In the lead-up to the midterm elections Republicans ratcheted up the fear mongering about gun rights, illegal immigration, and the relatively new Islamist-Sharia law issue to frighten angry white Christians into voting for Republicans. As usual, the immigration issue disappeared the day after the election, and gun rights activism nearly vanished until the shooting rampage in Arizona reminded Americans that we are still a gun-crazed society that values firearms over education.
There are still a few state legislatures that are fighting to prevent the Constitution from being supplanted by Sharia law, but the uproar over a proposed Islamic Center being built near Ground Zero is no longer being used as a catalyst to incite Islamophobia and support for Republicans. Starting next week, Representative Peter King (R-NY) will resurrect some hate and suspicion toward Islam.
King chairs the House Homeland Security Committee and starting on March 9th he will begin hearings on the radicalization of U.S. Muslims. Critics have compared King’s congressional hearings to McCarthyism and the World War II persecution of Japanese Americans. It is unclear if King’s intention is to gather data about American Muslim cooperation with law enforcement or whether American foreign policy is inciting radicalism here at home and abroad. Representative King has been secretive about his plans, but one has to wonder if a congressional hearing is necessary to decide if Islam needs a reformation.
The only witness King identified who is not a member of Congress is Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim activist who also happens to be a Republican who supports the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, supports Israel, and claims his faith harbors “an insidious supremacism.” Jasser is not the run-of-the-mill Muslim and except for his faith, he could pass for every Islamophobic conservative Christian who subscribes to the Fox News viewpoint of Islam. Jasser is an Arizona doctor who holds no political office or constituency, and when asked what expertise he can bring to the hearings, he said “a lifetime of practicing my faith.” The truth is that Jasser lacks policy or academic expertise and has no leadership roles within the Muslim community. Jasser does head a nonprofit, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and he wants Muslim leaders to aggressively oppose a “culture of separatism” and to renounce a role for Islam in government.
Experts in national security are extremely nervous about Representative King’s upcoming hearings because they are worried that instead of improving dialogue, the hearings could set off more prejudice and anti-Muslim sentiment at home and abroad. Muslim leaders have asked King to stop the hearings because they may give the appearance that American Muslims are being persecuted. King has a reputation for criticizing Muslims, and including Jasser as an expert witness bolsters that reputation. Democrats on the committee will call Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca who disputes Rep. King’s assertion that Muslims do not cooperate with law enforcement.
Regardless the outcome of the hearings, singling out Islam as the only religious group that has hidden radical elements has understandably touched off a wave of panic throughout the Muslim community. For the past year or so, Muslims have had to fight against rising Islamophobia that began when plans were revealed to build an Islamic Center in New York. Rep. King has been on the forefront of attacks on Muslims since 9/11 and singles out mosques as “hotbeds of radical Islam” and called Muslim leaders extremists who should be put under surveillance.
King also categorically says that most Muslim leaders in America are not cooperating with law enforcement even though arrests of homegrown terrorists have risen greatly. Now that Republicans control the House, King heads the committee and said that he is finally in a position to do something about radical Islam. It is dangerous to have a committee chair who has already concluded that all Muslims are extremists and plotting to take over America.
King has said that his goal is “to have people even acknowledge this is a real issue,” and that “This politically correct nonsense has kept us from debating and discussing what is one of this country’s most vital issues. We are under siege by Muslim terrorists.” It is apparent that King has already reached the committee’s conclusion long before the hearings are under way. Instead of calling witnesses with expertise in national security and domestic terrorism, he chose a Muslim who already shares his belief that Muslims are attempting to infiltrate the government.
Peter King has one thing right; there are vital issues that need debate and discussion in America in a manner that will not inflame the Muslim world or American citizens who also happen to be Muslims. If a religion has to be the focus of terrorist activity and infiltration into the government, it should be Christians. America is under siege, but it is from the religious right who are attempting to transform America’s democratic form of government into a theocracy and they are doing it from within Congress and in statehouses around the country. In fact, every accusation King and Islamohpobes level against Muslims is equally applicable to Christians.
King’s hearings will not be a debate or discussion because he has already concluded that the country is under siege by Muslim terrorists; the purpose is not to find answers, but to inflame Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment. What the hearings will do is announce to the world that the U.S. Congress is on a witch-hunt to persecute Muslims in America and like the Iraq war, will incite more anti-American sentiment in the Arab world. Americans should recall that when the bigot preacher was on a campaign to burn Korans, the Taliban announced they hoped he would follow through with his promise because it was the best recruiting tool they could hope for. It is worth considering that maybe King’s purpose is to incite homegrown terrorists to attack America so Republicans can blame the Obama Administration for being weak on terrorism.
Representative King should halt the planned hearings before they even start and allow law enforcement to do their jobs. Muslims have cooperated with law enforcement, but they will be less likely to do so if they feel they are being unfairly targeted by a man who has already determined the outcome of the hearings. It seems that the last thing an intelligent person would do is create an atmosphere that gives the appearance of unfair persecution of Muslims at the hands of Congress. Mr. King though, is not very intelligent or he would heed the warnings of experts in the terrorism field and Muslim community.
Calling a Muslim witness who shares King’s beliefs and philosophy about radical Islam is not a congressional hearing; it is a witch-hunt with pre-determined findings. There can be no good outcome from King’s hearings unless terrorist recruitment is a good thing. There are radical extremists in America; they are Republicans. They are inciting Islamophobia and they are Christians; and they are the group that needs to be investigated.