Tomorrow, Rep. Peter King, one of the most prominent anti-Muslim members of Congress (who wrote a suspense novel about a Congressman who foils an Al Qaeda plot), plans to hold the first of several hearings on the supposed menace posed by the radicalization of American Muslims.
As one who has studied the anti-Muslim movement over the course of the past few years, King’s rhetoric and tone in explaining the rationale for the hearings came right out of the playbook of Steve Emerson, Daniel Pipes, Pam Geller, David Yerushalmi, Robert Spencer and the like. Among the politician’s wild claims is one that “85%” of American mosques are controlled by “radical imams” and that Muslims are “an enemy living amongst us.
Returning to the anti-jihad mafia, King consulted closely with a number of them including Emerson. At their suggestion, he originally had planned to call Aayan Hirsi Ali, a radical anti-Muslim who has made a good living out of publishing books and telling paying audiences of the evils of Islam. She is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Another dropped witness was Walid Phares, a Lebanese Maronite Christian, darling of the anti-jihadi set, star of the lurid Clarion anti-jihadi films, Third Jihad and Iranium, and former Washington DC representative of the Lebanese Phalange, which brought the world among other things, Sabra and Shatilla. The radical right was also under the impression King would call Emerson and Spencer to testify. But he caved on this as well.
Despite this, elements of King’s harsh anti-Muslim viewpoint remain in the form of a few of the guests. The most noted one being Zuhdi Jasser, a right-wing Republican neocon who is the favorite “good Muslim” trotted out by people like Emerson. Glenn Beck has called him the “Muslim that we were all searching for after 9-11” and “a voice I trust.” Considering how much Beck hates Muslims, that should tell you a good deal about Jasser’s views of his co-religionists. I’ve profiled Jasser several times in this blog. I even earned a polite request from his lawyer to edit a post I wrote about him (which I naturally refused to do). Media Matters has also profiled him. Unlike Christian Arab Muslim haters like Phares and Brigitte Gabriel, Jasser is Muslim, though a harsh critic of just about everything in American Islam. He’s such a favorite that he’s been the star of not one, but two Clarion Fund films which posit a conspiracy by this country’s Muslims to topple the government and Constitution and replace it with Sharia law. Clarion, you’ll recall, is the producer of a total of three films which take aim at various alleged Islamic conspiracies against western values, the latest one being Iranium, which advocates a military strike against Iran. Clarion is an arm of the pro-settler group, Aish HaTorah.
The N.Y. Times has exposed Rep. King’s own ties to terrorism in his avid fundraising on behalf of the Irish Republican Army, when it was designated a terror group by the U.S. government. The fundraising done in this country for the IRA was largely used to purchase and devise bombs and other weapons used in the IRA struggle against British rule in Northern Ireland. In fact, he defended the IRA’s deadly attacks on civilians:
“If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the I.R.A. for it.”
King even complained that the Secret Service was investigating him for his close ties to Irish terror operatives.
King’s rather unconvincing defense of his actions notes that the IRA didn’t attack Americans (with the implication being that American Muslims would). It seems to me that while the IRA may’ve been different from Al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups in some respects, they both kill/ed civilians and a lot of them. The fact that the IRA killed British civilians or Irish Protestants and Al Qaeda killed Americans seems meaningless sophistry.
The tone of these hearings invokes a similar hysteria of an earlier era, that of the House Committee on Un-American Affairs (HUAC), which rooted out so-called Reds and radicals from positions of influence in American society. This is an era of the Communist witch-hunt which most Americans today deplore as a badge of shame for this country. It seems to me that without strenuous objection to King’s hearings, he may take us down a similar road. The pols who sat on HUAC too were looking to burnish their careers and score quick, easy political points with their constituents. Like them, Peter King is looking to make a name for himself as a terrorist hunter.
But, just as HUAC was long on outrageous claims and short on results, so King is doing a deep disservice to the vast majority of American Muslims who live lives like ours, share values like ours, and seek the same goals for themselves and their families. Demonizing Muslims is a cheap shot, a political trick. It’s easy to score points on a relatively small, politically vulnerable minority. American politics has a long history of xenophobia regarding the most recent wave of immigrants. In the 19th century it was Know Nothings raving about the Irish Catholic Papist. In the 20th, it was the KKK campaigning against Blacks and Jews. In the 21st century, Muslims become the immigrants du jour of the Know Nothing American right (better known as the Tea Party).
If Peter King and his committee were serious about this subject, they would explore ALL of American Muslim life, not just alleged proclivity toward terrorism. That would be a set of hearings that would teach Americans much more comprehensively about their fellow citizens. Or alternatively, King could study radicalization of many different groups within American society, of which Muslims might be one.
King specifically rejected the latter approach in a statement that betrays his racism:
If we included these other violent events in the hearings, we’d be sending the false signal that we think there’s a security threat equivalency between Al Qaeda and the neo-Nazi movement, or Al Qaeda and gun groups. There is none.”
Mr. King added, “I’m not going to dilute the hearings by including other extremists.”
In the minds of the radical right figures I mentioned above, of course it would dilute the hearings to include other dangerous Americans prone to terrorism, because in their view Muslims are the most prone to violence. Which of course is an odious lie.
- Who Is Zuhdi Jasser, Star Witness For Rep. Peter King’s Muslim Radicalization Hearings? (loonwatch.com)
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.