Screen shot of video of “CNN Tonight” segment on October 6

For well over a month now, CNN has pushed a conversation about whether there is something inherently violent about Islam or whether the religion promotes violence. Conversation has been presented by anchors, particularly Don Lemon, as just hosts asking questions for the sake of some innocent and potentially educational discussion. The problem is CNN is not simply asking questions and no one is learning anything. And the network is framing segments around questions that are driven by uninformed and bigoted attitudes toward Muslims.

On September 29, writer and scholar on religions, Reza Aslan, appeared as a guest to talk about what CNN referred to as “a complicated question that many people are asking. Are Muslim countries more violent than others?”

Earlier in the month, on September 8, Aslan and Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison, who is Muslim, appeared. Lemon asked:

And neither of you — you know this. Both of you know that — you’re both not strangers to the argument that Islam is a violent religion.

I want you to listen to what Bill Maher tweeted in his response to the recent ISIS beheading videos. Here’s what he says. He says: “ISIS, one of thousands of Islamic militant groups” — and that’s — he was addressing “The New York Times” — he says “beheads another? But why — by all means, let’s keep pretending all religions are alike.”
What’s your response to that?

Lemon later asked, “Is the burden on other Muslim nations, you think, and moderate Muslims to reject ISIS and to join the fight against ISIS? Is that what’s happening?”

A few days before, on September 3, CNN had Arsalan Iftikhar, senior editor of Islamic Monthly magazine and Thomas Fuentes, a CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director and Dr. Tawkfik Hamid, author of “Inside Jihad” and a conservative darling who is committed to arguing Islam needs to prove it is a religion of peace.

Lemon started the segment, “So let’s talk about this, and let’s be very honest about it. This is a discussion that’s happening really across the world. I want to ask you, starting with Arsalan, let’s begin with the simple question, as some are asking. Is Islam a more violent religion than other faiths?”

Even during an interview with Protestant megachurch televangelist Joel Osteen on September 10, Lemon could not help but ask, “Religion has been in the news a lot lately. Radicalism, really. When we talk about ISIS, many have questioned whether Islam is a religion of peace, or is one of war or is it one of violence. Do you have — where do you stand on that?”

A Debate Happening in Tandem with Coverage of ISIS

A search through CNN transcripts indicates that this question started to be posed in late August or early September, just as the United States was becoming more involved militarily in combating ISIS. And that is the biggest issue—that this discussion CNN wants to perpetuate is happening within the context of battling an extreme Islamist enemy that the government claims poses a threat to Americans.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."