On Friday's CNN Tonight, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen contended that moderate Muslims were partially to blame to the ongoing threat of Islamist terrorism. Host Don Lemon spotlighted a Tweet from Rupert Murdoch, where the media magnate wrote, "Maybe most Muslims peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer, they must be held responsible." Cohen replied, "I do hold Muslims responsible to this degree: I don't think that we can solve this problem, Don, until moderate Muslims really speak out."
The writer later claimed that "there is no one person in the Muslim world who has come to incarnate a stand against this kind of ferocity and savagery. Look, Mahatma Gandhi was killed by a Hindu...because he stood up and told Hindus that the kind of violence they were perpetrating against Muslims had to stop." [video below]
Lemon first turned to University of California, Berkeley Professor Steven Fish for his take on the Murdoch post. The political science academic replied by following the lead of Arsalan Iftikhar of Islamic Monthly magazine by citing an example of a supposed Christian terrorist group:
STEVEN FISH, PROF. OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY: Well, I think it's kind of odd, actually, to hold all Muslims responsible for acts that most Muslims despise. It would be like saying that – oh, take the Christian terrorist organization in Uganda, Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army. It's a bunch of crazy fanatics who call themselves Christian fundamentalists, and to look at their acts of terrorism – and they've killed tens of thousand of people. And to Tweet that all Christians will be held responsible for their acts of terrorism – it really doesn't make much sense to me.
It should be pointed out that Kony and his followers depart significantly from mainstream Christianity – not just in their homicidal campaign, but in their beliefs. The leader practices polygamy, and claims to have "spiritual powers" – just as many past cult leaders have done.
The CNN host then prompted Cohen for his reply, and he led with his "I do hold Muslims responsible to this degree" line. He continued by a more recent segment that Lemon had with Iftikhar as an example of supposedly moderate Muslims not explicitly condemning terrorism:
ROGER COHEN, NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED COLUMNIST: I do hold Muslims responsible to this degree: I don't think that we can solve this problem, Don, until moderate Muslims really speak out – really say, 'This is not our religion. This is not something we can accept. This is absolutely barbaric. This is the murder of innocents. This is an attack on Western democracies and the freedoms we all stand for. And we are now part of these societies. We're living in them.' Until they speak out in that way, I don't think we're going to see much progress, and I think that's a responsibility they have.
You asked a pretty direct question last night to a Muslim human rights lawyer, Mr. [Arsalan] Iftikhar. You asked him if he was a supporter of ISIS, and he gave a very vague, wishy-washy answer. Why can't a moderate Muslim like that just come out and say, 'These guys are slitting the throats of Western journalists. They're raping and slaughtering in Iraq and Syria. And I personally abhor this, and do not support them.' No, we got a very vague answer. And as long as moderate Muslims are giving vague answers to what we're seeing going on in Paris and elsewhere, I think the situation will only get worse.
LEMON: I'm glad you picked up on that because – you know, context is everything. There was a reason for that question, because there was a very nebulous answer before that. So, but – but moderate Muslims will tell you – and they have told me. And if you are on social media, Roger, I'm sure if you go on now, they will – you're going to get this. We speak out all the time. No one is listening. No one is paying attention to us.
COHEN: Well, some speak out in Tunisia and elsewhere, and they get killed for speaking out. And clearly, it can be dangerous to speak out when you have radicals – murderous radicals of this kind. It may well be true that moderate Muslims speak out more than is recognized by people like me. I'm perfectly ready to concede that. And certainly, we've seen the leader of the Muslim community in France speaking out very loud and clear against what's been happening. But I don't get the feeling that there is anybody – certainly, there is no one person in the Muslim world who has come to incarnate a stand against this kind of ferocity and savagery. Look, Mahatma Gandhi was killed by a Hindu – he was killed by a Hindu because he stood up and told Hindus that the kind of violence they were perpetrating against Muslims had to stop.