At the Republican National Convention last week, I was expecting Rudy Giuliani to shout about “RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM!” again. Usually around this time in every national election cycle, Muslims hunker down and wait for talk about how America’s scary Muslim neighbors want Sharia, and Sharia is deadly, and even the friendly moderate ones might be casually plotting to destroy your life.
That hasn’t happened as much this year—Hispanic immigrants and antifa anarchist looters have taken up the mantle. But in our current national climate of fear, we were bound to come up eventually. Sure enough, on Fox, er, MSNBC this afternoon, Joy Reid began discussing President Donald Trump’s attempts to stoke violence toward his political opponents. This isn’t new behavior from him, but I get it—the latest sound bites hit differently after one of his most avid supporters racked up a body count.
To bring home the point, Reid posed to her panel a comparison:
Leaders, um, let’s say in the Muslim world, talk a lot of violent talk, and encourage their supporters to be willing to commit violence, including on their own bodies, in order to win against whoever they decide is the enemy.
Ahem, what? Muslim leaders? Who are we talking about here? The millions of sheikhs, imams, and local leaders who lead the world’s 50 Muslim-majority nations? The Iranian regime? Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi? Devout Muslim soccer player Mohamed Salah, who has more followers on social media than any political leader in the region? The casual way Reid flattens the entire Muslim world into one broad band of violent rhetoric might be at home on another cable news channel, but she should certainly know better.
Reid didn’t stop there: “We in the U.S. media describe that as they are radicalizing those people, particularly when they are radicalizing young people. That’s how we talk about the way Muslims act,” she continued. Ouch. Reid seems to have been trying to make a point about double standards, but instead, with her declaration of how “Muslims act,” she perpetuated the most tired stereotypes about Muslims. She reached for something her viewers would immediately recognize as evil, part of an argument that the violent rhetoric coming from the Trump campaign should be taken as seriously as if it came from a Muslim. We get it: We’re real, real scary over here. Time for “the media” to finally see that Trump is just as bad. Any American Muslim is familiar with the way this kind of rhetoric appears in our daily lives in the form of Islamophobia. So while we’re talking about Trump’s language’s potential for radicalization, maybe Reid could avoid using the language of radicals.
The guests on Reid’s panel, for their part, nodded along and stared forward.
For more of Slate’s news coverage, subscribe to What Next on Apple Podcasts or listen below.