"We need to use this moment as a catalyst to open a national debate about the grievous misconceptions, fear and suspicion about Islam and Muslims. This discussion needs to be elevated to ethical discourse beyond biases and prejudices."
- Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, on NPR's dismissal of Juan Williams
The reaction from Muslim civil rights groups to the network's firing of veteran journalist and news analyst Williams last week - and his comment about Muslims that led up to it - has been varied, with some taking a more forgiving attitude than others.
Williams remarked last week during an appearance on Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor" that getting on a plane and seeing people in "Muslim garb" made him nervous. In reaction, the national Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement calling on called on Muslim Americans and the general public to contact NPR and "take appropriate action."
Following Williams' termination, the Muslim Public Affairs Council issued a statement taking a different tack, calling his dismissal "a mistake" and seeking to turn the incident into a teachable moment, with Al-Marayati sending a letter to Williams calling for a meeting "order to advance the public discourse on Islamophobia in America."
In a post today on the MuslimMatters.org blog, Paul "Iesa" Galloway analyzed both groups' reactions to Williams' comment and its consequences, and what the best approach from the Muslim community might be. He wrote:
The sooner that the Muslim community understands that peoples’ fear of us needs to be dealt constructively and with something beyond just calling it bigotry the better. As a community we need to promote ways to help people overcome these false fears about us.
Was Juan Williams’ admission of fear a teachable moment that was missed?