Last week, an Oklahoma man, who recently converted to Islam, went on a violent stabbing spree at his former workplace, including beheading a coworker, but MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry was quick to dismiss his religion as being a factor in the killing.
Appearing on her self-titled show on Saturday morning, Harris-Perry insisted that “it is a story that I read as a workplace violence story” and then proceeded to condemn any references to his Islamic faith when discussing the crime.
The segment featured two controversial Muslim comics, Dean Obeidallah and Negin Farsad, both of whom did their best to dismiss the murderer, Alton Nolen, and his connection to Islam. Farsad is perhaps best known for appearing in a 2011 documentary film about Muslim comedians. Obeidallah, who is a prominent comedian, claimed in 2011 that as a Muslim comedian he was fighting for Muslim civil rights.
During the segment, Obeidallah eagerly claimed that Nolen’s faith “will be used” and “we are seeing right wing media use this, continuing the narrative.” Harris-Perry went one step further and compared Nolen’s Muslim faith to being of no more importance than what she had for breakfast that morning:
I think this to me is that there is a belief that at the core--I can also probably have breakfast that morning but we don’t think any of those things are relevant. But we do think that his conversion, jailhouse by the way, conversion is what is relevant.
As the segment wrapped up, Farsad made sure to play up the need for Muslims to inject humor into pop culture to help change the public perception of Islam in America:
We’ve gone on and on and on creating this language between Muslims and violence and we need to have a counter-narrative. We don’t. So what we need -- that is what we are trying to do… Muslims are funny. That’s the new stereotype. Pass it around. Muslims are hilarious.
Only at MSNBC would a man’s conversion to Islam a year before beheading a coworker be described as “workplace violence.” Instead of discussing potential influence Islam may had in the execution of an innocent Oklahoma woman, the folks at the “Lean Forward” network would rather discuss the efforts of two fringe Muslim comedians trying to push the narrative that “Muslims are hilarious.”
See relevant transcript below.
September 27, 2014
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: I would be remiss not to bring up the story out of Oklahoma. It is a story that I read as workplace violence story. But I want to play just a little bit of the sound from the press conference that followed a gentleman who beheaded a woman in the context of his having been fired then he goes back to the plant. He stabs several people. One of the women, her head is severed. But then this gets said at the conference. Let’s listen for a moment.
JEREMY LEWIS: After conducting interviews with co-workers of Nolen information was obtained that he recently started trying to convert some of his coworkers to the Muslim religion.
HARRIS-PERRY: And then that’s it. And now this is somehow about Islam.
DEAN OBEIDALLAH: You know what’s funny. Just so it is clear to everyone, there is nothing in the Quran that says if you get fired go back to your workplace and kill people. I want everyone to know that. No it is not in the Quran. You know, anything that is bad, a bad crime, I don’t know about you, but my reaction is please don't let them be Muslim. That’s all I think. Please. So this guy's name wasn't Muslim then I read he converted and I knew instantly it will be used. I mean it’s a gruesome crime and you have to feel for the family of the woman who was killed. But the idea to turn this into -- and we are seeing right wing media use this, continuing the narrative. Look Muslims are here in America, they’re committing Jihad. The man just came over here last year. There was over five hundred work place killings last year. We don’t know about their religion of any of those murders. But if someone is Muslim it’s got to be a terrorist.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right. The idea that that is the relevant piece of information. So, I mean, it may be that some ideology, right wing, left wing, is taking this. But at that moment in that press conference I don't think someone is like representing right wing ideology. They literally just believe. Right? And I think this to me is that there is a belief that at the core--I can also probably have breakfast that morning but we don’t think any of those things are relevant. But we do think that his conversion, jailhouse by the way, conversion is what is relevant.
NEGIN FARSAD: And that I think is the biggest problem. There should be a cultural paradigm shift in which it is not okay to create that linkage immediately. We already know that it is not okay to equate all white men with school shootings. We can’t do that. It’s not okay.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because it just doesn’t even happen in anyone’s mind. It doesn’t even occur.
FARSAD: Exactly. But we’ve gone on and on and on creating this language between Muslims and violence and we need to have a counter-narrative. We don’t. So what we need -- that is what we are trying to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Muslims are funny.
FARSAD: Muslims are funny. That’s the new stereotype. Pass it around. Muslims are hilarious.