Giuliani: Muslims Ready for Their Coppola Close-Up

Rudy Giuliani captured live on Morning Joe

Rudy Giuliani’s Jan. 7 appearance on “Morning Joe” offered a new perspective on Muslim Americans.

Speaking on “Morning Joe,” former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani made a case for Muslims being in a situation not unlike that in which Italian Americans found themselves in the heyday of the mafia. Giuliani vociferously defended “the majority of Muslims” as outstanding citizens, but stuck to his premise that they are a community where the larger group is, unfairly, seen through a lens tainted by the extremist few (ISIL, Al Queda and the like).

It’s pretty obvious what the Muslim community needs is a heightened presence in Hollywood and its own Islam-steeped interpreter on the level of legendary “Godfather” director Francis Ford Coppola. It wouldn’t make extremist terrorism any more justifiable than Coppola’s three picture epic made clan-centric homicide okay, but it would go a long way toward instilling in Westerners a sense of familiarity that is presently lacking.  Is there a Muslim Mario Puzo to couch the subject in terms sufficiently poetic to capture the mainstream imagination? And possibly a cable TV spinoff?

Both Puzo (who wrote “The Godfather” novel on which the films were based) and Coppola have been accused of glorifying the mob.  Well, to paraphrase the Bible, evil cannot withstand the scrutiny of light. Right now, the propagandist YouTube terror clips seem to be winning the ratings war.

So, while we have Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” and a middling IMDB list of Muslims in entertainment (Muhammad Ali, Janet Jackson and Omar Sharif topping the list), there’s clearly progress to be made. (Lee, after all, while evincing spiritual leanings, does not seem to publicly identify as Muslim, at least to Google.)

Long before it breeds contempt, familiarity breeds comfort. To the extent that Westerners are discussing and examining aspects of the somewhat exotic culture of Islam, that can’t be bad, and we include Giuliani’s exchange with “Morning Joe” hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski in the mix.

Here is a transcript of the Jan. 7 convo, and you can also click to play the clip.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Saying, “how can we help our country be safe?”

RUDY GIULIANI: They need to be encouraged more to step forward at a time like this. Best thing you could have sitting here right now is an imam explaining how terrible this is, how this is not what modern Islam should be all about, and all of us good Muslims are on the same side as every other American. That would be a much better guest than me.

SCARBOROUGH: That was your experience when you were mayor of New York, that the overwhelming majority of Muslim-Americans here in New York City were just as stunned, just as horrified by what happened on 9/11 moving forward?

GIULIANI: Yes, yes. But now, to be fair, there were some communities where there were celebrations.

SCARBOROUGH: There were some.


SCARBOROUGH: There were some. But we’re talking, though, about the majority. And again, I’m not going back and revisiting 2001. I’m talking about how do we keep New Yorkers safe in 2016?

GIULIANI: Okay, this is like the mafia. Most Italian-Americans had nothing to do with the mafia. But there was a mafia, and it was big, and it was powerful, and it killed hundreds of people.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: But they weren’t called Italian-Americans.

GIULIANI: Oh they sure were.

BRZEZINSKI: No, I’m saying they were called the mafia.

GIULIANI: That’s an Italian word.

BRZEZINSKI: No, but I think there’s a problem with Muslims in terms of …

GIULIANI: No, the analogy would be …

BRZEZINSKI: … political candidates who are lumping them all together.

GIULIANI: Candidates aren’t lumping them together, they’re lumping themselves together. They’re organizing under the principle of Islam. They are organized because they have a certain interpretation of the Quran and Hadith, which scholars — their scholars — can justify. Do they constitute the majority of Muslims? Absolutely not. Do most Muslims reject it? Absolutely. But are they organized under the principle of being Muslims? The answer is yes. Just like it wasn’t a vast majority of Italians but they were organized under the principle of being an Italian-American. You couldn’t join unless you were an Italian-American.

SCARBOROUGH: So again, the question I’m getting to is —

BRZEZINSKI: Right, but you wouldn’t put a ban on Italians coming to America.

SCARBOROUGH: I’m not trying to get into a debate that we’ve had in the rear-view mirror. It’s how do we get the most Muslim-Americans engaged who are on our side anyway? Don’t want to ask —

GIULIANI: Talking to them, organizing them, encouraging them to step up more, encouraging them to act against radical Islam. Explain intellectually and ideologically and theologically why this is repugnant to the way in which in the Hadith should now be interpreted. Those are the books that explicate the Koran. We need that kind of intellectual debate within the Muslim community. A counter-reformation, or a reformation wouldn’t be bad. A Martin Luther with a different name might not be a bad thing to come along right now. Gosh, the nuns in Catholic school would have beaten me up if they heard me say that.

(digression into homeland security issues…)

GIULIANI: When I first used the word “mafia” — and this is where I think you’re wrong about ethnic identification — I was protested by Italian American groups, I got letters [from] the Justice Department saying it was wrong for me to use it, and it was against the rules of the Justice Department, and you know what, it was! And do you know who put it there? Richard M. Nixon, in the offices of Mario Bianchi and Joe Colombo, head of the Colombo crime family. When I campaigned for mayor I had tomatoes thrown at me on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, because of my prosecution of the guy who controlled Arthur Avenue.

MIKE BARNICLE: I’ll bet they were good ones, though.