Fox News in all its glory

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.”

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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.

  • echarles1

    This post is an example of the problem of freely tossing around the term “Islamophobia.” All the name calling directed towards Brian Kilmeade (or more particularly to his statements) seems silly when the author, who is Muslim, says in his 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[.]” You extend to yourself a measure of understanding you do not extend to others. You who have knowlege disparage those without that knowledge. In the end one can only guess that the term “Islamophobia” is used to shut down discussion, which smacks of insecurity.

    • WaqasZ

      The author has not used the word “Islamophobia” anywhere, but even if he had it would be well justified. Brian Kilmeade displays plenty of irrational fear suggesting that someone saying “Allahu Akbar” is enough to label them extremist. A simple Google search would have had quite the educational effect and he was rightly called out for his ignorance by McCain.

      • echarles1

        WaqaZ- I think you missed the author’s first sentence:
        “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.”

        Also, saying Allahu Akbar is not enough to label them extremists but the Muslim author himself says “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[.]”

        He is reserving to himself negative or in his words “mixed” associations but does not allow that others could experience those “mixed” associations.

        • WaqasZ

          It seems I did miss the author’s use of the word ” Islamophobia”(no thanks to the “find” feature). Your
          objection to the author’s use of it would be valid if we were taking about the shouting of “Allah Akbar” in more general terms and how it is sometimes misused, but in this specific scenario the context is clear as day.
          The Fox presenter’s unease is based solely on irrationality.

        • Svend White

          Thanks for the comment, echarles. Well, it’s rather debatable that I’m tossing the term around indiscriminately here. I realized that there are reasonable people with concerns about Islamic extremism or even Islam itself, but Islamophobia is social and political reality today. There are obviously people–particularly on Fox–these days who are irrationally hostile to and suspicious of Muslims. And given the self-evidently extreme circumstances and how many different ways this phrase is used by normal Muslims, Kilmeade’s quip was eminently “Islamophobic” and stupid. Perhaps he hadn’t thought its implications out fully, but that doesn’t change them. Remember, one of the definitions of prejudice is the application of a different standard to a particular group from the one you apply to otherwise. As McCain pointed out, that’s what was happening here.

  • S Smith

    Please help, if you can.

    There is an article on a Southern Baptist blog that . . . well, read it for yourself and see if you think it needs a response concerning its reference to Islam:

    http://sbcvoices.com/im-offended-that-someone-might-be-offended/#comment-209600

  • Wicked Julia

    Good for Senator McCain


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