Juan Williams is a bigot

Saturday 23 October 2010

NPR fired Juan Williams because he said this:

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.

When I read this, I see a classic example of bigotry. Juan saw a person who was different from him, chose the most unfamiliar aspect of that person, decided it was the defining characteristic of that person, and then used that characteristic to group him into a negative stereotype. Can anyone explain to me how that isn't bigotry?

Juan defends himself against the bigot label by pointing out that he has written books about the civil rights movement. Isn't this just an updated version of "some of my best friends are black?"

Bigotry isn't a binary attribute, where either you are a bigot or you aren't. Juan may be the most open, loving, welcoming, tolerant person there is. He can also be a bigot when it comes to Muslims. Just because he writes books about the civil rights movement doesn't mean he isn't unfairly pre-judging Muslims. He can do both at once, it's now apparent that he does.

The most telling part of his quote is "they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims." No, they aren't. Juan Williams is identifying them first and foremost as Muslims. They might also have been American citizens, or doctors, or fathers, or football fans, or Rotary club members, or even 9/11 survivors. There are many things that they are, and they weren't given a chance to identify themselves. Because they were wearing Muslim garb, Juan Williams decided they were first and foremost Muslim, and that Muslim equated with dangerous.

And the ultimate irony in this is that the Muslims who have actually been dangerous on planes weren't wearing Muslim garb. In all likelihood, the people Juan encountered were the least likely to be dangerous, because if they were planning to cause trouble, they wouldn't want to stand out.

I don't know if NPR should have fired Juan Williams. It sounds like NPR might have overreacted because of the Fox News connection.

Others are jumping on this story as an example of how we are bending over backwards to accommodate fundamentalism, but that's nonsense: simply being a Muslim is not fundamentalism, and assuming all Muslims are dangerous is not a rational response to the radical Islamic threat.

Others are saying that Juan Williams simply expressed what many are feeling. That may be true, I'm sure many people these days are wary of people that "look Muslim." But it's still bigotry, and isn't right. It's a reaction we need to resist.

Comments

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andrew 8:11 AM on 23 Oct 2010

While that may be true, Nina Totenberg has said several vile and bigoted things about "Tea Baggers" and yet retains her job. At NPR, apparently, *some* types of bigotry are acceptable.

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Ned Batchelder 9:11 AM on 23 Oct 2010

@andrew, I can't speak to NPR's fairness, and even mentioned that this could be an over-reaction. Can you post some of Nina's quotes, we can take a look and see if she also deserves the label of "bigot".

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Rik Hemsley 9:19 AM on 23 Oct 2010

"Juan saw a person who was different from him, chose the most unfamiliar aspect of that person, decided it was the defining characteristic of that person, and then used that characteristic to group him into a negative stereotype. Can anyone explain to me how that isn't bigotry?"

You say that the statement 'they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims' is untrue and I partly agree with this, but only to the point that I would say that it would only need the removal of 'first and foremost' in order to become an accurate observation.

The addition of 'first and foremost' is probably due to an (inaccurate) assumption on Mr. Williams' part that by wearing religious garb, one wishes to be identified with the relevant religion over and above any other judgement. I'm not sure this is true; in fact, I'm not sure many religious people would admit it was their primary motivation for wearing such clothing, regardless of whether or not they were in fact happy for such assumptions to be made.

There is a second assumption made by Mr. Williams, which you also point out: 'and that Muslim equated with dangerous.'

So Mr. Williams makes assumptions about people based on their appearance and, perhaps, on stereotype.

But bigotry is defined as intolerance of people from other groups - and intolerance is defined as either a lack of respect or unwillingness to endure.

From the quote you have given and the linked article, it doesn't appear that Mr. Williams lacks respect for, or shows an unwillingness to endure, Muslims. In fact, the article also points out:

"Williams also warned O'Reilly against blaming all Muslims for "extremists," saying Christians shouldn't be blamed for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh"

So he is against stereotyping of people based on what others sharing their religion have done. If he involuntarily fails somewhat in this regard, to the point where he makes incorrect assumptions and feels nervous, does this make him intolerant?

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Ned Batchelder 9:30 AM on 23 Oct 2010

@Rik: your distinction between fear and intolerance is an interesting one. For me it comes down to this: what was his larger point in describing his fear? Did this comment on a well-watched show push the country's needle more towards tolerance, or intolerance?

Sure, he wasn't jumping up and down with a sign reading, "Kill all the Muslims," but he wasn't helping the cause of tolerance either. His may be a subtler bigotry, but it can be more insidious for its milder trappings.

I'm not saying Juan Williams is a bad person. It's natural for people to make snap judgments, to classify based on surface characteristics where deeper information isn't available. It's a survival instinct. But that doesn't make it right. We strive all the time to rise above our instincts in order to live together peacefully in society. This is another example of that.

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Rik Hemsley 10:00 AM on 23 Oct 2010

Yes Mr. Williams' comments will have an effect on people, so this should be taken into account when judging what he chose to say.

By relating his personal judgements/assumptions and fears, of course he could be pointing these out in order to persuade viewers of the programme that they should emulate his (for want of a better word) failings. but his entreaty not to follow his example (where he asks people not to judge all members of a religion based on the act of extremists) surely stands as evidence against this? As you say, we should strive to rise above our instincts. Based on what Mr. Williams said (and I have no more information on him than that given in the linked article), I think he was trying to get that very point across.

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Matt D 10:36 AM on 23 Oct 2010

I don't understand how we're supposed to have an honest public discussion about bigotry in this country if people aren't allowed to admit their own prejudices.

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gordonsowner 10:47 AM on 23 Oct 2010

Juan Williams should have been fired a long time ago for violating NPR guidelines on appearing on other shows (whether it be Fox, CNN, or anything)... here's a nice link that aggregates this argument: http://bit.ly/aw1JAZ . NPR showed all the competence of a pointy-haired boss by firing him over publicly controversial statements rather than earlier for his flaunting of the guidelines by which he was employed.

That said, for all of the huffing by people, Williams was under contract and NPR was well within their rights to not renew for any reason, or even any non-reason. What I think is 10x more egregious is that NPR is asking their staff not to go to the Stewart/Colbert rally in their private capacities. That is beyond the pale to me. They are not going their and broadcasting to the world that they are an NPR employee, like
Williams was when he went on Fox.

And I agree with Ned here -- it's easy to think of parallel constructs... what if he had said that he felt the same way if he saw someone with a Christian cross going into a federal building, citing the McVeigh/Oklahoma City bombing? Or seeing someone with a Yarmulke on a cruise in the Mediterranean after the Israeli boarding of an aid ship to the Palestinians? If I see someone with a Yarmulke walking down the street, are they first and foremost IDing themselves by their religion, and not their their occupation (which, according to Rick Sanchez, is most likely running CNN :-) )?

So, this really should not be a controversy for the firing part -- for the statement parts, I think Williams is an idiot, and should be called out for such.

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JohnMc 10:49 AM on 23 Oct 2010

I am with Matt D on this. Williams expressed a fear that he has. Bigoted, maybe. But admitting one's fears in and of itself is not a bigoted act. I would suggest Mr. Batchelder that your observations (Especially the binary equation which is unsupported and in error.) may rise to something far worse that bigotry -- thought crimes. That slippery slope ends up being the worst bigotry of all.

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JohnMc 10:53 AM on 23 Oct 2010

gordonsowner, on that basis there are several other members of NPR that will need to be terminated.

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gordonsowner 10:55 AM on 23 Oct 2010

Oh, and for more perspective, see this graphic: http://bit.ly/9T4GN6 .

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gordonsowner 10:57 AM on 23 Oct 2010

@JohnMc : And I think they then should be. If this is their policy, they have better standing and p.r. by abiding by that than by appearing to be language police.

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Jesse Jackson 11:18 AM on 23 Oct 2010

"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 somebody white and feel relieved.... After all we have been through. Just to think we can't walk down our own streets, how humiliating."

Juan should have been told that it might be good to apologize... but he should not have been fired...

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Simeon 11:48 AM on 23 Oct 2010

See the Jesse Jackson quote above - and watch the whole video. I suppose you could quote Jackson "Then I look around and see somebody white and feel relieved" and say "HE'S A BIGOT!" But obviously in context his point is one of sorrow that he feels this way and isn't calling for discrimination and making arguments about inferiority, etc.

Same goes for Juan's comment - he explicitly argues against extending anger over terrorism to Muslims as a whole in that interview, making the hypothetical comparison to profiling Christians because of Timothy Mcveigh. NPR fired him because NPR is a left news organization and Juan Williams is appearing on Fox.

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Robert 12:08 PM on 23 Oct 2010

Certainly fear *can* lead to bigotry. I don't that from Mr. Williams though. The fact that he expressed it kind of leans me towards just the fear part. It is certainly a very fine line and *both* sides need to be wary about that.

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Robert 12:13 PM on 23 Oct 2010

BTW...a very short Google search on Totenburg will give you reams of bigoted material. Also, look up her involvement in the Anita Hill fiasco that she pretty much forced and was certainly extremely unethical.

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mike bayer 12:21 PM on 23 Oct 2010

JohnMC - what "crime" would result here ? Bigotry is perfectly legal. Ironically, your suggestion that calling out bigots based on their own words is a "slippery slope towards thought crime" is itself a silencing maneuver.

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David St.Germain 1:40 PM on 23 Oct 2010

This is just a tempest in a teapot, a distraction from real issues. We've got an economy in the shitter and a dysfunctional government, but let's argue about TV pundits.
Anyway, Greenwald has all the bases covered on this one: http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/10/22/muslims/index.html

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Alia K 3:55 PM on 23 Oct 2010

Well, I think the reaction of Mr. Williams is not to Muslims per se, but to that category of Muslims who intentionally identify themselves with a particular so-called 'Islamic' style of dress and insist on a so-called identity-by-appearance in similar ways that Orthodox Jews insist on appearing in a certain way to reflect their communal belief structure. This type of person is usually a little bit more conservative than the average (again in the same way that Orthodox Jews are a bit more conservative/literalist than Reform Jews for example) and has subscribed wholesale to identity politics (one should look like how one believes).

It's no big deal, to each his/her own and all. I come from a Muslim background, and I can tell you that the Mr. Williams' of this world wouldn't look twice at any of the men and women in my family who would also happily go unnoticed in any context.

At the same time, William really shouldn't be worried about this category who wear their beliefs (quite literally) on their sleeves. They are usually quiet harmless conformists or even a little bit culturally impoverished or not able to assimilate or peer-pressured into not assimilating into that great melting pot of 'westernized humanity'. Most probably they want to be left alone to live in peace and inculcate their family members into their particular belief structures (-:

In any case, one should be very careful about mistaking the few for the many and making hasty generalizations[1] about 1.5 billion so-called Muslims who are as varied a group as the next 1.5 billion sample of the human race.

[1] (http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/hasty-generalization.html)

AK

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Bart 6:00 PM on 23 Oct 2010

You spend a lot of time on explaining why he is a bigot. He signed up with Fox5. Isn't that enough?

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Ben Finney 7:00 PM on 23 Oct 2010

Rik has it right when he points out that Williams isn't a bigot. He would be a bigot if he applied different standards to different people.

But from what I can see of the event discussed, Williams was rather describing the emotion that involuntarily comes to him – a prejudice – and pointing out that this emotion, if common, is a problem.

Prejudice is unavoidable and potentially harmful, and I think that's what Williams is pointing out. Bigotry goes beyond prejudice, and is in effect an policy of acting on one's prejudice.

But Williams's position shows that he's *not* a bigot: he points out that Muslims as a group should not be judged for Muslim extremists, any more than Christians should be judged for Christian extremists.

It is indeed a sad comment on the political/media environment if someone can be fired merely for raising the topic of the problems caused by irrational emotion.

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Ned Batchelder 7:03 PM on 23 Oct 2010

Regarding the NPR rules and the firing: I'm having a hard time seeing the difference between Juan Williams' behavior and Nina Totenberg's. Both have appeared in other venues, and both have said things that NPR wouldn't air.

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Lennart Regebro 12:52 AM on 24 Oct 2010

"A bigot is a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices"

So Juan Williams is not a bigot, and that's not bigotry. It's prejudice, yes, but not bigotry. Don't buy into the typical US devolvment of words. ;-)

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Andrew Magerman 7:12 AM on 25 Oct 2010

Richard Reid was wearing a white robe and a full beard when he tried to explode a bomb in a plane.

Sounds more like prejudice than bigotry

The comment from THE either is a funny and sarcastic comment on prejudice or a deranged rant from a lunatic - the bizarre capitalization seems to point to the second.

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Ned Batchelder 7:18 AM on 25 Oct 2010

BTW: I removed the comment by THE.

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Warren Thom 9:28 AM on 25 Oct 2010

I think it is a poor idea for someone to say over the airwaves words that can very easily be taken in the message to mean- "Don't let Muslims fly -- they all carry bombs." This starts to approach the screams of "FIRE" in a theater, but to millions of people.

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Matt D 9:34 AM on 25 Oct 2010

An argument that might have merit, if only he had said anything like that.

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gordonsowner 9:37 AM on 25 Oct 2010

Prejudiced or bigoted... I don't know. I think it will bear watching to see how Williams conducts himself on Fox from here on out, now that he is ostensibly unfettered from hedging is opinions due to his NPR contract. Recall, this is a network where it is ok for Fox personality Brian Kilmeade to say things like "Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims." Yes, he gave a non-apology apology ("I'm sorry if that offended anyone..."), but anti-Muslim-skewing opinions are pretty par for the Fox course...

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tony e 11:42 AM on 25 Oct 2010

Take a group people that hurt other people in the name of some believe, and these people (the ones doing the hurting) always wear purple shirts with a white stripe, and they publicly associate the color purple of their shirts with their believe, and they publicly associate their believe with hurting others that don't abide by their believe. We will call this group A. their tactics of hurting people are to hurt as many people possible within one event, to cause panic and fear, even if it means taking their own lives. these people attempt to hurt people frequently and are incessantly looking for opportunities to inflict hurt, fear, and pain. they publicly announce their intents to continue hurting and looking for ways to hurt. these people can have any profession, are of any race, any gender.

Take another group of people that also believes in the the same fundamental believe of the first group, but differ in that they are completely opposed to hurting anything nor anyone. they also wear purple shirts with a white stripe, the symbol of their fundamental believe. these are some of the nicest people in the world. this is group B. these people als0 have any profession, are of any race, any gender.


Now, you are going to some event where there are a lot of people that don't wear purple... hundreds. you see some people wearing purple shirts with a white stripe. you don't know them. you don't know if they are from group A, from group B, from another group you don't even know, or just happen to be wearing purple with a white stripe. you are in this event with your children, your wife/husband, loved ones who you care for and would do anything to protect or keep out of harms way.

Questions:
Do you feel comfortable and safe in this event?

Do you feel the same if you don't see any purple shirts with a white stripe?

and if you see only one person wearing a purple shirt?

and if you see hundreds wearing a purple shirts?

How do you feel if you constantly see that everyone that identifies themselves with group B, strongly and constantly publicly denounce the actions of group A and are pissed off that group A is using their fundamental believe as reasons to hurt people?

How do you feel if the group B lightly denounces actions of group A?

How do you feel if the group B hardly ever denounces actions of group A?

Does your comfort and feeling of security shift based on the uncertainty of knowing or not knowing other peoples intentions based on your perceived association?

just saying. when you and or the people you care for can be affected, its hard not to judge the situation. And that judgment comes many sources, be statistics, life experiences, friends, common sense, what you see, what you hear, what you know, how you perceive all these inputs, all put in a big mixer in our heads for us to make decisions. It helps to know the people, but practically we cannot know everyone thus we must use all these inputs to form our next action (or reaction)

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Rich 5:53 PM on 25 Oct 2010

Hey Ned - if this Juan Williams thing is too hard to understand, please refrain from voting in November.

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Don Spaulding 11:00 AM on 29 Oct 2010

'Juan Williams is identifying them first and foremost as Muslims.'

Would you still consider him a bigot if they had been identifying themselves as Muslim? If instead of religious garb, they wore T-shirts that said "I'm Muslim", would Juan be wrong to consider them dangerous?

Though long, tony e's comment is worth the read. It would be one thing if the peaceful version of islam was the predominant one, or the more vocal one, or if it even strongly denounced Islamic extremists. But as it is, we're supposed to "tolerate" Islam as a whole because half of America is convinced that it is a peaceful religion. That's as naive as thinking that everyone in China eats the American version of Chinese food.

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Ned Batchelder 11:23 AM on 29 Oct 2010

@Don: I don't know where you get the idea that the violent version of Islam is the predominant one. There are millions of Muslims in the U.S. If the majority of them were in favor of violence, there would be plenty of violence on U.S. soil, and many of us non-Muslims would be dead. It simply isn't the case.

What you are calling the "predominant" Islam is simply the faction that gets the most press. There are plenty in the media that are more interested in whipping up anti-Islamic sentiment than they are in finding truth.

I'm not saying there aren't violent Muslims, there are, and lots of them. But to call them predominant is naive.

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Don Spaulding 4:24 PM on 29 Oct 2010

@Ned: I didn't say the violent version was the predominant one, I said the peaceful version wasn't. There are a few million Muslims living in the US, and almost 2 billion worldwide. How likely is it that the (admittedly more peaceful) American flavor of Islam constitutes a representative sample of the whole?

My issue with Islam isn't that it has radical extremists. Lots of religions have those. My issue is that when a Muslim keeps a girl from going to school, cuts someone's hand off, or kills a Christian or a Jew, he is not acting outside the bounds of his religion, but within them.

Islam has been around for almost 1500 years, is there an example of a peaceful, non-repressive society it has started or endorsed? With almost 2 billion adherents in the world today, examples should abound.

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Ned Batchelder 7:25 AM on 30 Oct 2010

@Don: forgive me for misunderstanding your "predominance" argument, although while denying that the violent version is predominant, you seem to be repeating it.

First, if we can agree that at least the American flavor of Islam is peaceful, then let's welcome American Islam, including its adherents that fly on planes. That's a few million people we can stop pre-judging.

Second, it's a very tricky business judging other peoples' religions. As other commenters on this thread can attest, Catholicism (as an example) is widely misunderstood, even criticized as repressive. I can find directives in the Christian bible that sound violent and repressive, but practitioners of the faith can help me understand how they are received and understood.

I'm not a fan of the repressive Muslim societies around the world. But that doesn't mean we should be in a war against Islam as a religion, and shun all of its practitioners. The way to fight extremists is to welcome moderates. Your path will simply add fuel to the fire.

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Rich 11:12 PM on 31 Oct 2010

Ned, your original claim about Williams being a bigot doesn't hold up under scrutiny (as multiple posters have shown) and so I think you could at least acknowledge that perhaps you went overboard with that claim.

Looking at your responses to Don, it appears to me that you are the bigot in this sense: you intolerantly dismiss any religion that teaches or promotes violence. It doesn't fit your worldview of what religion should be (peaceful) and so you automatically prejudge anyone who promotes violence via religion as an extremist who doesn't truly represent his religion. But the flaw in this view is that you make no room for a religion that actaully does promote violence.

Your quip about welcoming moderates is laughable -- a religious moderate by definition has no faith to begin with (because everything's negotiable).

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Don Spaulding 7:58 AM on 5 Nov 2010

@Ned, I read your last comment and came to the conclusion that I was indeed repeating myself. This led me to question my original contention, that Islam at its core (not just at its fringe) is a violent and repressive religion.

I don't watch TV, listen to talk radio, or go to political rallies. I study the Bible on a regular basis, and I keep halfway informed on what is going on in the world via the big stories that make their way onto my feeds. I wouldn't consider myself heavily influenced by Big Media, at least not directly. So I did a little digging to see whence my position came.

I found a page where Islamic organizations denounced the 9/11 attacks. I found a few other examples of the "peaceful American Islam" religion. And I let it all simmer in my brain for a while.

'First, if we can agree that at least the American flavor of Islam is peaceful, then let's welcome American Islam, including its adherents that fly on planes.'

I was almost ready to agree with you on this. This morning however, two fairly recent stories popped into my head. The first was an interview with Penn and Teller where they give the reason for not taking on Islam on their show, Bullshit. The second was when South Park was self-censored by Comedy Central. I don't watch South Park and I've never seen Bullshit, but I'm aware that these are American citizens, writing to American audiences, utilizing their First Amendment rights guaranteed under the US constitution.

Yet they are fearful. Fearful. Where does that fear come from? Perhaps they naively (as you put it) believe that violent Islam is predominant. Perhaps they realistically believe that the "peaceful American Islam" exerts no control or influence over the repressive nature of the religion as a whole, even as it applies to domestic issues.

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Lennart Regebro 8:29 AM on 5 Nov 2010

"Perhaps they realistically believe that the "peaceful American Islam" exerts no control or influence over the repressive nature of the religion as a whole, even as it applies to domestic issues."

That may be true, but is irrelevant. Equally irrelevant is claims of Islam being violent. Islam is not a violent religion. Yes, there are violent groups within Islam, but so there is within all other religions. The Islamic violent groups are the predominant violent groups at the moment, just as communism was the predominant religion amongst violent groups before that, and in the 30's it was fascism and before that it was anarchist and communists (again) and before that it was christianity.

If you look at the core of all these religions, Islam is the least violent of all (*). It takes some serious misinterpretation of the Quran to justify the current violence, while Christianity, Fascism and Communism all has the extermination of the people it sees as "evil" written into it's basic religion writings, and you instead need some serious misinterpretation to ignore that and call them peaceful.

So what's my point? Obviously there are a big stream of violent Islam in todays society. The point is that it's pointless to talk about "violent religions". Even Islam, which is very non-violent, can easily be turned into a rationalization for mass-murder.

It isn't religions that are violent, it's people, and organizations. And religion, thanks to it's dogmatic and reality-rejecting nature, can always be used to rationalize this violence. That few people currently are using Christianity to do this has nothing to do with the religion itself, but the societies in which that religion is predominant. The countries in which Islam is predominant are poor, undemocratic and violent countries. As a result, the violent groups in these countries will use Islam as an excuse for their violence, just as Christianity was used as an excuse for both small scale violence and executions and large scale wars and mass-murder for a thousand years in Europe.

Christianity turned peaceful when Christian societies turned peaceful. Islam will turn peaceful when Islamic countries turn peaceful. Obviously it would be best if people stopped adhering to any sort of religion, but that's not likely for the nearest 200 years. But religion is not a cause of society, but a reflection of it.

//Lennart

(*) That I point out that Islam is less violent than many other religions doesn't mean I like it. Islam also has as it's core an unquestioning obedience, something that is deeply evil. At the same time the old testament has things like the book of Job where Job finally ends up questioning god, after god (for a bet) makes him suffer.(**)

(**) And that should in itself be enough evidence for anyone that the old testament God is evil. But at least Job isn't condemned to hell for asking questions.

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Rich 10:35 AM on 5 Nov 2010

"Christianity, Fascism and Communism all has the extermination of the people it sees as "evil" written into it's basic religion writings..."

Grouping these three together is ridiculous. Fascism and Communism are merely political/social movements and are uniformly hostile to religious belief. Care to provide any evidence that Christ promoted extermination of people?

"It takes some serious misinterpretation of the Quran to justify the current violence..."

What's being misinterpreted? Surely you have some passages in mind? :-0

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Lennart Regebro 11:01 AM on 5 Nov 2010

"Grouping these three together is ridiculous."

I didn't group these three together. I grouped *all* religions together, but mentioned only four of them. Yes, communism and fascism are all religions in all sensible definitions of the word. Have you read any communist theory? The similarity between Christian myths and the Marxist view of history is obvious if you would care to read about it.

If you ever have discussed with people who are communists or creationists or racists, you'll soon realize that they all think, discuss and react in exactly the same way. If you don't want to call that way of thinking "religion" then you don't have to, but I find that word to be the most exact and clarifying description I can think of. It is a dogmatic reality-rejecting way of thinking where you only accept facts if they already fit your narrow view of the world, and if they don't, you reject them as lies from satan/the capitalist oppressors/ZOG/Bush/Obama/Whatever you fancy.

This way of thinking is scarily common in the US on all sides of every fence you can find. That thinking is the main reason US politics are so mindbogglingly stupid. Don't fall prey to it. Think outside of the box, think for yourself and try to see things as they are, not as you want them to be.

"uniformly hostile to religious belief"

Yeah, most religions are hostile to other religions. ;) Only with the growth of science and rationality has some religions decided that the big enemy is science and tried to band together over religious borders. Since communism and fascism are new religions that have a hard time faking trustworthiness by age and history, they try to do so by false claims of being scientific. Scientology does the same. They are therefore not included in that cross-religious group hug, but don't be fooled by their lies, they are just as religious as any other religion.

"Care to provide any evidence that Christ promoted extermination of people?"

I didn't say Christ, (of whom we know very little of what his opinions on anything was) I said Christianity. And to prove my point there I only need to mention witch-burnings, the Spanish inquisition, the crusades and the medieval pogroms, all whom used Christianity and Christian writings as an excuse for violence.

"What's being misinterpreted? Surely you have some passages in mind?"

Yes, the passages from the Quran being misinterpreted are typically those who have to do with war. There are passages often quoted as promoting indiscriminate violence against infidels, however they are without exception quoted out of context.

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Rich 2:20 PM on 5 Nov 2010

The reason I said Christ is because He is the source of the Christian faith. Mohammed is the source of the Islamic faith. Sure, many have distorted and/or ignored the source teachings of both religions (that is perhaps one explanation for the many Christian and Islamic sects). But if you go to the sources, you will find two different teachings.

Now most people understand this and they understand that believing one faith or the other has important consequences for how one views the world and acts in it. That should be common sense. Juan Williams was simply expressing this in common sense terms. That's not bigotry.

And don't forget context -- 9/11, shoe bomber, fruit of kaboom bomber, etc. Today is the first anniversary of the Fort Hood killings. The fact that the man yelled "Allahu Akbar!" as he shot 13 dead means something.

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Ned Batchelder 2:51 PM on 5 Nov 2010

@Rich: if the next nut with a gun yells, "Long live Christ!" should I mistrust you on a plane?

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Lennart Regebro 2:57 PM on 5 Nov 2010

"The reason I said Christ is because He is the source of the Christian faith."

The little we know about the religious beliefs of Yeshua ben Yosef, the man you call Jesus, indicates that he was some sort of Jewish fundamentalist. He seems to maybe have wanted to return to Mosaic law, and was likely of the opinion that the religious leadership of the time was fraudulent, and possibly he thought that he should have been the leader of Judaism.

The source of the Christian faith is people in the early Christian church, most prominently Paul, but also the authors of the gospels. The little hints that exist in the bible indicates (but in no way proves) that Pauls opinions and Jesus opinions likely didn't overlap very much.

Sorry to crush your myths like this. Whatever you think about Christianities message (most of what is in the new testament are good humanist messages, as far as religions go), the idea that Jesus is the source of them is not supported by the little evidence we have, and is generally highly unlikely.

"The fact that the man yelled "Allahu Akbar!" as he shot 13 dead means something."

Yeah, it means he is Muslim. That's all it means. It says exactly nothing about Islam.

I'm sorry for radically waltzing in like a bull in a china shop with regards to this debate but: http://xkcd.com/386/

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Rich 4:22 PM on 5 Nov 2010

@Ned - that's a fair question. If you did mistrust me, would it be fair to call you a bigot? ;-)

You would have some basis to distrust me if you actually saw that type of thing going on -- but how common is that? On the other hand, we do see individuals doing violence in the name of Islam all too often these days -- and they point to the Koran as their justification!

You know, bigotry implies intolerance and willful ignorance of information and evidence. I just don't see that in Juan Williams' statement.

@Lennart: So you deny that the historical Jesus is actually the source of Christian teachings? Outside of the Bible, where are you getting your information about Saint Paul? Oh wait, I get it - you mean you can believe what the Bible says when it supports your argument but when it doesn't, it's just a bunch of myths, right?

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Ned Batchelder 4:52 PM on 5 Nov 2010

I'll propose another thought experiment. Let's say there have been four violent actions in America caused by Muslims in the last five years (the exact number doesn't matter). Imagine now that there had also been four similar violent actions caused by Christians, claiming that it was in the cause of their Christianity. Now you have a choice of two planes to get on: one is full of Christians, the other is full of Muslims. Which would you choose?

I claim you'll go with the Christians, because you understand that the violence is an anomaly, that just because a nut kills people in the name of Christianity doesn't mean that other Christians do that sort of thing, and so on.

At its root, the Christians are familiar to you, and similar to you, and the Muslims are not.

You describe bigotry as ignoring information and evidence. I think it is all too easy to see someone as different than yourself, and then ascribe all sorts of negative associations to that person and group them with their difference. When we see a terrorist who is a Muslim, we associate the terrorism with Islam (admittedly, partly because the terrorist himself does), and then associate all of Islam with terrorism.

In the case of a Christian terrorist, we understand much more about the implications of their Christianity, and can see all the complexity, and understand that one doesn't imply the other, no matter how much the poor deluded soul himself believes it. We have experience with non-terrorist Christians, and that tempers our reaction to his belief in the connection.

How much experience do we have with non-terrorist Muslims? I'll claim that anti-Muslim sentiment is counter-correlated with interactions with Muslims. For many Americans, the main thing they know about Muslims is that another one just blew something up. It's no wonder they associate Islam with terrorism.

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Lennart Regebro 5:32 PM on 5 Nov 2010

The source both for the information on Paul and on Jesus is the new testament. Are you aware that the new testament includes letters dictated by Paul himself (as, btw, the Quran is dictated by Muhammad), but not a single word in it is written by anybody who even met Jesus?

Start here, Rich: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_Jesus

We really know *very* little of what Jesus actual religious positions where. But we know Paul was in conflict with the Apostles, which doesn't really bode very well for the continuity between Jesus and Paul in these issues.

Christianity teachings grew out of the early Christian communities primarily in Rome and Greece. They have then later been reinterpreted and often turned on it's heads by prominent philosophers like St Augustine and Luther. The connection between what Jesus said and what the christian leaders of todays american church says is practically non-existant, just like the connection between Muhammad and bin Laden.

Maybe you'll see that someday.

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Ned Batchelder 5:42 PM on 5 Nov 2010

@Lennart, I appreciate the dialog, but please: "Maybe you'll see that someday" is condescending and counter-productive.

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Rich 7:25 PM on 5 Nov 2010

@Lennart - I think you're missing my point - you can't say the Bible (New Testament) is a trustworthy source for information about Saint Paul's life and then turn around and say that same Bible isn't a trustworthy source for Christ's life. Or are you suggesting that some parts of the Bible are trustworthy and others aren't? And if so, what's your authority for saying so? It's obvious that the early Christian communities passed on the information about Christ and Saint Paul (that's how we got it) -- but why do you trust what's said about Saint Paul but not Christ?

@Ned - You say "I think it is all too easy to see someone as different than yourself, and then ascribe all sorts of negative associations to that person and group them with their difference. When we see a terrorist who is a Muslim, we associate the terrorism with Islam (admittedly, partly because the terrorist himself does), and then associate all of Islam with terrorism."

You assign that reaction to Juan Williams based on the quote you provided. But he didn't associate "all of Islam with terrorism". He said "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." That's a perfectly reasonable reaction in the current context of Muslim terrorist attacks. And I don't think it impugns all Muslims or "all of Islam".

I can understand your point about feeling more comfortable around those with whom we're familiar -- that's human, not bigoted. It would be bigoted to *always* refuse to associate with someone unfamiliar because of their faith, race, etc.

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Lennart Regebro 1:13 AM on 6 Nov 2010

@Rich: I didn't say it was a trustworthy source for Paul of Tarsus' and Yeshua ben Josef's *life* I said it was a trustworthy source for Pauls *opinions*, but that it is *not* a trustworthy source for the opinions of Jesus. This comes from the simple and direct fact that much of the new testament is written by Paul or people who knew him, while none of the authors had even met Jesus.

Sure, it is therefore also a much more trustworthy source for information about Pauls life than Jesus life, but that was not what I said.

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