Today marked the start of House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King’s hearings, titled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.”
These hearings have been the focus of much controversy, and rightfully so – they are needlessly divisive and based on stereotypical assumptions about Muslim-Americans and their cooperation with law enforcement.
Tanenbaum shares the concern of those who believe that violent extremism should be on the table, and that means not only extremism among the Muslim community. Early in February, we signed onto a letter condemning the hearings which stated, in part:
“Singling out a group of Americans for government scrutiny based on their faith is divisive and wrong. These hearings will inevitably examine activities protected by the First Amendment, an affront to fundamental freedoms upon which our country was founded. It harkens back to hearings held in the 1950s by then-U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy. That dark chapter in our history taught us that Congress has a solemn duty to wield its investigatory power responsibly… If Chairman King is suggesting that American Muslims are somehow less American – simply by virtue of their faith – then that is an affront to all Americans.” (Read the full letter.)
Now, as the hearings begin, we redouble our opposition to these stereotype-laden hearings:
- Representative King continues to perpetuate myths, when he announces (without data) that 80-85% of American mosques are run by extremists, a statistic that has no basis in reality. In fact, experts have found that mosque attendance is a factor in preventing extremism.
- A study by the Triangle Centre on Terrorism and Homeland Security found that nearly half the cases of terrorist plots investigated in recent years were the result of tips from the Muslim-American community – hardly the sign of a community that refuses to cooperate with law enforcement.
In his opening statements this morning, King said his hearings "must go forward, and they will." He added that backing down would amount to a "craven surrender to political correctness." And he closed by referring to the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, stating that, "we cannot allow the memories of that tragic day to fade away. We must remember that in the days immediately following the attack, we are all united in our dedication to fight back against Al Qaeda and its ideology."
He is correct that we cannot forget the tragedy of 9/11. But he is wrong to conflate “Al Qaeda and its ideology” with the American Muslim population at large. American Muslims also died on 9/11. American Muslims also were first responders on that terrible day. American Muslims are part of the fabric of the U.S. To single them out for investigation or to imply that because of their faith they are necessarily linked with terrorism is simply unacceptable in our democratic, pluralist society.
We condemn any violence done in religion’s name as a betrayal of the fundamental values that unite us as Americans and as global citizens. And it is certainly the responsibility of our government to root out domestic terror. But to attempt to do so by singling out one community for special scrutiny – a community that already suffers from widespread stereotyping and misplaced hatred – does not effectively accomplish that objective, and serves only to amplify that stereotyping and hatred.
Please stand with us, against violent extremists, and against the targeting done by the King Hearings.