Heres some news for the folks at National Public Radio. Everybodys nervous about Muslims on planes. Why? Because Muslims blow stuff up. Not all Muslims, of course. Not even a large percentage of Muslims. But enough Muslims all over the world to make any reasonable person take note. Even the large majority of peaceful Muslims must look at one another in airport lines and think, By Allah, I hope hes not one of those crazy men who blow stuff up. Its unpleasant. Wed all prefer it were different. But the world is as it is, not as we might wish it to be.
I mention this, of course, because the consistently left-of-center NPR has set off a furor by terminating the contract of news analyst Juan Williams. In a Fox News television conversation with Bill OReilly, Williams, whos black, remarked, Look, Bill, Im not a bigot. You know the kind of books Ive written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous. So upset were NPRs sachems by this bluff honestysomething they may normally avoid by listening to NPRthey told Williams he was fired, presumably in the same dreary, somnambulant tones with which their announcers attempt to lull listeners into an ideological trance state.
NPR news executiveswho also get nervous when they see Muslims on planeshave reportedly been nursing a grudge against Williams because of his frequent Fox News appearances. A moderate liberal who exudes thoughtful decency, Williams generally provides reasoned opposition to OReilly, Charles Krauthammer, and other conservative Fox pundits. This habit of engaging in polite debate with those of differing opinions was apparently enough to put an NPR target on Williams back. The Muslim remarks provided the excuse to open fire.
But also, in attempting to ban the obvious truth from its airwaves, NPR is subscribing to the madcap illogic of its fellow left-wingers. So desperate are leftists to deny that their multicultural paradigm collapsed with the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, they are embracing a panicky and dishonest category error: they are determined to treat Islam as if it were a race rather than a system of ideas. To hate a person for his race is despicable because it denies him his humanity. To reject a system of ideas, however, is well within the prerogatives of decency. One may unfriend Communists, say, or Nazis, without in any way being disrespectful to Cubans or Germans. Ideas matter, and some are right and some are wrong.
Whether Islam is in itself a hateful system is a fair subject for discussion, but it is beyond argument that a sizable, vociferous, and culturally aggressive group of Muslims have embraced a version of Islam that is hateful indeed: violent, imperialistic, and oppressive beyond belief. That the majority of Muslims do not agree with these extremists may well be true, but its hard to tell whos who before the bomb goes off.
Williamss remarks were not only an honest expression of reasonable human concern at the real state of the world, they were also part of a debate that must be had if the West is to defend itself from aggressive fanatics. Everyone agrees with him, whether they admit it or not. Silence and censorship will not make the truth go away.
Andrew Klavan is a contributing editor of City Journal. His new thriller, The Identity Man, is due out in November from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.