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Blog surfaces to counter Juan Williams's notions of 'Muslim garb'

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Iman wears a red jacket only she could get away with. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images for HSN)

A Tumblr blog surfaced today with a short and simple message: "I will post pictures of Muslims wearing all sorts of things in an attempt to refute that there is such a thing as 'Muslim garb' or a Muslim look."

In a response to fired NPR analyst Juan Williams's comments on a Fox News show, the Tumblr blog "Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things" posts photos of famous Muslims, from Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) to Shahrukh Khan, and describes their outfits.

"Dave Chappelle is Muslim. He is wearing ruffles and polyester," one entry reads. Another says: "This is Pai Hsien-Yung. He comes from a Muslim background, and was influenced by Mister Rogers' cardigans from a young age."

Not only does it provide fashion advice, but it also offers up an impressive list of famous Muslims, from actor Aasif Mandvi to the model Iman.

By Melissa Bell  | October 22, 2010; 6:10 PM ET
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Comments

SOURCE:THE NEW REPUBLIC, 1986, pp. 18-22.

A bitter controversy has broken out in Washington over a column by Richard Cohen in the Washington Post Magazine. Cohen reports that certain jewelry stores in Washington admit customers only through a buzzer system, and that some store owners use this system to exclude young black males on the grounds that these people are most likely to commit a robbery. Cohen defends this practice. He points out that "young black males commit an inordinate amount of urban crime, "that black potential victims as well as white ones often act on this awareness, and that under certain circumstances, "the mere recognition of race as a factor . . . is not in itself racism."

If you were a jewelry store owner, would you use your buzzer system to exclude young black males? You might take other factors into account - not just age and sex, but style of dress and time of day - but would you ever take race into consideration as well? Whatever you yourself would do, is taking race into consideration in these circumstances racist? Understandable? Both? Neither?

Suppose you were a cabdriver cruising for customers in the middle of the night. Or a woman about to get into an elevator with a stranger in a residential apartment building. How does your decision or your analysis change in these circumstances?

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Here is what the I-get-nervous-when-I-see-Muslims-in-veil said

Neither black nor white store owners are in business to display the virtues of admitting people of all colors, creeds, and fashions to their stores. They are in business to make money. I would want to take precautions to prevent robbery; I would look closely at people entering the store. The race of a potential customer would be one factor among many to be considered as I girded myself against thieves.

But in Washington and almost all other major cities, blacks do patronize jewelry stores. A jeweler in Beverly Hills who closed his door to heavily bejeweled Mr. T would be foolishly closing his cash register. Unless I am a racist, race and age cannot be the sole deciding factors in calculating whom I will and will not let into my store. And I certainly would not close my door to, say, all young black men - not even to those who are casually dressed and behaving nervously. I would act cautiously in dealing with them, as I would with an antic, strangely dressed white man.

As a cabdriver I would apply the same considerations. Discrimination can be used judiciously. I would certainly exclude one class of people: those who struck me as dangerous. Nervous-looking people with bulges under their jackets would not be picked up; nor would those who looked obviously drunk or stoned. It all comes down to a subjective judgment of what dangerous people look like. This does not necessarily entail a racial judgment. Cabdrivers who don't pick up young black men as a rule are making a poorly informed decision. Racism is a lazy man's substitute for using good judgment.

Posted by: HumanSimpleton | October 23, 2010 1:10 AM | Report abuse

& then some
The elevator question is disingenuous. I suspect you are suggesting that i am a white woman getting into an apartment building elevator with a strange black man. Of course, black women have just as much to fear as white women. Nevertheless, black women living in black neighborhoods ride elevators with black men frequently, and do so without being raped. In this situation and all others, common sense in my constant guard. Common sense becomes racism when skin color becomes a formula for figuring out who is a danger to me.

Juan Williams

Posted by: HumanSimpleton | October 23, 2010 1:11 AM | Report abuse

News Item: A pointless blog surfaces. At least we know what Cat Stevens is doing. Failing at doing satire and starting blogs. So if I can show you a picture of Jeff Goldblum NOT wearing a yarmulke, then the yarmulke must not be a 'Jewish garb' or Jewish look, right?

Posted by: RoofTop1 | October 23, 2010 3:24 AM | Report abuse

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