10/23/10

Bill O'Reilly, Juan Williams, and Islam

The Grammar Bullies Ride Again
By: Jonathan Harris

Most of you have probably heard about both the Juan Williams debacle with NPR, and Bill O'Reilly's episode on The View. If not, I'll briefly summarize. Last week, Bill O'Reilly was a guest on The View. After making the comment, "Muslim's killed us on 9-11," both Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg walked off the set in protest. This week Juan Williams made the comment, on the O'Reilly Factor ironically, that he gets "nervous" when he sees people in Muslim garb on an airplane. Here's his full comment:

Look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've 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.

Unfortunately for Juan, this comment got him fired from National Public Radio because it was perceived as bigoted. There are a couple points I want everyone to consider when analyzing these stories.

  • "Radical" is not a Belief-System
If you watch the clip of O'Reilly on The View, you'll notice that Goldberg and Behar are insistent that Bill retract his statement and instead say "radical Muslims." Likewise, I don't think Juan Williams would have had much of a problem if he had simply said, "I get nervous if I see Muslims on a plane who I suspect are radical," as if "radicalism" is a worldview. The perception is that you can have Christian radicals, atheist radicals, Islamic radicals, Buddhist radicals, etc. So the "dangerous ones" aren't necessary Muslims, just the ones that happen to be "radical." Rosie O'Donnell made a comment on The View a couple years ago that Christian terrorists were just as dangerous as Islamic ones. This is honestly the thinking of the left-wing, and many libertarians. They view "radicalism" as an ideology in and of itself. It's a philosophy of life, a worldview, a religious concept, etc. However, if you're a good student of grammar you should know that "radical" is just an adjective. It describes a noun. So if someone is a "radical Christian" they simply happen to take Christianity quite literally. If someone is a radical Muslim, it's the same story. The world "fundamentalist" is used in the same way, but we have to remember, "fundamentalist" is a modifier of whatever word it's describing. A fundamentalist Christian believes in the fundamentals of the Bible, just as a fundamentalist Muslim believes in the central tenets of the Koran. I don't really have a problem with the use of these terms, however they have to be used correctly. Fundamentalism and radicalism are not ideologies, they are modifiers. To give one case in point. A radical pacifist isn't going to blow up buildings, but he still retains the description "radical" if he actually applies pacifism to every situation, just like the Muslim who blows up buildings is doing so because he applies the Koran to every situation.

  • Most "Muslims" and "Christians" are Humanists
What liberals want us to think is that the "true" Muslims are the ones who don't practice Jihad. However- you have to remember- Muslims who don't practice Jihad aren't following the Koran so "Can they really be called Muslims?" The answer is, "Well depends what you mean." The "Muslim" who picks and chooses what he wants to apply from the Koran is actually a humanist, because he views himself as the final authority when it comes to truth. The Christian who doesn't practice evangelism, prayer, Bible-reading, or attending church is in the same boat. He or she is a humanist, maintaining a cultural identity of a particular belief-system. So when liberals say, "Muslim" they mean "humanist", and when they say "Radical Muslim" they mean "Muslim." We have to understand this otherwise communication breaks down, and we get shouting matches and misunderstandings.

  • Terms Must Be Defined
The mistake O'Reilly made on The View was he quickly matched the liberals tit for tat by shouting, instead of asking them in an intelligent manner to define their terms. I'm confident conservatives can win every debate if they first set out to define terminology. O'Reilly should have asked, "What's your definition of a Muslim," after making his comment. This would force the liberals to either stumble around looking for a definition, or say, "Someone who follows the Koran and goes the mosque." Then Bill could have responded, "So under your definition, the terrorists were Muslims because they went to the mosque and read the Koran." Point is, we need to define our terms before arguing points. If we don't we are in danger of getting nabbed by the "Grammar Bullies" who redefine words, sometimes mid-argument, in order to win. We can't let them do that. Most conservatives do. Don't let it be said of you! Be a "Radical Grammarian," in a good way!

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