If you’ve tuned into any news network or read any paper, I’m sure you’ve seen something about Rep. Peter King, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who held the first in a possible series of congressional hearings on the “Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response.”
According to many Chairman Peter King and the whole notion of such hearings were labeled hysterical, overblown, McCarthyism and even racist. Editorials and columns appearing in publications ranging from The New York Times to the Los Angeles Times denounced the hearings.
In the weeks leading up the hearing, a group of 50 liberal organizations wrote a letter saying the hearings would have “no productive outcome in singling out a particular community for examination in what appears to be little more than a political show-trial.”
On the other side many conservatives argue that there are a lot of hearings in Congress. And they have ranged in topics. Is radical Islam in America not at least as concerning or worthy of investigation?
“If one community is engaging in terrorism “at a greater rate” than the rest of the community; and if we are at war with or on the defensive against such terrorism; and if the secretary of homeland security states, The terrorist threat facing our country “may be at its most heightened state” since 9/11; and if the attorney general can say that “homegrown terror” is “one of the things that keeps me up at night,” why should there not be 10 hearings a year?”
Those are all very valid questions, opinions, and points. And I completely agree that the extent of radicalization within the American Muslim community should be looked into and examined, but by whom. Quite frankly Chairman Peter King is asking the wrong questions of the wrong people at the wrong time. His lack of understanding risks not just isolating many American Muslims at home, but damaging America’s reputation abroad.
King has complained that American Muslims do not cooperate with the FBI and other law enforcement entities. Granted, there may well be a reluctance in some communities to trust the FBI and other law enforcement officials, but it is the FBI’s job to win and maintain trust. King’s hearings threaten, regrettably, to further strain whatever trust exists. Chairman King and these hearings should instead be having those conversations with the American Muslim community. Having those conversations of why the distrust and lack of cooperation exists. But sadly they aren’t. Immediately following the hearing King was asked what his initial reaction was to the hearing, his response was quite simple, “The message is out.”
His agenda and message were out; and that message rang loud and clear. A message that radicalization is ‘extremely extensive’ and that leadership and organizations within the American Muslim community offer either ‘useless’ or ‘zero’ aid to law enforcement agencies. Chairman King sought not to sled light on bettering community ties within the American Muslim community and law enforcement agencies or better equip these communities, but instead to send a message marginalizing their efforts and extolling the ‘extent’ of radicalization and ‘virtually zero’ cooperation.
Very telling is the fact that not a single American Muslim organization or entity was present, consulted, or contacted concerning this governmental investigation. I find it a difficult concept to grasp that in examining a community, the actual community is not involved. Oh wait– I’m sorry there were 3 individuals he consulted with and had testify, I apologize.
Leading up to and immediately following the hearing, I kept hearing the term ‘unindicted co-conspirators’ and its use as a justification why many American Muslim organizations were not consulted. What the hell is an unindicted co-conspirator? Of course that was a rhetorical question, but I suggest everyone google it and read through the legal documents and rulings regarding its use, specifically in referring to American Muslim organizations.
In a nutshell, In 2007 U.S. Federal prosecutors named 245 American Muslim organizations as unindicted co-conspirators in a Hamas funding case. A federal appeals court removed the label for all parties and sealed the list on October 20, 2010, ruling the designation was the result of,
“simply an untested allegation of the Government, made in anticipation of a possible evidentiary dispute that never came to pass.”
Yet, despite this court’s ruling, Chairman King and others are allowed to use this term as fact and justify the complete exclusion of American Muslim organizations. And yet still wonder why the American Muslim community does not trust them. To be quite honest, I am a black male born and raised in this country and I don’t trust law enforcement officials, and I will most likely raise my children not to trust them as well. (Pick up a copy of Driving While Black, you’ll understand). But that is a whole other post, It is moves exactly like this, that alienates American citizens. The government does not inspire trust nor give many reasons to trust them.
You can not continually marginalize a community’s existence, demonize them in the media, and then refuse to acknowledge and work with their representatives, leaders, and community organs. Yet that’s exactly what our government does to countless minority communities across this country as well as globally. And Chairman King wonders why this community does not trust the FBI and other law enforcement entities.
In closing Peter King is right to investigate radicalization, but he has been badly advised on how best to do this. His ill-considered approach risks undermining the good work of countering radicalism. If there are subsequent hearings, a logical starting point would be to bring in the Muslims that McDonough was addressing at the weekend, national Muslim groups such as the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, which have helped move their flocks away from radical influences.