Omar Ricci

Posted Aug 22, 2002      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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by Omar Ricci

Welcome to another iteration in history repeating itself. Welcome to a 2002 version of the red scare that took place in the 1950’s. Senator Joseph McCarthy and his infamous mantra during Congressional hearings “are you a communist!?” have been replaced. The new Joseph McCarthy’s are the media pundits of cable television, and the new cry du-jour is “Are you an Islamist!?”

Cable TV show hosts are of particular note, sounding more like the shock jocks of radio rather than engaging in meaningful discussion. A new phenomena has emerged amongst these so-called news analysts-cum-sound bite engineers. Lou Dobbs, Alan Keyes, Chris Mathews (to name a few) have all been beating the drums lately with their stated aim, equating the war on terrorism to a war on Islamists. Their more defined and surreptitious target seems to be the faith of Islam itself.

Their standard disclaimer that they are not targeting Islam itself rings hollow as they parrot the writings of those who are anti-Muslim and anti-Islam. Specifically these media pundits (and presumably the producers of their shows) have gravitated towards the anti-Muslim, pro-Israel agenda of Daniel Pipes, Steve Emerson, and other Zionist groups. In their effort to quash any U.S. sympathy for the Palestinian cause, Pipes, Emerson, and the like have broadened their target to include the entire faith of Islam.

In simple terms the logic put forth by these pro-Israel advocates, and regurgitated in various forms by the media pundits, is that if you’re a Muslim who is pro-Israel, then you’re a good Muslim; if you’re a Muslim opposed to what Israel is doing, then you’re a bad Muslim. The label that is being pushed for a bad Muslim is Islamist. I imagine some thought went into the construct of the term, adding the ist to the end of Islam (attempting to coax a mental correlation to Commun-ist, Zion-ist, Fac-ist). I assure you, no Muslim had ever heard of the term Islamist before it started being marketed by these groups a few years ago.

After cursory analysis, and without any meaningful dialogue with mainstream American Muslim groups, Lou Dobbs who hosts CNN’s Moneyline, finds himself qualified enough to not only report on the stock market, but to now report on how bad Islam is. Hook, line, and sinker, these pundits have drunk the Kool-Aid. Breathtaking indeed.

Even more stunning is when TV pundits interview each other in media celebrity stroking sessions where one portrays the other as an expert in the field of Islam. On the June 13, 2002 broadcast of Hardball with Chris Matthews host Matthews interviews Dobbs about the war on Islamists, treating him with such reverence that the viewer would think Dobbs could qualify as an academic on the subject calling Dobbs a courageous man.

Matthews on several occasions refers to the American Heritage dictionary as his source on the meaning of “jihad” which inevitably gives an incorrect definition. This remarkably doltish method of understanding an Arabic term whose meaning cannot be confined to a sentence in a dictionary (the term has more of a spiritual nature, applied to the individual) belies the shallow mindset that so pervades TV talk.

Hence, the notorious pro-Israel bias in the national media takes on a new dimension B a condemnation of Islam itself vis-୶is information provided by anti-Islamic elements in America.

The war on terrorism is complex enough without TV talking heads entering the discussion with bias and superficial analysis that mislead the public. Questions about the challenge on the domestic front aren=t being addressed in a serious manner either by these TV show hosts. If I’m an American Muslim ready to defend and protect my country against terrorist attacks, but I’m also sympathetic to the Palestinian people and their cause, does that make me a so-called “Islamist?” Does this warrant my being blacklisted or fingerprinted? If I have a moral opposition to my country’s blind support of Israel, which may also be part of what some terrorists groups are promulgating, does that make me a terrorist (or potential terrorist) that leads to a suspension of my civil liberties?

In my opinion, the answer to these questions is “of course not.” But the media pundits continue to turn to anti-Muslim sources to form their opinion on these matters. American Muslims are only invited on these shows to be punching bags, being cynically viewed as “one of them” and can therefore be berated in the cause of Americana.

At a time when certain parts of the world that call themselves “Islamic” are the focus of our country’s war on terrorism, it is more important than ever that our citizens get unbiased information about the faith and its followers. Doing so will bring to light that it isn’t faith that drives people to commit terrorist acts, but it is desperation in the face of injustice that drivespeople away from faith, and to commit such un-Godly sins.

Truth is the first casualty of war, as the saying goes. Well, the media pundits are doing a good job of clouding and spinning the truth, and further sewing the seeds of misunderstanding and prejudice. Senator McCarthy would be proud.


(The author is National Chairman of the Muslim Public Affairs Council based out of Los Angeles and Washington D.C. He can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or at the Council’s L.A. offices at 213.383.3443)