×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Katie Couric Leads SXSW Discussion on What It ‘Means to Be a Muslim Today’

Katie Couric framed her SXSW conversation, “The Muslim Next Door,” with a Dickensian twist on Sunday.

“These are the best of times, these are the worst of times — for Muslims in America,” she said.

As part of her upcoming six-part National Geographic series “America Inside Out with Katie Couric,” the journalist taped a live podcast from the Austin, Tex. event. Alongside guests Wajahat Ali from the New York Times, Brian Goldsmith from Stitcher and Syrian-American rapper and activist Mona Haydar, Couric delved into the current political climate for Muslims living in America, the double standards they face, Trump’s role in their plight and even Louis Farrakhan. (Farrakhan was back in the news again with his Feb. 25 anti-Semitic speech at a Nation of Islam gathering, which inspired the question on how Muslim moderates should respond to him.)

“You should have consistency standards, not double standards,” Ali said. “If you are deeply and morally offended by anti-Semitism, you should be deeply morally offended by black racism, and you should be deeply morally offended by islamophobia.”

Both Couric and her podcast co-host Goldsmith, returned repeatedly to the 2017 Pew research, which found that more than half of Americans say they don’t know any Muslims. This led Couric to ask, “What does it mean to be a Muslim in America today?”

For Haydar, it depended on your social and economic location as well as where you lived.

“For a lot of Muslims in middle America, islamophobia can be lethal,” she said.

Citing how right wing extremist groups have been responsible for nearly three times the number of violent incidents as Muslim extremists since 9/11 led to discussions on how the media frames each violent incident in the United States.

Ali spoke of the tragic shooting in Las Vegas, Nev., noting that the media framed Stephen Paddock as a “lone wolf,” a “quiet man” and “someone with mental problems. If a Muslim had been the one to commit the crime, Ali said, “immediately the framing is what? Terrorist.”

“There is a double standard when it comes to language. Language, much like ideology, much like identity, much like history also gets hijacked. And so ‘lone wolf’ versus ‘terrorist,'” Ali said.

Goldsmith specifically asked how the group through Trump has played a part in the misunderstanding or the hatred.

“I don’t know what to say, he’s an a–hole,” Haydar said.

“President Trump has essentially weaponized what was already there for several decades — this deep fear and mistrust. It was primarily racial anxiety that motivated a lot of Trump’s base. Now it’s mainstream. It’s the double standard that seeps into our media framing — which shapes our perceptions, which shapes the narratives, which shapes domestic and foreign policy, and weaponizes ‘Muslim’ for politicians to gain votes and get elected into office,” Ali said. “When Trump says, ‘I think Islam hates us’ or ‘I’m open to a Muslim registry’ or ‘We need a complete and total ban on Muslims’…these are the mainstream talking points, so, is it terrifying? Yes.”

But Ali added that the mere fact that SXSW was hosting such a discussion was proof that islamophobia was being acknowledged as a real thing, which can hopefully lead to further discourse and acceptance.

“A crisis can represent an opportunity,” Ali said.

More TV

  • Deadly Class Review

    TV Review: 'Deadly Class' on SyFy

    High school, according to TV and movies, is either the best or worst thing that can happen to a person. It’s almost always depicted as the most fun a kid can have, or a horrifying hellhole from which there’s no escape. “Deadly Class” is decidedly in the latter camp — and despite its edgy attempts [...]

  • Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn amazon series

    Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn Start Casting for New Amazon Series

    We’re getting a few more hints about Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn’s top-secret fashion project for Amazon Studios. Casting calls have gone out for designers interested in being a part of the unscripted series, which is set to shoot in Los Angeles in June and July. The casting notice mentions the “potential for additional travel [...]

  • TRIAL & ERROR: LADY, KILLER --

    'Trial and Error' Canceled After Two Seasons at NBC

    “Trial & Error” is officially done. The true crime spoof had effectively been canceled last year when NBC did not exercise its option to renew the show for a third season. Studio Warner Bros. TV had been trying to find it a new network home, but that search has come up short. The series took [...]

  • ELLEN'S GAME OF GAMES -- "Say

    'Ellen's Game of Games' Renewed for Season 3 at NBC

    NBC has renewed the competition series “Ellen’s Game of Games” for a third season. Season 2 of the show officially launched on Jan. 8, though a preview aired on Dec. 12. Ellen DeGeneres serves as host and executive producer of the one-hour show, which includes supersized versions of some of the most popular games from her [...]

  • Paul DeBenedittis Named Nickelodeon Programming, Content

    Paul DeBenedittis Named Nickelodeon Exec VP of Programming and Content Strategy

    Paul DeBenedittis has been named executive vice president of programming and content strategy at Nickelodeon. There, he will lead content and programming strategies, partnerships, acquisitions and media planning for the flagship network as well as Nick Jr., Nicktoons and TeenNick across linear television, digital, branded apps and video-on-demand channels, among other platforms. DeBenedittis will report to [...]

  • major r&b grammy fox star recurring

    R&B Artist MAJOR. Lands Recurring Role on Fox's 'Star' (EXCLUSIVE)

    R&B artist MAJOR. is on “cloud three million” right now. His track “Honest” scored a 2019 Grammy nomination for best traditional R&B performance, and, as he tells Variety exclusively, he recently landed a recurring role on Fox’s “Star.” The singer-songwriter, born Major Johnson Finley, is currently shooting the musical drama in Atlanta, and will make his [...]

  • Comcast NBC TV Content Explosion Placeholder

    Karen Kovacs, Time Inc. Veteran, Named Exec VP of Client Partnerships at NBCU Ad Sales

    Karen Kovacs, a former senior executive at Time Inc. and a one-time publisher of People magazine, has been named executive vice president of client partnerships at NBCUniversal’s ad-sales unit. Kovacs will oversee broader partnerships with advertisers, and work to develop deeper alliances between sponsors and various parts of NBCU’s media portfolio. She will report to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content