First Zaid Jilani on The Intercept. The emphasis is mine
Dec. 20 2015,
When a CBS News segment featuring a focus group of American Muslims aired Friday, it highlighted their relationship to terrorism, with a particular fixation on how much responsibility they felt to condemn terrorist attacks.
But in interviews with The Intercept, two Muslim Americans who took part in the group complained that CBS edited out parts of the discussion where they raised their own concerns — including critiques of U.S. militarism, surveillance, and entrapment.
They also said that Frank Luntz, the right-wing pollster who led the focus group, silenced members of the group when they criticized discriminatory U.S. government policies.
When Luntz asked the group how they respond to attacks such as the recent one in San Bernardino, 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?”
That didn’t make it into the on-air segment.
Sarah Harvard, a New York City journalist who was in the group, wrote a lengthy Facebook post after the airing of the CBS segment where she noted that the total time spent filming was around an hour — and that the most telling exchanges were cut out.
For example, Harvard wrote that after Luntz asked the group whether they were Americans or Muslims first, she chose to demonstrate the offensive nature of the question by asking, “Well, are you an American or Jewish first?”
That didn’t make it on the air either.
When the focus group segment was aired, it was pitched as a response to Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslim immigrants.
In an interview with The Intercept, Harvard said that at one point during the interview, she flatly told Luntz that she was “sick and tired of [talking about Trump] when we have other issues besides Trump.”
Another question Harvard says Luntz asked that was not included on air was whether they recognized Israel as a Jewish state — as if that were relevant to the American Muslim experience.
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.”
The group’s experience is not unusual for Muslim Americans trying to engage in the public sphere. Muslims are often recruited to combat radicalism, such as with the White House’s Countering Violent Extremism initiative, but are rarely asked about U.S. policy they may object to, such as crackdowns on civil liberties, political marginalization, and overly aggressive foreign policy.
A somewhat longer segment about the focus group appeared on the CBS News website.
Harvard wrote that several participants expressed criticisms of U.S. government policy toward Muslims, such as “entrapment cases and surveillance programs” as well as institutional racism. None of that made it into the segment.
Read the whole piece here: CBS Edits Out Criticisms of U.S. Policy From Frank Luntz Focus Group With Muslim Americans
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.