmm….where does one begin?

1)  Ignorance is still alive and well in America.  (And keep in mind, the definition of ignorance IS:  “lack of knowledge, information or education.”  I’m going to assume that Mr. Williams simply didn’t understand how completely offensive his statement is.

2)  I wonder if he gets nervous when other people express their spirituality.  For example, when a Christian wears a cross on a chain on his/her neck, does this worry him?  Or when a Jew wears a yarmulke, does he get freaked out?  What about a Jain wearing a mask?  Or better yet, since some people consider sports worthy of worship, I’m guessing he gets very nervous in airports around the time the New York Yankees make it to the baseball playoffs.  They do have some pretty rowdy fans after all.  (You get my point….)

3) And what exactly is “Muslim garb”?  Some brilliant person put together a wonderful sequence of photos on the web site “Muslims Wear Things” to illustrate how ridiculous the use of the term “Muslim garb” actually is.  (Kudos to those folks!)

4) Mr. Williams lives in the USA and works for a publicly funded American media outlet.  Yes, we have freedom of speech here. It is not up to me to determine if he should or shouldn’t have been fired – that will end up in the courts. But what is my role, as a US citizen, to take a few minutes out of my day to again encourage anyone who listens to the media to carefully consider the impact of his words.  He has stated that he fears Muslims on planes.  Is it a coincidence that a lot of news outlets have planted that seed, watered it and given it plenty of media sunlight to grow? I say SHAME ON THEM.

I have Muslim friends.  I have been to mosques.  I have broken fast with Muslims during their holy month.  I am NOT afraid of Muslims and I am certainly NOT afraid to get on a plane with them.

I do, however, have concerns about getting on planes with the following:

1) people who don’t bathe enough for my standards.

2) people who bathe themselves in cologne/perfume.  That is painful to sit next to. It makes my nose run, my ears hurt, gives me migraines, and at times, sends me to the hospital or bed for days.

3) planes with not very good pilots or grumpy air crew.

4) planes that look like they haven’t been cleaned or maintained in a reasonable standard.

5) planes that insist on taking off when there is a torrential rain storm.

6) and finally, planes full of ignorant people.

Sigh…..

Ok, I’ll say it again.  Read up on the project by the 30mosques.com guys.  If you really want to know what it is like to get on a plane with a Muslim, you can ask Aman and Bassam…heck, they travel a lot! And if you’re interested in bringing them to your campus for a presentation about their 30 mosques in 30 days in 30 states roadtrip, contact me and I’ll be happy to facilitate a booking at no additional fee to Melibee.

Peace.

Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq, 30 mosques (photo courtesy of "the guys")