Yasser Louati is a representative for the Collective Against Islamophobia in France. And in an early Sunday morning interview, he became a representative for the Collective Against Islamophobia on Cable Television.
CNN anchors John Vause and Isha Sesay spent a good six-plus minutes blaming French Muslims either for not doing enough before the attacks or for not doing enough after the attacks. “Why is it that no one within the Muslim community there in France knew what these guys were up to?” asked Vause of Louati. “Because it seems to me that this was a pretty big plan. Surely someone beyond the seven guys who’ve been killed over the last 48 hours would have to have known something and that was probably within the Muslim community but yet no one said anything.”
In the year 2015, a Muslim rep hearing that question would be excused for simply unplugging from the interview and allowing the host to languish in his own ignorance. Louati, however, did his best to combat bigotry: “Sir, the Muslim community has nothing to do with these guys. Nothing. We cannot justify ourselves for the actions of someone who just claims to be Muslim. Our secret services knew about these guys and, again, just like during the January attacks, it turns out they were all on a black list somewhere somehow on a desk. So right now we can’t take responsibility for anything. Right now–”
Vause wasn’t happy with the answer. “What is the responsibility within the Muslim community to identify what is happening within their own ranks when it comes to people who are obviously training and preparing to carry out mass murder?” he asked.
Louati repeated the theme of his first answer: “No, no, no, no, sir — they were not from our ranks.”
Such debate is now common in the post-terrorist-attack coverage, at least when the perpetrators are connected to radical Islam. Though cable anchors rarely call for the white or Christian community to answer for its inability to snuff out killings by their own, that’s the standard that exists for Muslims, as Louati discovered. Toward the end of this segment, Vause expressed this sentiment straight-up: “I’ve yet to hear the condemnation from the Muslim community on this, but we’ll wait and see.” Perhaps Vause missed this USA Today piece from Saturday morning: “Muslims strongly condemn Paris terror attacks.”
(Should CNN wish to do more insufficient-condemnation-shaming against Muslims over the Paris attacks, they need only deploy Bob Beckel, the former Fox News commentator who recently joined CNN to add color to the 2016 campaign. He was a reliable voice for ripping the insufficiency of Muslims’ reaction to terrorism.)
What makes this particular CNN edition of anti-Muslim bigotry particularly offensive is nothing in particular. It was just dismissive, nasty and horribly naive. Here was Vause, suggesting that a whole population of French Muslims clearly must have known about this attack, when Western intelligence agencies are complaining that they’re having great difficulty tracking the communications of ISIS operatives. “The result played out in deadly fashion in Paris: At least eight terrorists, armed with heavy weaponry and suicide vests, and most likely aided by a support network, plotted and executed a highly elaborate mass casualty attack on multiple targets without the French or any other Western intelligence agency having a clue,” write Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman for Yahoo News. But clearly the attackers were gossiping endlessly with other Muslims.
Nor can CNN boast much self-awareness on this front. Sesay concluded the segment by crediting her ilk for perpetuating these sorts of discussions: “The point he’s making is it’s not our fault, but the fact of the matter is when these things happen, the finger-blaming is pointed at the Muslim community and so you have to be preemptive.”