TEXAS FAITH: Does firing Juan Williams improve our understanding of religious diversity?

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TEXAS FAITH: Does firing Juan Williams improve our understanding of religious diversity?
Oct 26, 2010 | | Dallas Morning News

Wayne Slater/Reporter
When NPR  fired veteran news analyst Juan Williams this week, it caused a firestorm. Muslim groups were outraged by Williams’ comments on Fox News that he gets nervous when he sees people in Muslim attire on airplanes. But conservatives and some liberals said Williams was just voicing an honest – if irrational – emotion shared by lots of people in the wake of 9/11. Moreover, in the same interview Williams made it clear that it’s wrong to blame an entire religious group because of the actions of a handful of extremists.

Still, NPR said Williams, a news analyst, had violated the network’s standards, which are designed to keep employees from publicly expressing personal opinions in ways that might jeopardize the network’s impartiality.

Let’s assume that NPR had a right to fire Williams. Maybe it did. But the question is whether we’re better off because it did. Bigoted diatribes are one thing. But what Williams said, in its full context, is more balanced than a single soundbite – and it reflects the thorny, often emotionally driven debate over religious diversity in a post-9/11 world. Shouldn’t we be encouraging an open expression of ideas in this very public debate? Do we improve our understanding of each other by declaring that some things must not be spoken?

That’s this week’s question: Are we better off by forbidding some views, some beliefs – however ill-expressed – in an honest discussion of America’s view of Islam?

Some provocative answers by the Texas Faith panel. Keep reading.

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

No, we are not better off forbidding any view however ill-expressed in an honest discussion ofAmerica’s view of Islam. Neither God nor religion should be free from any critical study including Islam and Quraan. Yes, I am a Muslim, and like most Muslims I will defend that freedom to the core.
Indeed, the freedom of speech must be guarded and defended at any cost, that is the only thing that sets us apart from animals to find solutions through a civil dialogue instead of locking in the horns. The truth ultimately triumphs over every thing else and most certainly it is sustainable; Mahatma Gandhi called it “Satyameva Jayate”. However to have the moral courage to defend that freedom, its application must be universal and not selective.
The issue is not forbidding some views; it is rather giving all views an equal opportunity. Had we not had restrictions against racial slurs, anti-Semitism, Holocaust Denial and discrimination against women, we would not have come this far. As a civil society, we have ways to go and God willing we will.
The phobias and fears of the vociferous few must be addressed and a fair play in bringing every one up on a level playing field ensures long term stability. We owe it to ourselves to build cohesive societies by separating the myth from reality.
Fear of the strangers is not new, I am sure there are people who get frightened with the “Muslim garbs” and perhaps most of them ignore it as their own bias and move on with life doing their inner Jihad in similar situations. But when a public figure makes a statement it reinforces such bias, we need to guard that in the interests of public safety.
After fueling the bias, Mr. Williams chose not to allay the fears of the public whether one wears a Muslim garb or not, every one goes through the same security checks to ensure safety of every passenger. I rather trust the Airlines and the homeland security than Mr. Williams.
By the way, there is no such thing as a Muslim garb, just as there is no Christian garb unless one’s ability to see is blinded and biased; we come in all shapes, ethnicities, races, colors and clothes. Let’s see what Halloween brings this season.
Pastor Jeffress of Southern Baptist Church called Islam an evil religion and the holy book of Muslims a false book written by a false prophet, thank God for America, every one has the right to free speech and as a Muslim I will defend his right.
However, we have to challenge our own integrity to tell the truth. My offer to Pastor Jeffress remains simple, a copy of the Quraan will be presented to him and asked to find at least three evil things in it, and if he does, I will join his congregation, what else can one offer? Fox News interviewed both of us, but did not present my full interview, on top of it, not only his full interview was listed but was announced on their site, mine was not, I even produced a video, which they chose not to post. Is that level playing field?
To build cohesive societies, where no American has to live in fear of the other, we have scheduled a conference on Sunday December 5, 2010; it is about Quraan, separating the myths from reality. Details are at www.QuraanConference.com.
I was in another congregation where they were showing a documentary loaded with blatant falsities about Islam which I have written in a report. The congregation was anguished and had questions which I offered to answer, but the movie producer did not allow another point of view. Thank God the entire congregations yelled in unison, “give him the microphone” and at least people got to hear a sampling of another point of view.
As a citizen who has stood up for every American, I am pleased to acknowledge that Dallas Morning News has been justly fulfilling its Journalistic responsibilities to the public and to the nation by presenting different points of view.

Other opinions at: http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2010/10/does-the-firing-of-juan-willia.html

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About Mike Ghouse

Dr. Mike Ghouse is a public speaker and the Executive Director of the Center for Pluralism in Washington, DC. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. More about him at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikeghouse/