Firing of Juan Williams, NYC mosque and the Imam

A question was asked of Kaleem Ullah, Imam of the Tri-Cities Islamic Center, at Friday's Badger Club forum in Kennewick about the firing of Juan Williams as an analyst for National Public Radio.

The Imam said he did not think Williams should have been fired for one comment alone, but said he really didn't know all the history between Williams and NPR.

As to the minor question -- whether the firing was handled properly -- the answer generally agreed to by the Badger Club speaker and by the public -- is "no."

Williams was fired over the telephone by Vivian Schiller, NPR's chief executive, because Williams said on Fox News he got nervous when boarding a plane if he saw Muslims in traditional dress as passengers.

The NPR executive's board said it backed Schiller, but that appears to have come before she made a nasty public comment that seemed to question Williams' mental health.

She later apologized for that sly shot. Sort of. But obviously, she's a CEO who is too quick on the draw.

And, in fairness to the truth, was her calculated description of Williams as a man who needed a therapist any less offensive than Williams saying some people made him nervous?

Some conservatives say NPR is guilty of hypocrisy because it seeks to control the speech of everyone who works on air for it and insists on political correctness at every instance.

But let's not put a halo on Williams' head either. He is not just an innocent victim and also shares responsibility for this new controversy over Muslims and their portrayal in the media.

As the local Imam said, proclaiming his love for his country -- this country -- Muslims "have an uphill battle" to get the truth out about their religion and themselves. There are no Muslims on national broadcasting outlets, no Muslim stations or programs to help tell the truth about Muslims in America.

His talk and the 40 minutes of questions that followed included among other things treatment of Muslims in the Tri-Cities (extremely good) and construction of a mosque five blocks from ground zero in New York City (the Imam, an American citizen, said it was their right).

Stressing the differences between American Muslims and Muslims in despotic regimes and other cultures in the Middle East, he invited fellow Tri-Citians to contact him with questions and concerns and to visit the Islamic Center in West Richland.

Juan Williams came away from his firing with a new multi-million dollar contract with Fox.

There have already been many attacks on NPR and calls for it to lose federal funds. Lost in the blow-up is how the Muslims in America could be affected by all the negative comments and anger. Thankfully, this is a community that responds with cooler reason.

When a stone was thrown through the window of the mosque in West Richland some time after Sept. 11, 2001, the neighbors of the mosque brought a message of regret to the mosque and took up a collection to pay for the window's repair.

Enough said.