ABC Blames Bush, 'Ignorant' Americans for 'Islamaphobia'
America, you ignorant Islamaphobes! Alright, maybe it's not all your fault. Your anti-Muslim attitudes have been "stoked" by "inflammatory rhetoric" from . . . President Bush. That was the basic message of a segment narrated by Ron Claiborne this morning entitled "9/11 Remembered: Islamaphobia" on ABC's Good Morning America.
ABC made a weak case for the existence of widespread 'Islamophobia' in America. Let's imagine, for example, that 19 Jews had flown planes into iconic buildings in, say, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan - or France, for that matter. What do you think would befall any Jews daring to remain in any of those countries, as a matter of official policy and/or public reaction?
In contrast, what evidence did GMA adduce in support of its America-the-Islamaphobic theory? A couple poll results showing negative attitudes toward Muslims amongst a significant minority of Americans. A few man-in-the-street anecdotal interviews including one of the young man with a blond crewcut pictured here wondering what guys in turbans are trying to prove.
But when it came to translating attitudes into action, ABC offered - not much: the editor of an Arab-American newspaper saying that on the night of 9/11 itself, three men were arrested near his offices with knives. He alleged they were coming to kill him. ABC also catalogued as evidence of alleged Islamophobia additional airport checks and "suspicious or fearful looks" encountered by Muslims in the US. ABC alleged "acts of violence" but didn't offer even one specific example.
GMA highlighted a case in which two young Arab-American men, found in possession of a lot of cash and cell phones, were arrested and held for a week [not the Mackinac bridge case]. ABC reporter Ron Claiborne 'helpfully' prompted them:
"Bottom line: why do you think this happened?"
He got the answer he was looking for: "racial profiling."
Even so, the men were eventually freed, although they do face charges of lying to police. Not exactly a pogrom.
Claiborne continued his leading line of questioning while interviewing an off-screen presence who was presumably the same editor of the Arab-American newspaper seen earlier in the segment:
Editor: "We are law-abding citizens and we are patriots."
Claiborne, prompting: "And yet what?"
"And yet we continue to be harrassed for no reason."
If there was any nasty name-calling, it was aimed at non-Muslim Americans, and it came from Claiborne and his chosen sources.
Claiborne: "Those who have studied American attitudes toward Muslims say at the root of prejudice is ignorance."
And then: "Some Arab-Americans say President Bush has further stoked anti-Muslim attitudes with inflammatory rhetoric in denouncing Islamic extremists." Let's get this straight. Claiborne thinks it's wrong for the president of the United States to vigorously denounce what Claiborne himself describes as "extremists", the kind of people behind 9/11?
James Zogby of the Arab-American Institute then turned up to reinforce the notion that we aren't mean-spirited - just dumb: "I think that more generally speaking, America is not Islamaphobic, it really just doesn't understand the religion at all."
The segment was part of ABC's special 5th-anniversary coverage: "9/11 - Where Things Stand." Judging by today's episode, it could be a long week.