"I hate the fact the Muslims all over the nation have become the focus of a modern day witch hunt. It seems as if we will never learn from the mistakes of our history. The government must set an example for the rest of the nation. They are making the wrong impression on the population with the Patriot Act and the mistreatment and suspicion of Muslims in this nation," wrote "John" a reader of one of my articles about post-9/11 discrimination back in 2004. I wonder what John would say about the upcoming witch hunt planned by Long Island, New York Congressman Peter King?
Scheduled to begin in March 2011, the head of the nation's Homeland Security Department will be holding hearings intended to examine the radicalization of Muslims in the United States.
"The war against Islamic terrorism must be fought in many ways and we must do all we can to stay ahead of our enemy," King writes on his website. "That is why I strongly supported the PATRIOT Act…," he reminds readers. King was described by the New York Times as, "the Patriot Act 's most fervent fan" in a December 2006 article.
King believes that "80-85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists... I'll stand by that number of 85 percent. This is an enemy living amongst us," as he told a conservative talk radio host Sean Hannity.
King's basic premise is that American Muslims and their leaders are not cooperating in the fight against terrorism directed at American targets. This has actually been refuted in a recent report by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, a research group affiliated with the University of North Carolina and Duke University.
The report, issued in early February 2011, noted that 48 of the 120 Muslims suspected of plotting domestic terrorist attacks since the 9/11 attacks, were turned in by other Muslims. These included parents, members of the same mosque, and in at least one case, a Facebook friend.
"In some communities, Muslim-Americans have been so concerned about extremists in their midst that they have turned in people who turned out to be undercover informants," it said.
Going back to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to Michael E. Rolince, former FBI Special Agent in Charge of Counterterrorism, DC Field Office, the FBI conducted about 500,000 interviews of Muslims in America without finding a single lead which could have helped the agency prevent the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
King's false view that Muslims have not cooperated to help law enforcement has also been challenged by members of the intelligence community and law enforcement in other parts of the country. One example is Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who this month said Muslim Americans have played a pivotal role in his area in fighting terrorism and other crime.
King's crusade has been likened to McCarthyism, a term used to describe the antics of Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. In the 1950s, at the height of America's Cold War with the former Soviet Union, McCarthy launched a series of hearings aimed at ferreting out Communists from the American government. Many of his claims of Communist infiltration were unsubstantiated. They led to one person committing suicide and caused others to lose their livelihoods and reputations. Ultimately, McCarthy was censured by the Senate for his tactics and shunned by politicians and journalists fed up with his fear mongering and harassment.
King's net is much wider. He is not targeting just government officials. His witch hunt is aimed at all Muslims in the United States, and he is capitalizing on the current trend toward Islamophobia, the only acceptable racism left. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public life found last year that opinions of Islam among Americans have declined since 2005.
War and terrorism are intimately connected with each other as Professor Robert Pape has demonstrated in his research. If Congressman Peter King really wants to eliminate terrorism, it may be prudent to look into this connection.
What is surprising is that King's call comes after almost a decade of hyper-surveillance on the Muslim community: wiretapping; tens of thousands of interrogations and detentions; consistent surveillance of mosques, which have also been checked for nuclear weapons; recording sermons; racial profiling at airports and other venues; the use of Muslim informants to spy on their own community, as well as the cooperation of Muslim leaders and the community with the FBI and other law enforcement bodies locally and nationally to fight terrorism.
We must clearly speak up for ourselves, and against this criminalization of our entire community.
I encourage all Muslims to do the following:
- To talk to your Congresspersons about this issue: Find contact information here: http://www.house.gov/
- Ask your interfaith partners to oppose these Islamophobic hearings by writing to Congressman Peter King and by meeting their Congresspersons about it.
- Please write to Peter King and ask him to ensure that his hearings are fair, and include testimony of law enforcement leaders who have regularly worked with the Muslim community, Muslim leaders recognized by the vast majority of American Muslims, as well as civil and human rights activists.
Also organize a call-in day for yourself, family, friends, and neighbors to call King and other members of the Homeland Security committee to demand fairness in these hearings.
Finally, please consider attending the hearings if you are in the area. For info and dates, please visit: http://hsgac.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.ListAll