NBC Sends Muslims to the Races

NBC’s “Dateline” has never fully recovered from its rigged 1992 broadcast purporting to show General Motors trucks exploding on impact; now the credibility of this “news” program has taken a fresh hit. Attempting to capture on camera incidents of anti-Muslim bias, the show sent Muslims to a NASCAR race at Virginia’s Martinsville Speedway.

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston was indignant: “It is outrageous that a news organization of NBC’s stature would stoop to the level of going out to create news instead of reporting news. Any legitimate journalist in America should be embarrassed by this stunt.”

NBC denied any attempt to go after NASCAR in particular: “We were intrigued by the results of a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll and other articles regarding increasing anti-Muslim sentiments in the United States. It’s very early on in our newsgathering process, but be assured we will be visiting a number of locations across the country.”

It is striking that upon learning that a poll shows that more Americans think Islam is violent in 2006 than they did in 2001, NBC would immediately begin searching for incidents of prejudice among non-Muslims, rather than examining the words and deeds of Muslims themselves. The same is true of the original Washington Post story reporting on the poll: the rise in negative perceptions of Islam appeared to be entirely the fault of non-Muslim politicians and the Western media. While the experts in the article spend a lot of time talking about how politicians and the media can improve public perceptions of Islam, no one mentions anything about what Muslims might be able to do.

If Muslims around the world don’t want Islam to be perceived as encouraging violence, they should:

1. Stop committing violent acts.

2. Stop justifying those violent acts by reference to the Koran and Sunnah.

3. Stop saying violent or hateful things in private when they think no non-Muslims are around. The imam Umar Abdul-Jalil, executive director of ministerial services for the New York City Department of Correction, was secretly recorded last year while speaking at an Islamic conference in Arizona. Muslims, he said, invoking Koran 48:29, must be “compassionate with each other” and “hard against the kufr [unbeliever].” In Britain, Hamid Ali, imam of the mosque frequented by the July 7 bombers, praised the bombers and called their terror attack “good” in a conversation secretly recorded by an undercover journalist. Publicly, he had condemned the attacks. In a mosque in the Czech Republic, a Muslim secretly filmed by a documentary filmmaker says that Islamic Sharia law, including the stoning of adulterers, should be adopted by the Czech Republic. Cleveland imam Fawaz Damra, now deported for failing to disclose his ties to terror groups, signed the Fiqh Council of North America’s condemnation of terrorism, despite having declared at an Islamic conference that “terrorism, and terrorism alone, is the path to liberation.”

Do such incidents mean that every Muslim who professes to have adopted Western notions of pluralism and the equality of dignity and rights of non-Muslims and Muslims is dissembling? No. But they do mean that non-Muslims are perfectly justified in being suspicious of Muslim protestations of moderation and opposition to terror. Consequently deeds, not just words, are needed. To conclude my five recommendations, genuinely anti-terror Muslims should:

4. Begin comprehensive international programs in mosques all over the world to teach against the ideas of violent jihad and Islamic supremacism.

5. Actively work with Western law enforcement officials to identify and apprehend jihadists within Western Muslim communities.

If Muslims did these things, they would find that perceptions of Islam around the world would improve. Rather than sending ringers to NASCAR races hoping to manufacture incidents of bias, NBC would do well to send reporters to mosques in America and elsewhere, asking them whether or not they have implemented or will implement the five points above, and if not, why not.

But NBC is focusing its energies on sending Muslims to the races and hoping they will be insulted there. This is neither helpful nor illuminating. Nor is it, in any sense, journalism.