Slippery Slopes: Speech, Islam & NPR

“As the sled of what is considered offensive to Islam hurdles down the hill, plowing over the First Amendment as it goes, it is not a question if something else will be seen as offensive, but merely what will be seen as offensive.  The next time, it may not be the Dove World Outreach Center.  It may be you.  Or me.  Remember, the slippery slope starts somewhere!”  From The Slippery Slope Starts Somewhere, published on 9/9/10

That didn’t take long.  With the firing of Juan Williams, for allegedly anti-Muslim remarks, we are witnessing the continued assault on our First Amendment freedoms by radical Islamists and their liberal elite friends in the media and government.  I knew that any direct or overt criticism of Islam (even the radical kind) would eventually be considered offensive and off-limits.  (Of course, direct and overt criticism of Christianity is always welcome and never off-limits, but that’s another story.)  Who knew that not just our words, but even our feelings would be considered offensive to Islam?

If you are not paying attention to what happened to Juan Williams this week, then you need to start.  Williams was fired from his job as an analyst at National Public Radio.  While I have no doubt that the far-left radicals who run NPR have been itching for a reason to fire Williams for some time now, mainly based on the fact that he appears on the hated Fox News Channel, the powers-that-be at NPR came under increasing pressure from one particular group this week who agitated for Williams’ firing.  And fire him they did. 

Who is that group?  None other than the wonderful folks at the Council for American Islamic Relations, also known as CAIR.  CAIR, itself an organization with links Islamic and Middle Eastern terrorist groups, including Hamas, said of the comments made by Williams:

“NPR should address the fact that one of its news analysts seems to believe that all airline passengers who are perceived to be Muslim can legitimately be viewed as security threats,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “Such irresponsible and inflammatory comments would not be tolerated if they targeted any other racial, ethnic or religious minority, and they should not pass without action by NPR.”

What exactly did Juan Williams say that was so “irresponsible and inflammatory?”  I would really like to know what his offense was, because I surely would not want to be guilty of such bigoted and hateful feelings myself.  Williams said:

“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.”

What Juan Williams described is the nervousness and worry that I and countless other Americans (of all nationalities and religions, including, I would daresay, some Arabs and/or Muslims) have when we fly today.  That nervousness or worry, whether or not you think it is rational or not, is always present for many airline passengers today. 

It should come as no great surprise why that is, but liberal elites at NPR and their cohorts at CAIR (and in our own federal government) feign ignorance as to why people get nervous when they fly.  What was unimaginable before 9/11 is very much imaginable today.  What we did not have to worry about pre-9/11 we must worry about today.  If there was nothing to worry about, then we wouldn’t need body scanners at the security checkpoint in airports nor would we have to practically disrobe before going through said body scanners.

And, as the most recent (thankfully) failed attempt of detonating a bomb aboard an in-bound flight in Detroit and the failed Times Square bombing clearly remind us, we are still vulnerable to a major terrorist attack.  And these attacks, while they could be committed by 70 year-old Anglo grandmothers, ARE committed by young, radicalized Muslims (including Ft. Hood shooter Nadal Hasan, if you consider 40 “young”). 

Does that mean that all Muslims are terrorists?  Of course not.  Does that mean that all Muslims hate America and want to see terrorist acts committed on our soil?  Absolutely not.  Should “all airline passengers who are perceived to be Muslim legitimately be viewed as security threats” as CAIR alleges that Williams said (which he did not)?  No, they should not.

But, let me share my own experience in flying with those I perceived to be Muslim (or at least Middle Eastern).  Several years ago, I was on a plane with my family traveling between Lexington, KY and Houston, TX.  On board the plane were two young, Middle Eastern looking men.  Both were wearing bulky coats, which was a bit strange, considering the warmer weather that we were experiencing.  The two men did not take off their coats the entire trip, which was also unusual as it was rather warm in the plane. 

Throughout the course of the flight, the two young men, who were sitting in different rows (one ahead and one behind) began passing packages back and forth.  These were wrapped packages, so there was nothing that could be retrieved from the packages without actually opening them up.  This package swap continued, off and on, for the better part of the flight.  Needless to say, I did not close my eyes the entire trip.  Obviously I cannot be sure, but I believe that these two young men knew that their behavior, even if innocent, was making other passengers extremely uncomfortable.  Was I nervous and worried that something might happen during the flight?  Yes.  Was my worry unfounded?  Perhaps, but I was not taking any chances that day.

Contrast that with a Muslim family (mom, dad, two kids) traveling from El Paso, TX to Orlando or Tampa.  I have been on numerous flights where Middle Eastern families were fellow passengers.  Sometimes, the women would be dressed in Muslim attire.  Did I view these families differently than the two young men on the other flight?  Absolutely.  Did I keep a watchful eye on the Muslim family with the Walt Disney bags and Mickey Mouse ears?  If my closed eyes count, then I suppose I did.      

You see, context matters.  One situation caused me to have feelings of worry and anxiety.  The other did not.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been worried about the two young men, but I was.  Were my feelings of worry and anxiety (mainly of flying, but exacerbated by the strange behavior of two young Middle Eastern looking men) bigoted?  I don’t think any more than Juan Williams’ feelings.  And, I don’t think that the feelings he expressed were bigoted.

But, add feelings to the list of those things that are now subject to scrutiny by the Islamist lobby in this country.  First actions (South Park).  Then words (Franklin Graham).  Now feelings (Juan Williams).  But, where will it end, especially in regards to Islam?  Your guess is as good as mine.  If CAIR and NPR keep getting their way, most Americans — both conservatives and even a few liberals — may no longer be able to recognize the First Amendment.  Remember, the slippery slope always starts somewhere!

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About Howell Scott

I have been a Southern Baptist pastor for the last fourteen years. Before entering the ministry, I was a practicing attorney in my homestate of Florida. I have been married to my wife, Brenda, for 18 years and we have three sons, Stephen, Jacob, and Andrew.
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10 Responses to Slippery Slopes: Speech, Islam & NPR

  1. stephen fox says:

    I sincerely appreciate your measured responses in the previous blog about my reservations concerning Pam Tebow and the Colorado Personhood Ad.

    That said, Until you go to the archives and do a treatment about Judge Pressler’s firing of Martin and Shackelford, as a Southern Baptist you don’t have a lot of ground to stand on when you talk about NPR and Juan Williams.
    NPR made a mistake. I hope they fix it. They shoulda let Juan’s contract expire and then move on, or have had an oped piece disagreeing with or unpacking his statements.

    That said Furman’s New President Smolla had a grand Inaugural address today on Civil Discourse this morning. I was there to hear it. Soon as it is online hope to share a link with you.
    And for reference and substance for further explorations of these matters. I heartily recommend Charles Marsh’s Wayward Christian Soldiers as well as Damon Linker’s critical review easily googled in The New Republic or TNR.org

  2. Marty says:

    I think this is a moot point, honestly, Howell.

    The First Amendment guarantees to persecution from the GOVERNMENT for freedom of speech. It does NOT say there are no consequences. If I speak out against homosexuality, the government cannot jail me for speaking my opinion, but my employer may not want that kind of press reflected upon them and may fire me because I’m drawing unwanted attention onto them which might hurt their business future. So, was it wrong for NPR to fire Mr. Williams? Sure. But we’re talking about “Double Standard Radio”. And honestly are we really surprised? Does he have any real repercussions? I don’t think he does. Should he fight it? I don’t think he should. Fox has already renewed his contract with them and they are paying him even more now, because of his position with the liberal M.S.M.

    Freedom of speech means freedom from governmental persecution. It does not mean a lack of consequence. With freedom comes responsibility. If we walk around with our guns on our belts in everyone’s face about it and when challenged scream “IT’S MY RIGHT!!!” we should expect to have people giving us a piece of their minds. Rubbing our rights in others’ faces is not responsible execution of our freedoms. Speaking out about radical Islam when your employer is PATENTLY liberal, and expecting no adverse reactions is not only unrealistic, but rather foolhardy.

    Ecclesiastes Chapter 10

    10:2 A wise person’s good sense protects him, but a fool’s lack of sense leaves him vulnerable.
    10:3 Even when a fool walks along the road he lacks sense, and shows everyone what a fool he is.

    10:4 If the anger of the ruler flares up against you, do not resign from your position,
    for a calm response can undo great offenses.
    10:5 I have seen another misfortune on the earth: It is an error a ruler makes.
    10:6 Fools are placed in many positions of authority while wealthy men sit in lowly positions.
    10:7 I have seen slaves on horseback and princes walking on foot like slaves.
    10:8 One who digs a pit may fall into it, and one who breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake.
    10:9 One who quarries stones may be injured by them; one who splits logs may be endangered by them.
    10:10 If an iron axehead is blunt and a workman does not sharpen its edge, he must exert a great deal of effort; so wisdom has the advantage of giving success.
    10:11 If the snake should bite before it is charmed, the snake charmer is in trouble.
    10:12 The words of a wise person win him favor, but the words of a fool are self-destructive.
    10:13 At the beginning his words are foolish and at the end his talk is wicked madness,
    10:14 yet a fool keeps on babbling. No one knows what will happen; who can tell him what will happen in the future?

    • Howell Scott says:

      Marty,

      Thanks for your comments. I dont’ disagree that speech, especially in the private, non-governmental area, can have consequences as we have seen in the Williams’ case. However, the slippery slope of outlawing any and all criticism of Islam (even radical Islam) will not always be confined to the government. I think that what NPR did, while they may have had the legal right to do it, was in response to Juan Williams appearing on the hated Fox News Channel AND in capitulation to the radical Islamist group, CAIR. I agree that NPR is patently liberal, but they themselves would tell you that they are middle of the road (lol). It is not surprising that Williams was fired, but people do need to see the pressure that radical Islam and their supporters continue to place on private as well as public (including governmental) entities. Hope you and Heather and the kids are doing well. Have a great weekend. God bless,

      Howell

  3. K Gray says:

    As Marty noted, Willliams’ situation is an employer-employee or contract issue more than a First Amendment issue. Juan Williams was a “news analyst” for NPR, and NPR’s CEO says ““News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that’s what’s happened in this situation.”

    But he didn’t take a personal public position on a controversial issue, IMO. He admitted to a feeling (nervous, worried) in a particular situation, then spent the rest of the segment arguing forcefully against stereotyping. (Doesn’t Williams get the benefit of context, as Shirley Sherrod did?) Nevertheless, this candor probably was not the best way to remain an NPR news analyst.

    Where it becomes a First Amendment issue is beyond Williams — you just can’t have a candid conversation about extreme Islamic ideology. Fear and false piety won’t allow it.

    One more thing. NPR’s omsbudsman actually said about firing Williams: “It’s not about race.” Oh my, hoist with their owne petard.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Karen,

      Thanks for your insights. I would hope that NPR was on firm legal ground when they fired Williams, but there words ring hollow. When you have $1.8 million given to NPR by one of the most radical leftists in this country and when you receive pressure from the Council for American Islamic Relations, itself with ties to radical Islam, the writing was on the wall. My whole arguement, in this post and my previous ones, is that we are seeing an erosion of the First Amendment with regards to Islam. The irony is that liberals, once the champions of free speech and open dialogue, find themselves increasingly supporting those who would shut down free and open debate. NPR may have had a right to do it. But, this is just one more step in the move for the government to outlaw “hate speech.” We see it with Islam as well as some other issues. The slippery slope always starts somewhere. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  4. stephen fox says:

    SBC Plodder; I am proud of him for standing up for Norman Jameson.

    Let’s see how folks here navigate his departure as they think about NPR.

    Jack Harwell’s subscription to the Christian Index in Georgia decreased by 10,000 the week after he called Martin Luther King, Jr. his friend in 1968; but it took Judge Pressler’s fundamentalist crusade in the SBC to fire him in 1986

    Now Jameson:

    http://sbcplodder.blogspot.com/2010/10/lots-of-people-in-sbc-life-ought-to-be.html

    • Howell Scott says:

      Stephen,

      I do not know Norman Jameson personally and I do not know all that is going on in NC Baptist life, especially the politics of all this. I have disagreed with Jameson on the Ground Zero mosque, but have also found myself in agreement with him on other issues. My next post, probably up by Tuesday morning, will address, both directly and indirectly, the resignation of Jameson. Some of what we are seeing in the convention, from several different groups, speaks to the continuing narrowing of parameters of cooperation among Southern Baptists. At some point, you have to ask, “Where will this all end?” That’s what I will try to address in the post, so stayed tuned. Thanks and have a great day. God bless,

      Howell

  5. stephen fox says:

    Howell:

    Will be looking for your Jameson blog when it goes up.
    In the meantime in the bigger pictures of continental plate shifting, shapeshifting in Baptist world I think you will like my latest entry in the discussion at http://www.baptistlife.com/forums Faith and Practice in Thornton’s entry on Mainstream Baptists of Georgia closing down.
    I place things in generational larger perspective.
    You may not agree with my slant, but I think you will find it very worth your time.

    Enjoying the conversation.
    While there do take a look at Furman’s New President Smolla Inaugural Address on Civil Discourse.
    Consensus of an august audience it was Grand.

  6. Pingback: Mike Huckabee, Radical Islam & Slippery Slopes | From Law to Grace

  7. Pingback: Mike Huckabee, Radical Islam & Slippery Slopes | SBC Voices

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