The conversation: Peter King's controversial Muslim hearings
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, begins hearings Thursday on what he’s called "the extent of the radicalization" of American Muslims. It has been the subject of great controversy.
The questions that Rep. Peter King is right to ask
To ignore the religious nature of the terrorist threat is to succumb to politically correct delusion. To ignore the homegrown religious nature of the terrorist threat is to succumb even further. […]To listen to King's critics, you would think he was urging modern-day internment camps for Muslim Americans. […]Yes, there are other sources of terrorism. Radical Islam is the biggest and most dangerous. And, yes, King is a flawed questioner. But the question he poses is an appropriate -- and important -- one.
Shouldn't King identify a significant threat to national security first?
If the radicalization of American Muslims is, as King suggests, a significant and growing threat to the nation's security, then hearings should by all means be held.
The problem is that King hasn't identified such a threat, and certainly not at a level that would justify singling out one religion to be targeted for special scrutiny.
The hearings will unfairly exasperate Islamophobia
We stand together with a broad spectrum of religious and secular leaders who believe that fighting terrorism does not require compromising our nation's core values and highest ideals. In our experience volunteering and breaking bread with Muslims on Long Island, we are inspired by our neighbors' commitment to worship in peace and pursue the American dream. We have visited mosques in an effort to understand our Muslim brothers and sisters' beliefs and proud traditions. We have seen their dedication to serve others, especially those with few resources, and have worked together as Jews, Christians and Muslims to speak on behalf of peace and nonviolent solutions to conflicts. Muslims are doctors and teachers, police officers and business owners. They are a part of our American family and should be treated with dignity.
The hearings will accomplish nothing
What King will get, if he gets any cooperation at all, will be little more than a dog-and-pony show. It will explain nothing and reveal less about the sources of homegrown terrorism. No matter how much King's witnesses condemn violence or exhort U.S. patriotism, they're not likely to stop a Pakistani or Somali immigrant who decides to strap on a bomb.
Demonizing a community won’t fight terrorism
We need to stop demonizing an entire community. This is simply not the way to fight terrorism. And it's not who we are, as Americans. We must be able to separate radical extremists, like members of the Al Qaeda cult, from moderate Muslims who share our same values.
In fact, Muslim Americans do cooperate with law enforcement in terror investigations
"I will tell you in no uncertain terms that the community has on multiple occasions come forward and assisted law enforcement," said Michael Rolince, who headed the counter-terrorism division in the FBI’s Washington field office from 2002 to 2005.
Trust is the key to our shared security
My first concern is that the Republican Party is coming to be associated with Islamophobia, and King's hearings seem to be contributing to this trend. My greater concern is that, while individuals are attracted to radical ideas for many different reasons, perceptions of marginalization and persecution for one's beliefs or identity are well-documented contributors to radicalization.
A better way
Instead, Muslims should embrace the chance to explain their beliefs fully and clearly. We have nothing to hide. But members of Congress also need to act responsibly. They should avoid broad accusations, and be aware that the hearings will be closely followed worldwide. The actions of both groups will shape America's relationship with Islam, and the relationship of American Muslims with their country.
--Alexandra Le Tellier
Photo: A protester holds up a sign on Sunday in New York at the "Today, I Am A Muslim, Too" rally to protest against a planned congressional hearing on the role of Muslims in homegrown terrorism. Credit: Henny Ray Abrams / AP Photo