I’m hard pressed to recall a case where the abject imbecility of contemporary Islamophobia is not only captured in a short video clip, but demolished in a single sentence. Watch John McCain inadvertently slap down the air-headed Brian Kilmeade on Fox News on the significance of “Allahu Akbar.”
Journalists are often required to cover and discuss a wide range of disparate topics, so I don’t blame them for occasionally getting important facts wrong. That doesn’t let them off the hook for being grossly unprofessional, superficial, partisan and compromised by conflicts of interest (for more on these issues, see the invaluable work of FAIR). Where I commenting on current events day and day out on TV, my gaffes, senile moments and inscrutable malapropisms would undoubtedly be legendary.
But that’s not the kind of misstep we’re dealing with here, to put it mildly. Note how the gentleman clearly considers the clip in question compelling evidence, a smoking gun that throws light on the true nature of the Syrian conflict. And then observe his evident shock when McCain not only rejects this supposed prima facie evidence of jihadi influence over the whole Syrian resistance movement, but turns the tables and applies the principle to Christians.
Coming from a journalist and pundit, such bald stupidity and obliviousness to the most minimal, self-evident rules of grown-up thinking about the world is something akin to mental retardation. This role is clearly cognitively beyond Kilmeade.
Of course, the sad thing is that this mindset, this inability to apply the simplest, most basic human categories to Muslims, is hardly proper to Fox’s pretend-newsroom. It’s quite widespread in American political culture today, and not just on the Right.
I don’t often have good things to say about John McCain, but you have to give credit where it is due. That was an inspiring and admirably succinct retort.
Update: I’ll admit that there are situations when that prayer, however beautiful and profound it is in principle, can have mixed associations, even to me (and, like other practicing Muslim, I recite these words literally a hundred or so times a day as part of my daily prayers). I’ve never heard it employed in the sinister manner of terrorists in Hollywood films, but I have occasionally encountered it used in ways that are off-putting and more ideological than spiritual, like the “USA! USA!” chants one hears at right-wing political rallies.
But is neither here or here. That video was of people caught in a fight for their lives against a terrifying war machine. Kilmeade seems to expect fighters to celebrate surviving such a harrowing David & Goliath-like encounter with high fives and end-zone dances. I’d love to know what, in his simple mind, moderate Arabic-speaking people (Muslim or otherwise) say after such a close shave during a pitched battle. I suspect that Kilmeade imagines that good guys always belt out Queen’s “We are the Champions” in such situations.