CNN's T. J. Holmes brought back Time's Bobby Ghosh on Friday's Newsroom for more promotion of his "Islamophobia" cover story ,
and added two Muslim guests who largely agreed with his thesis that
anti-Islamic sentiment was "coming into the mainstream," and how this
was apparently a "reason for alarm." Holmes asked softball questions,
and no one with an opposing viewpoint appeared during the segment.
The anchor had the three on for a panel discussion at the bottom of the 10 am Eastern hour about Ghosh's "Is America Islamophobic?" article, as well the controversy over the planned mosque near Ground Zero in New York City. Before introducing his guests, Holmes held up two examples of apparent "Islamophobia" in the country and seemed to sympathize with the apparent plight of Muslims in the U.S.:
HOLMES: Two-and-a-half million Muslims live, work and pray in America- not always easy. Case in point: protests in California- check that out- marching against a proposed mosque in their area, holding signs with slogans such as, 'Muslims danced for joy on 9/11'- or how about the planned Islamic center and mosque near New York's Ground Zero? More than 60 percent of Americans are opposed to that center being built. But the scope is bigger than that, according to a Time magazine poll. More than 3 in 10 Americans would say no to a mosque in their neighborhood. Then there are statements like this one from evangelical leader Franklin Graham.
REV. FRANKLIN GRAHAM (from August 18, 2010 CNN's "John King USA"): To hate the Jew, to hate the Christian, to kill them- their goal is world domination. And for the Muslim, peace means when all of the other nations are subject to Islam- then we are at peace. The world will be at peace when the entire world is under Islam. Well, I don't agree with the teachings of Islam-
The CNN anchor then introduced Ghosh, as well as Mayor Mohammed
Hameeduddi of Teaneck, New Jersey, "a New York suburb just 20 miles from
Ground Zero," and Reza Aslan of The Daily Beast. Holmes first let the
Time deputy international editor explain his "Islamophobia" accusation: "There
are far too many people...like Franklin Graham- who have made it their
business to project Islam in the most negative possible light....there is a lot of Islamophobia about in this country, and it's growing and becoming more vicious,
and, with this latest mosque controversies- not one, but several
controversies around the country- it's coming into the mainstream, and that is reason for alarm."
Moments later, Aslan, who once denied that there was "no such thing as sharia" law , endorsed and expanded upon Ghosh's point:
ASLAN: Look, there have always been pockets in this country that have had a real problem with Islam, that have seen Islam as violent, as bigoted, and that have brushed all Muslims with the exact same brush as they use to describe al Qaeda. The difference now is how mainstream it's become. I mean, when the leading GOP candidate for president, Newt Gingrich, openly and repeatedly compares al Qaeda to American Muslims, repeating- just referring to both of them as simply 'they,' as in 'they attacked us and now they wanted build a mosque,' you're starting to realize how just- sort of, part of the regular political discussion overtly anti-Islamic sentiment has become. That's what is different now. It's always been there, but its now part of the mainstream dialogue.
Gingrich is the "leading GOP candidate for president"? That's news to
a lot of people, conservatives and liberals alike. According to CNN's own poll on August 13 , Mitt Romney had the most support, followed by Sarah Palin. Gingrich was in third.
Mayor Hameeduddi, a Democrat, actually partially blamed the media for the apparent "Islamophobia:"
HAMEEDUDDI: I hate to use- you know, make the media the scapegoat on this, but we consistently see things- Muslims portrayed in very negative lights on TV, and you don't necessarily see- like, if you look at Times Square in December, where they did an ad campaign about- you know, 'I'm Muslim, I'm an American.' It was doctors, lawyers, fireman, policemen, people of all sorts- people of all- of American society being put on the billboard. And I think that the discussion- we need to raise the content in the form of our discourse. Are there problems and are there protests? Yes. But in my town- you know, when we went before the zoning board to get the expansion for our mosque- our masjid, it was done in one night and it was a 9-0 unanimous vote.
Towards the end of the segment, Holmes deferred to his guests by
asking what could be labeled as leading/softball questions that helped
advance their viewpoint. Aslan actually laid much of the blame for the
spread of "Islamophobia" at the feet of- you guessed it- Fox News (maybe
he'll appear on Rick Sanchez's show  soon):
HOLMES: ...The dialogue- the discourse has not necessarily been civil in a lot of ways. Are we missing an opportunity here now with this controversy going on in New York about this proposed Islamic center and mosque- are we missing an opportunity to have a discussion, to educate people a little bit more about Muslims?
GHOSH: I worry that we are missing the opportunity. I think the window is still open. It hasn't closed yet, but there is so much anger and there is so much noise- there's screaming that is taking place from one side of this discussion- that I worry that there will be no calm, composed, rational debate.
Now, to the mayor's point, I'm delighted that in Teaneck, when they expanded the mosque, this was done without any real rancor. However, in California, in Tehmecula- California, a blue state- people who are protesting the mosque, turned up to Friday prayers with dogs- now, knowing full well that that would be considered deeply offensive to the people. We have gone to a point where people opposing each other are now looking specifically for ways to offend the other, and that suggests to me that a calm, rational discussion at this very moment seems impossible.
HOLMES: Well, you all help me wrap this up. Reza, and to you- and we can do this quickly. Reza, who can help in this conversation? You heard the mayor mention kind of the media doesn't help sometimes, but who can help? Who can step out there and lead the conversation- somebody that people will listen to, a Muslim leader, whether that's a great communicator, whether that's a politician- who can step out there and help bridge this divide that clearly is there, according- certainly, of the polls and some of these pictures we see at some of these protests?
ASLAN: Well, it's supposed to be our political and religious leaders, but they're doing the opposite. They're either running away from this or openly espousing religious bigotry as a political platform. And then, of course, we have an entire cable news broadcast- Fox News, I have to say- that is essentially turning this into a way of economic gain. So, I really don't have a lot of faith that the people who we should rely on to bring everybody down and make sure that the values of American pluralism are ascendant- that they'll actually do that.
HOLMES: And quickly if you can, same question, Mr. Mayor- and also, I know you were in the room last Friday when the President made his statement that kind of sparked the controversy over the weekend about the mosque- the proposed mosque and Islamic center in New York. Has the President helped in the statement he made? Can he be the one? Who can help us in this conversation?
HAMEEDUDDI: Well- I mean, the statement that he made was one of a constitutional argument, which- you know, I swore to uphold the Constitution, and I think the President did also. So that's where he was coming from. But, as a Muslim, when we talk about- you know, the Islamophobia, we have the power within ourselves to either be bitter or be better. And if we're bitter, we don't help our society around us. But if we become better, we can uplift the society, and that's where our challenge faces us in the next years to come.
And, as Reza was saying- yeah, it is up to politicians like me. On September 4th, I'm having a conversation at a synagogue- you know, 'from Rosh Hashana to Ramadan.' And these are the things that need to happen on a local level- on an interfaith level- that you'll see these things blossom all over the country. I think that- right now, it's a very trying time, and I think that this issue with the mosque doesn't help anything in New York, but it is an opportunity to build on- understanding of what Muslim Americans really believe in America.
HOLMES: Well, that is the point right there, Mr. Mayor. We appreciate you being here. Reza, we appreciate you as well. And again, Bobby Ghosh- again, the article is coming out- going to be hitting newsstands I believe soon- I don't think it's out yet- but Bobby Ghosh- coming out Monday, I'm just told now. But Bobby, a lot of people need to check out-
GHOSH: Should be on newsstands over the weekend.
HOLMES: Over the weekend! All right. Make sure we get that in and know exactly when it's going to be. But Bobby, I thank you as well.
Wow, it seems that political correctness has seeped into
controversies surrounding Islam to the point that bringing your dog to a
protest against a mosque is some kind of act of bigotry.
-Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here .