A CBS News segment Friday featured a focus group of American Muslims being questioned by pollster Frank Luntz. The segment ran about seven minutes, and a few minutes more were uploaded to CBSNews.com. However, according to The Intercept, all of the most critical Muslim voices were edited out entirely.
Luntz’s questions revolved around the conservative preoccupation with the Muslim American community taking “responsibility” for the actions of militants to claim to share their faith. (Actually, religious fundamentalists are often as likely to condemn reformers of the same belief system as vice versa.)
Two of the participants in the focus group said that concerns they raised about American militarism, surveillance, and entrapment of Muslims were edited out of the footage. New York City activist Amelia Noor-Oshiro told The Intercept she asked Luntz, “Why don’t you ask that to people who actually commit acts of terror? Why don’t you ask that to White America who are responsible for a majority of domestic terror attacks?”
At one point, Luntz asked the group whether they were Americans first or Muslims first. In a Facebook post, journalist Sarah Harvard, who participated in the group, said that she responded in kind, to demonstrate how offensive the question is, asking: “Well, are you an American or Jewish first?” That was also cut.
Harvard said Luntz clearly had an agenda. “He just wanted to create this narrative of how Muslim Americans are condemning terrorism.” That is true, of course, but it’s not the whole story.
“He’s trying to put us in a positive light but in a way that makes us feel like second-class citizens,” she said — only giving American Muslims voice to react to terrorism, not to express their own policy views.
Noor-Oshiro said that prior to being picked for the group, she was asked to fill out a survey that included one question about “approximately what percentage of the Muslim population would you think could be radicalized or are already radicalized? … It literally said, ‘Write down a percentage!’” Noor-Oshiro also said Luntz baited her by asking her what “percent of white people” are racist. When she refrained from answering the question, he told her, “This is your chance!”
“I think a lot of people were very appreciative of the fact we even got a voice,” she said. “But I don’t think they understood this voice came with conditions.”
I’m not going to link you all to the CBS focus group I participated in, because I was disappointed to have been involved in such a disingenuous and embarrassing segment.
The segment filming took about an hour, but of course, they had to condense it to 4 minutes on air. We were later told they were going to provide a full recording or an extended interview online — which essentially was just the same thing over again. That’s what really irked me.
Frank Luntz, the moderator, asked us the most demeaning questions like “Are you an American or a Muslim first?” To which I found insulting and shouted back, “Well, are you an American or Jewish first?”
He also had silenced me and other participants who have routinely brought up the fact the government has enacted in state violence against the Muslim community — whether that may be through entrapment cases and surveillance programs — and our concerns about institutional racism. He shut me down when I said that President Obama and Hillary Clinton has killed many Muslims under the administration when we were discussing Trump, and ironically for a GOP strategist, he shut me down when I talked about how Democrats have enacted some of the most deadliest and discriminatory policies against Muslims. He also decided to stop letting me speak when I started talking about how Muslims should start focusing on combatting government policies rather than rushing to condemn terrorism or Islamophobia exclusively. They also cut out portions of where participants talked about media accountability when discussing Islam.
I felt that as a Muslim-American participant in the focus group, he tried to put all of us into boxes to fit their narrative. That’s something I wasn’t going to allow to happen. It could also be a reason why the only three Muslim women who didn’t wear the headscarf was seated outside of the camera shot or why the two black men in the panel barely got speaking time.
The edited version of the focus group interview was mainly about proving our American identity, condemning terrorism, and Trump’s bashing of Muslim-Americans. This is problematic.
He kept saying how he felt bad that no one listens to Muslims and how he wanted to give us an opportunity to talk to the general population. But how can that happen when we’re manipulatively edited to have us fit their own narrative and agenda?
I’m sick and tired of Muslim-Americans being perceived as those who are victimized or as the oppressor. I’m not here to beg people to love me or love Muslims. I love myself. I’m proud to be a Muslim. I want that love to spread throughout the entire country and I want Muslim-Americans to become more vocal about condemning the government who has made this country far less safe, free and prosperous for all of us.
I know a lot of people are not gonna like what I say, and will probably disagree with me, but I never had let that stop me from saying what I think is the truth — and I won’t stop now.