Video: Racist Campaign?

msnbc.com
updated 12/15/2005 3:44:12 PM ET 2005-12-15T20:44:12
TRANSCRIPT

A case of road rage is brewing in North Carolina.  Arab groups are upset over a billboard that urges lawmakers to make it tougher for terrorists to get drivers' licenses. 

The sign shows a man wearing a traditional Arab head scarf, holding a grenade as well as a driver's license.  Some say the image is racist. 

John Abinader, the cofounder of the Arab America Institute talked to Tucker Carlson on Wednesday's ‘The Situation’ about the issue. 

To read an excerpt of the conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, continue to the text below.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, ‘SITUATION’:  I don't really understand the complaint against this billboard.  The billboard doesn't claim that all Muslims are terrorists.  It implies that most terrorists are Muslims, and that's true. 

JOHN ABINADER, COFOUNDER, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE:  Well, the website of the people who support this say the same thing.  But the reality is, what you're doing is you are taking an image and confusing it with an issue. 

You can talk about terrorism.  You can talk about national security.  You can talk about immigration without targeting a specific group.  It's very hard for people who have been since 9/11 impacted month after month, week after week, with stories about Arabs and Muslims to separate that out from terrorism, when it becomes reinforced with things like this billboard campaign. 

CARLSON:  Right, we are targeting a specific group.  If we're a fearful of Islamic extremism, and we are, then we're targeting Islamic extremists. 

ABINADER:  That's not what this is about.  This campaign is about safe drivers' licenses.  And tightening up the needs for driver's licenses.  When we talk about drug use, drunk driving, if you are flashing Hispanic pictures or Irish or African-Americans, people would say, that's inappropriate.  We are not talking about political correctness.  We are talking about dealing with the issue, not trying to create images that make people in our culture, American culture scapegoats because they happen to be unfortunately related to people who created what happened in 9/11. 

CARLSON:  Right, but I think the specific issue we are talking about pertains directly to Islamic extremism.  We are afraid that Islamic extremists, terrorists, will end up misusing drivers' licenses in order to commit acts of terror, as happened on 9/11 when the hijackers had something like 60 fake drivers' licenses, that they used to get entry onto those airplanes. 

ABINADER:  But the issue is, how are we going to make drivers' licenses more fool-proof?  That's the issue.  Whether it's terrorists using it, whether it's college kids buying liquor, who are—who are involved in drunk driving situations.  There are lots of other reasons. 

I'm saying, the issue of a safe I.D. is different from the issue of terrorism.  Yes, they're related because of 9/11, but that doesn't mean that someone in their own mind is going to be able to make the distinction between the picture of this terrorist on the billboard and the guy down the street who runs the grocery store or the guy who—or the woman who teaches their kids in school. 

Who happen to be Arabs or Muslims.  That's the problem here. 

CARLSON:  We also should point out the people who made this billboard say that they took this image of the man in the kifaya with the hand grenade directly from a terrorist web site, a web site that was supportive of Hamas and Hezbollah.  So it's not like they cooked it up, right?  It actually came from a real website. 

ABINADER:  We're not saying that, again—we're saying that, if the issue is misuse of drivers' licenses, you can talk about it without putting images on the screen, which can mislead people into thinking, I've got to watch Arabs and Muslims in my own country. 

CARLSON:  But wait a second.  I mean, people feel that way for a reason, and I understand why you're upset about it.  I would be upset about it, too, if I were Arab or Muslim.  I mean, I get that completely.

But there's a reason that people might suspect they have something to fear from foreign-born Muslims, fair or not.  There is a reason, right, and the reason is, 100 percent of Islamic terrorists are Islamic, right, are Muslims?

CARLSON:  Shouldn’t you be pointing your finger at those people?

ABINADER:  The issue, people that are a problem are not Arabs.  You have Richard Reid, Jose Padilla.  What we're saying is deal with the issue.  Death with it in a very you have other people who are white, blue eyed, green eyed, Latinos, who are also Muslim, and some of them happen to be Islamic extremists.  Stereotypes just don't help.  We are saying deal with the issue in a straightforward way. 

Give the American people good information without having to raise fright tactics, which, in fact, rather than help the situation, create an aura of suspicion and pick on people unnecessarily. 

CARLSON:  I still think your outrage should be directed at the people who confirm those stereotypes, rather than the ones who perpetuate them. 

ABINADER:  Believe me, we are, daily we do battle with those folks. 

Watch 'The Situation with Tucker Carlson' each weeknight at 11 p.m. ET

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