“Islamophobia is the accepted form of racism in America. Leaders … show us that you can take a potshot at Muslims and get away with it.” — Arsalan Iftikhar, human rights lawyer.
February 4 on Fox News’ The Five, in the aftermath of President Obama’s speech at a Baltimore mosque, three of the show’s five hosts that evening jumped in to interrupt a fourth (Juan Williams) as he was remarking on “the spike in attacks, hate crimes against Muslims in the United States” and on a proposed ban promoted by a high-profile celebrity/politician.
Before he could finish his remarks about hate crimes (during which the other panelists were laughing), a male cohost broke in to ask: “Are there a lot of a hate crimes against Muslims in the United States, because I haven’t heard of any.” (emphasis his)
”Where are the numbers for that?” one of the women asked, rolling her eyes and shaking her head.
First, let’s establish those numbers. Anti-Muslim hate crimes have, as Mr. Williams noted, spiked to a level we haven’t seen since just after 9/11. There is data on this in a variety of places that is literally at the fingertips of any citizen with a computer or a smart device. But let me cite just one public source. The Washington Post has run several pieces on this subject. One they did a year ago about the rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes in which they noted that the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports program had documented the trend.
The WaPo article summed up the FBI’s findings, commenting that ”Prior to the 9/11 attacks, the [FBI] program typically recorded between 20 and 30 anti-Muslim hate crimes per year. But in 2001 that number rose more than tenfold to nearly 500. In the years since, annual hate crimes against Muslims have consistently hovered in the 100-150 range, roughly five times higher than the pre-9/11 rate.” (emphasis mine)
At its peak, that was roughly 12 such crimes per week, and they have spiked again since the Paris attacks and the San Bernardino shootings. To be clear, these are not retaliations against the people who committed those crimes, most of whom are either dead, in jail, or hiding out abroad. These are crimes against men, women and children who have nothing to do with the perpetrators of those crimes except that the terrorists claim allegiance to the same faith. (I refer the reader to Matthew 7:15-29 for the essential Christian take on this.)
Now, back to the Fox journalists’ questions. As I mentioned above, the information that I just cited is reported in numerous places (except, apparently for Fox) and it is easily available by scanning headlines from major news sources (AP, Reuters, CNN, NPR, WaPo, take your pick), or by checking Facebook, or Twitter, or making a five second Internet search.
Why is this significant?
I’m a writer by trade. Mostly fiction, though I blog with some frequency, as well. I am also an intensely curious person; I suspect the two things are connected and may have a causal relationship. Information, to me, is like hazel-nut-centered, chocolate-mousse-filled truffles. To a journalist—to a person whose job it is to ferret out information—it should be even more critical. Not dessert, but the daily bread of life. In fact, information is the very substance on which journalism (and therefore journalists) thrive. Without information, a journalist has nothing to say (as is amply demonstrated by the video of the ‘discussion’).
Here, we have members of a highly paid, highly visible—and if the hype is to be believed—’most trusted’ journalistic team who have somehow managed not only not to research anti-Muslim hate crimes with even a brief Internet search, but have somehow avoided coming across any headlines, news feeds, or crime reports about them. They have heard nothing from any source—not even the one sitting in their midst.
Do I sound angry? I am. I am not a professional journalist. Yet I know more about the subject matter this ”news program” is presenting than a team of people who claim journalism as their profession.
Millions of people have seen and heard this display of ignorance on national TV. But do they recognize it as ignorance? Or do they assume that because these folks are sitting at the journalists’ table, they know what they’re talking about? Will it matter to Fox News fans that one of the hosts has stated fact, while the others offer only anemic, information-starved opinions?
There was much more than this to their remarks, alas, and when the lone panelist who seemed to know something about the subject tried to present a fact-based point of view, they simply talked over him, turning the ”news show” into a ”does not!”, ”does so!” kindergarten debate.
For the love of God snd/or mankind, when you hear this sort of interaction, strike a blow against ignorance—look up the facts, sample a variety of opinions if facts are not forthcoming. Find the answer to the question. Look for confirmation of the claims and assertions. In this case, google ”anti-Muslim hate crime”, then send Fox News an email with the links—they’ll know who to direct it to.
My voice is small and has no broad reach. I cannot hope to counter this public display of negligence with a blog post, or Facebook timeline, or Tweets. I can only hope that perhaps the few folks who do read this will pass it along through their networks. What I want more than anything in this moment, is for my fellow Americans to realize that they have the power to combat ignorance and prejudice, and that it takes less effort than they might think.
“In this day the mysteries of this earth are unfolded and visible before the eyes, and the pages of swiftly appearing newspapers are indeed the mirror of the world; they display the doings and actions of the different nations; they both illustrate them and cause them to be heard. Newspapers are as a mirror endowed with hearing, sight and speech; they are a wonderful phenomenon and a great matter. But it behooves the writers and editors thereof to be sanctified from the prejudice of egotism and desire, and to be adorned with the ornament of equity and justice. They must inquire into matters as fully as possible in order that they may be informed of the real facts, and commit the same to writing.” —Bahá’u’lláh, Tablet of Tarazát (Ornaments)