'Morning Joe' Panel Praises Imam Rauf and Wife as Moderates; Questions Opponents of Ground Zero Mosque

Tuesday's "Morning Joe" featured guest Daisy Khan, wife of Imam Rauf who tried to establish a mosque two blocks away from the site of the 9/11 terror attacks. The panel praised Khan and her husband as peace-making moderates, and arrogantly questioned why more Americans couldn't accept the mosque at Ground Zero.

"America is the beacon of the world," co-host Mika Brzezinski said echoing Khan's earlier words affirming American freedom. "And yet, we had such a controversy about the community center that you and your husband were trying to start blocks away from Ground Zero," she added, questioning the American "understanding" of the center.

"One of the most depressing things to me was the fact that in 2010, Americans seemed to be less accepting of Muslim Americans than they were even in the months after 9/11," co-host Joe Scarborough lamented from his soapbox. "Why do you think we Americans had such a reaction – again, in New York, a place that's supposed to be the most open-minded and pluralistic?" he asked guest Lesley Jane Seymour, editor-in-chief of More magazine.
 

 

Seymour, who profiled Khan in More magazine, painted Khan as a victim of the political extremes. "She's a woman caught in the middle," said Seymour. "She's somebody who really was trying to find both sides, and in the system we're in right now, if you're in the middle and if you're moderate, you're going to catch it from both sides."

Khan's husband, Imam Rauf, came under fire for remarks he made on CBS's "60 Minutes" after the 9/11 attacks, where he said that U.S. policies were an "accessory" to the terrorist attacks that occurred afterward. In 2003, when the Imam was giving a crash course in Islam to FBI agents, the New York Daily News reported that "Rauf noted that the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 attacks could be considered a Jihad."

 Even co-host Willie Geist, usually the neutral voice in the room, joined the praise chorus for Khan. "Daisy, you and your husband were painted at the time of this a few months ago by some as sort of radicals who wanted to put a stick in the eye of people who'd suffered at Ground Zero and their families," he remarked, before praising Khan's work as a "moderate Muslim."

A transcript of the segment, which aired on February 10 at 8:42 a.m. EST, is as follows:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Tell me about Daisy. Why did you all decide to profile her, and what did you learn?

LESLEY JANE SEYMOUR, editor-in-chief, More Magazine: Well, she's a woman caught in the middle. She's somebody who really was trying to find both sides, and in the system we're in right now, if you're in the middle and if you're moderate, you're going to catch it from both sides. And I think it was an interesting study in how somebody works this out. And we also think she was a woman behind the scenes that women didn't know about. And often there is a woman behind the great man out there, and we like to highlight that.

(...)

DAISY KHAN, American Society for Muslim Adavancement: This is a time where we have to look to our ideals, and we have to really spread the ideals that we genuinely believe in, which is all the freedoms that we take for granted. This is what Egyptians are asking for, they're asking for the freedom to have justice, to have participation in their political system, and they want poverty alleviation. They want the things that we have. And this is what their – they're yearning for this, and America is still the beacon of the world when it comes to freedom. And this is what they're asking our help with. And we have to speak to it.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: America is the beacon of the world, and yet we had such a controversy about the community center that you and your husband were trying to start blocks away from Ground Zero. So you say America is the beacon of the world, but how do you feel, looking back at that experience, about our sense of understanding?

KHAN: I still think America is the beacon of the world, but I also believe that every religion has had its challenges, and it's a matter of acceptance. All religions have gone through the struggle of acceptance, and we the Muslim community are also trying to define ourselves in this country right now.

SCARBOROUGH: Where are you though, in that battle, because I must tell you that one of the more depressing things to me was the fact that in 2010, Americans seemed to be less accepting of Muslim Americans than they were even in the months after 9/11, because after 9/11 it seemed like a lot of Americans were saying "Okay, we want to understand this, we want to get our arms around the Muslim community and we always took pride in the fact that in Great Britain, there seemed to be Muslims being segregated that we integrated Muslims into American society, but it did not look that way this summer.

(...)

KHAN: And I believe that there is also an underlying issue that we have not addressed in this country, which is the wound of 9/11 and what it means to this nation, and how can we heal from this wound – and this is what we're working on right now, we're going around the country speaking to many people, and reaching out and talking to people.

SCARBOROUGH: Leslie, why do you think we Americans had such a reaction – again, in New York, a place that's supposed to be the most open-minded and pluralistic?

SEYMOUR: To 9/11, or do you mean to Daisy?

SCARBOROUGH: No, to the community center.

SEYMOUR: Oh, to the community center? I think we are very divided. I think people – you know, and the history of most religions in America is, I think you go through this period of lots of talk and lots of problems, and eventually you get there. I mean, if you look back to what went on with President Kennedy and his Catholicism, all that kind of stuff, I mean eventually you're going to get there. But we are noisy, right? I mean, you talk about that all the time. And that's the struggle.

WILLIE GEIST: Daisy, you and your husband were painted at the time of this a few months ago by some as sort of radicals who wanted to put a stick in the eye of people who'd suffered at Ground Zero and their families. But then as we read more about your story, we realized some of the work you've done as moderate Muslims, and done outreach between the United States and the Muslim world. Can you talk about your background a little bit, and what you do going forward?

KHAN: Well, to go back to the moderates, the irony is most Americans always said we are the moderate Muslims. And so here we are, America, we are here, we're creating a community center that's run by moderates, and it's going to be open to all, and then we get this sort of crush of opposition defining us as extremists. The truth is that moderates are leading the community that we fundamentally believe that women should be empowered. (...) And these are the kinds of initiatives that we moderate Muslims need to undertake to show the world how that majority of Muslims are moderate, that extremists are just a fringe of a fringe of a fringe, and they don't represent us. And our voices have to be amplified, and it's the only way we will root out extremism.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014