The panelists included Richard Prince, an editor at the WaPo (where Williams has worked), John Watson, a professor of communications/journalism ethics at American University, and Asra Nomani, a Muslim author, who said this [emphasis added]:
What I believe Juan Williams did was express, unfortunately, the position of many Americans in their distrust of Muslims. I am Muslim. My father's name has Muhammad in it. We would be profiled if we go through airports because, you know, I buy tickets at the last minute and I fall into the classic profile that you have.She seems to be saying that it's almost like the N word thing with blacks--only Muslims can talk that way about other Muslims. It's ironic that another minority can get fired for crossing that line but the story runs deeper (as the panelists reveal later)...it's about 'serving two masters'. At any rate as Muslims keep exploding or opening fire at various intervals in the states as we continue killing them with prejudice overseas, and while sweeping generalizations about all of this are fast becoming thought crimes, it seems we really do need a national conversation here. Surely when imam Rauf pops back up after the election he'll probably be making the same point, albeit while blaming America somehow.
But I got to tell you, when I went to Great Falls Park the other day, and I saw a woman in an full-face veil and her husband had a little leather bag that wasn't looking like a picnic basket, I felt a little nervous. And there was a park ranger behind me who clearly was on their tail.
What Juan Williams expressed, I believe, is the sentiment of many people and including Muslims. Muslims profile each other all the time. When you walk into a mosque and you see other Muslims, you say, oh look, he looks like a Jihadi. Or, that's a niqab, a woman who wears a full-face veil. It doesn't mean, you know, that we need to go to the point of civil liberties, you know, offensive or anything like that.
But Juan Williams was basically, I think, having a commentary that is very true in America today. And I believe, unfortunately, that NPR short circuited a conversation that we really need to be having.
But what about the conversation on race? Williams is black. The NPR moderator posed the question; here's another snippet:
Mr. PRINCE: Well, I think race is always a part of a lot of these discussions. I think it's disingenuous, however, to say that there was a racial element here and not at FOX. I mean, FOX is hardly an exemplar of diversity in terms of its news and so forth.This from the WaPo editor--answering a question about whether NPR might have Shirley Sherroded their lone black commentator and he immediately diverts to Fox News. Just like a message board.
The professor and the editor provided their takeaways at the end--here's mine: with all these conversations Americans are supposed to be having about controversial issues how about one on the media? Maybe Gwen Ifill from PBS could be the moderator, or wait, maybe a panelist.