Meet the Press Roundtable Tackles the National Crisis of . . . Social-Media Flag Disparity

by Jim Geraghty

Four observations from the wide-ranging discussion about Islamophobia on Meet the Press this morning:

One: Arsalan Iftikhar, senior editor of Islam Monthly, contended that Trump had called for a database of all Muslims, and asked, “I wonder if the two Muslim members of Congress, my buddy Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, would be in that database? Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the funniest man in America, Dave Chappelle?”

Indeed, it’s terrible for law-abiding Americans with no ties to terrorism to end up on some sort of government-run list of people under suspicion. Of course, that’s precisely what has already happened; I wonder if Iftikha knows Ted Kennedy and the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes ended up on terrorism watch lists. This is one of the reasons many Republicans don’t want to ban gun sales to people on the “terror watch lists,” because there’s little public disclosure about just how someone ends up on the “terror watch list” or “no-fly list,” and once you’re on it, it’s exceptionally hard to get off. There is no independent or judicial review; once on it, you are guilty until proven innocent.

Two: National Journal’s Ron Fournier picked up another point from the panelist:

Fournier: Another public forum is Twitter, and you asked on your Twitter feed, I think just yesterday, why is it that so many people put the French flag in their avatar, but very few people put the flag of an African — of, African, Mali — in their Twitter feed. You answer that question. Why do you think so few people have rallied behind Mali in that public of a way?

Iftikhar: I mean, I think that racism — I think that has a lot to do with it. I mean, you know, you have a black, predominantly Muslim country in Mali, which is 92 percent Muslim, and then you have a white European country like France. Obviously, we’re horrified at the Paris terrorist attacks, but there are terrorist attacks that occur every single day. Let’s not forget that in the same week as the Paris terrorist attacks, there were suicide bombings by ISIS in Beirut, Lebanon, in Baghdad, Iraq, you know, but we never saw any sort of moral outrage — in Nigeria, as well . . . 

Fournier: Is it simply racism, though? I, for one, had the French flag, I didn’t even think of putting the Mali flag in my avatar. What does that say about—

Iftikhar: I have to give Facebook credit here, because Facebook created a photo tool for the people of France, it made it a lot easier. But again we have to have these conversations. But you know, what’s most important is that were letting this talk by these Republican presidential front-runners go unchallenged. When Ben Carson refers, you know, refers to refugees as rabid dogs, and you know, Donald Trump talks about these people and I’m going to surveil people and I’m going to make people have special IDs and special databases and people are cheering, when they don’t see any meaningful pushback, it allows it to go unchallenged.

Right after lamenting the “racism” in American society, and its instinctive disregard for blacks, Iftikhar laments the Republican enthusiasm for the comments of . . . Ben Carson. I’m fairly certain that in Ben Carson’s “rabid dogs” metaphor, ISIS were the rabid dogs, and refugees were other dogs in the neighborhood. The point is that the dangerous member of a group — like an ISIS terrorist — makes you more wary in your interactions with all members of the group.

Three: Gentlemen, do we have any bigger problems at the moment than disparity in Twitter avatar flags? Anything at all? And by any chance, could the disparity reflect the number of Twitter or Facebook users who had traveled to France or know someone from France compared to the number who have been to Mali or Nigeria or Lebanon or know someone from there?

Four: Notice that ISIS does something terrible, and the overwhelming thrust of the conversation on Meet the Press is that the American people have done something wrong and must look inside their hearts and feel guilty over the overwhelming racism and Islamaphobia in their society. News flash: We’re not the villains here.

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