In December, Representative Peter King, the new chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, announced that he planned to hold hearings on the threat of radical Islam in America. According to King, Muslim American leaders have failed to combat extremism and that is why someone like Nidal Hassan was able to carry out an attack. Possible witnesses to testify at these hearings include Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Of course, many in the Muslim community are concerned that these hearings will turn into a witch hunt and will lead to more anti-Muslim sentiment in America by singling them out. Moreover, there is a fear that these hearings will end up branding some Muslim leaders as extremists.
Many organizations in the Muslim American community, like the Council on American Islamic Relations, argue that contrary to King’s assertions, they have been very active in working with the FBI and encouraging Muslim communities to do the same.
These hearings concern me for a number of reasons. First, I do not think that someone like Ayaan Hirsi Ali qualifies as a legitimate witness. She is quite vocal about her opposition to Islam and often makes problematic blanket statements, like claiming there is no moderate Islam.
Second, hearings like this will actually be counterproductive to the cause of pushing Muslims to work more closely with the FBI, a point argued by Representative Keith Ellison (first Muslim in the House of Representatives).
Third, these hearings will further alienate Muslim Americans. I know that sometimes I feel like I have to be even more careful of my critiques on certain topics because I am Muslim.
In order to combat homegrown terrorism, it seems to me that we need to have a more honest conversation about how the United States engages the rest of the world and the role that that plays in the current situation. In addition, we have to be more honest about the image of Islam and Muslims in American media and what consequences that has.
Ironically, King says he wants to “break down the wall of political correctness and drive the public debate on Islamic radicalization.” I never noticed that there is political correctness when it comes to an act perpetuated by someone who is Muslim. For example, look at the difference between how Hassan’s rampage was labeled versus Joseph Stacks’s flying a plane into an IRS building. The shooting in Tuscon is another example. Jared Loughner was simply called a deranged individual without any mention of terrorism even though he endangered the public and targeted a government representative. There needs to be a recognition that Muslims are sometimes dealt with differently in this country.
What do you think of Representative King’s hearings? Should the Muslim American community be singled out? Do you think that these hearings will have positive or negative consequences? Are Muslims dealt with differently? Please share your thoughts.