Muslims Wearing Things


A Tumblr classic. But it also shows, of course, an implication in Juan Williams' comments. In them, he says that Muslims wearing Muslim garb are somehow more scary to him than Muslims not wearing such garb. Apart from the fact that this makes no logical sense when it comes to Jihadist terrorists (who all try to look as un-Muslim as they can), it also sends a signal to Muslim-Americans that there are appropriate ways to dress publicly if you are not to provoke fear. I don't like the implications of that.

Would someone say that Jews should not wear yarmulkes in public, because it presents them "first and foremost" as Jewish? Or that gays should never appear effeminate? Or that African-Americans should always wear suits and ties - because a different appearance can legitimately provoke nervousness or discomfort? Where does this stop?

One thing that distresses me about the plain meaning of Williams' remarks, and his justification of them by his own record of writing about the civil rights struggle for African Americans, is that he is implying that this other minority has to abide by standards of public appearance that his own minority doesn't. He wasn't invoking his civil rights journalism to stand against stigmatizing minorities based on appearance, he was invoking it to allow him to stand for their stigmatization. He was creating a new other - not by endorsing removal of constitutional rights, of course (leave that to Marty Peretz) - but by defending the legitimacy of being scared because someone is obviously "the other".