CAIR-WA: WE NEED TO HEAR MORE VOICES OF REASON ON THE AIR
The ears of 27-year-old Arsalan Bukhari rang with what they heard as hate speech when a Seattle radio show seemed to issue an open invitation to refuse jobs to Muslims based solely on their religion.
But then, long before KIRO 710 radio host Dori Monson asked listeners earlier this month why employers shouldn't be free to discriminate against Muslims, the ears of the young Shoreline man and Seattle U. grad who has lived here since fifth grade had already been pretty well cuffed sore by roundhouse punches like these.
For his part, Monson figured the question, while provocative, was fair game. It had been posed by a listener and business owner named Steve in Mill Creek. Out on the golf course just after the improbable plot against JFK Airport was foiled, Steve and his buddies grumbled in agreement that business owners really ought to be able to exclude followers of Islam from employment protections against religious discrimination. They reasoned that is because "almost all of the world's terrorism is connected to Muslims."
Pooh-poohing what he trivializes as "political correctness," Monson says his show is a place where people expect to speak freely about what's getting their goats. He told me he even goes so far as to say that such "honesty" promotes better understanding.
Now, I'm an opinionated fan of the First Amendment, myself, and have been known to pose a few prickly questions.
But I wonder, if your aim is to shed a little light, do you do it by striking a match in a gasoline-soaked garage? It's a piece of cake to champion multicultural acceptance when things are going well but a real challenge at a time like this when fear of the "other" is electric in the air.
"We were attacked by 'those type of people' so, of course we should (be free to discriminate against them)," one woman caller to Monson's show said. "Are we going to take that risk (to hire them)? They could be working at my job!" . . .
As president of the Seattle Council on American-Islamic Relations, Bukhari often hears complaints of job discrimination and harassment against Muslims in Seattle.
He says this kind of radio talk feeds more of the same, validating fear and unfairness.
"An employer hears about the JFK thing, then hears the show and says, 'Hey, I'm not going to hire any of those Muslims,' " he said.
But Muslims are your professors, your doctors and IT workers, your lawyers and neighbors. Many work at Microsoft and Boeing. Nearly 60 percent of Muslims in America have bachelor's degrees, compared with about 17.5 percent of all Americans.