mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

McCarthyism Revisited: Peter King’s Modern-day Witch Hunt

“There is nothing radical or un-American in holding these hearings,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) claimed Thursday as he launched his McCarthyite probe of American Muslims. He could not have been more wrong. If King is looking for threats to our freedoms and values, a mirror would be the place to start.

Here’s why. Imagine a young man, a Muslim, who changes in troubling ways. His two best friends become concerned, then alarmed, as the young man abandons Western dress, displays a newfound religiosity and begins to echo jihadist rhetoric about the decadence of American society. Both friends suspect that the young man has become radicalized and might even attempt some kind of terrorist attack.

One friend is Muslim, the other Christian. Does the Muslim friend have a greater responsibility than the Christian to contact the authorities? By the logic of King’s witch hunt, he does.

The Homeland Security Committee hearings that King has convened are billed as an inquiry into “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response.” In other words, King suspects that the Muslim community is somehow complicit. Individuals of one faith are implicated; individuals of another faith are not.

As Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), one of two Muslims in Congress, said in his moving testimony, King’s premise assigns “collective blame” to American Muslims. “Demanding a community response . . . asserts that the entire community bears responsibility,” Ellison said.

In his pugnacious opening statement, King noted that his plan to hold these hearings had been criticized by “special-interest groups and the media,” which he said had gone into “paroxysms of rage and hysteria” at the prospect. “To back down would be a craven surrender to political correctness,” he said. In case someone missed the point, King later said it was our duty to “put aside political correctness and define who our enemy truly is.”

King asserted that “this committee cannot live in denial.” He then went straight there – into denial – by paying no heed to the witness best situated to answer the committee’s question.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca testified in opposition to King’s premise, citing figures demonstrating that radical, extremist acts of crime are committed by non-Muslims as well, and that seven of the past 10 known terrorist plots involving al-Qaeda have been foiled in part by information provided by Muslim Americans. Baca said his officers have good, productive relationships with Muslim leaders and citizens. Law enforcement officials from other jurisdictions where there are large Muslim communities could have given similar testimony, had they been invited.

King is trying to peddle the hooey that moderate Muslims do not speak out against extremism. It took Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) to note the irony that among the committee’s witnesses were two devout Muslims – one Syrian American, the other Somali American – who were there to speak out, quite loudly, against extremism.

King, in effect, was demanding to know why he didn’t see what was taking place before his eyes. Perhaps he was distracted by the need to maintain constant vigilance for any hint of political correctness.

That’s really what King’s grandstanding is all about. The purpose of these hearings isn’t to gather information. If it were, officials of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security would have been asked to testify. In addition to inviting Minneapolis-based Abdirizak Bihi, a Somali American whose nephew was recruited by the terrorist organization al-Shabab, King could have brought in police from the Twin Cities to testify about cooperation by the Somali immigrant community.

King’s intent is theatrical, not substantive; he’s not trying to elicit facts, he’s inviting catcalls – and cheers.

It should not be so, but Islamophobia is a powerful force in American politics. There are those who will applaud King for associating the phrase “American Muslim community” with the phrase “who our enemy truly is.”

But decency is a powerful force, too. The hearing’s indelible moment came when Ellison broke down in tears. He was telling the story of Mohammad Salman Hamdani, a young Muslim who rushed into the World Trade Center to try to rescue victims just before the towers collapsed. His remains were found in the rubble.

Hamdani was not just a Muslim, Ellison said, fighting to choke out words that no one could dismiss as politically correct. He was “an American who gave everything for his fellow Americans.”

By: Eugene Robinson, Op-Ed Columnist, The Washington Post, March 10, 2011

March 11, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Congress, Democracy, GOP, Homeland Security, Islam, Islamophobia, Justice, Muslims, Politics, Religion, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Should Rep. Peter King Investigate The Catholic Church?

Rep. Peter King, the Long Island congressman who for years supported the Irish Republican Army as it waged a terror campaign to eject the British from Northern Ireland, says that track record has no bearing on his controversial decision to hold hearings this week on what he calls the “radicalization” of Islam in America.

The two examples are different, he argues, and the main reason is that unlike radical Muslims, the I.R.A. never launched attacks in the United States. (That made sense, since Irish-Americans were sending crucial material support to the I.R.A.)

“I understand why people who are misinformed might see a parallel. The fact is, the I.R.A. never attacked the United States. And my loyalty is to the United States,” King, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told The New York Times.

Okay, so how about investigating the Roman Catholic Church, another religious community — like Islam — and one to which the Irish-Catholic congressman also professes great loyalty?

As Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen pointed out on Tuesday, if Congress is going to start investigating religious groups whose members have attacked Americans, that could be bad news for the Catholic Church given the extent of the clergy sexual abuse scandal. (And Cohen’s piece was published hours before the latest shocker, the mass suspension of 21 priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia following a grand jury probe — the second since 2005 — of the sexual abuse of children by clergy in the city.)

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League jumped on Cohen — as is his wont — for citing an exaggerated figure of 100,000 possible victims of clergy abuse, noting, correctly, that the figure is more like 12,000 (though this crime is notoriously under reported). Donohue did not, however, dispute Cohen’s central premise about the problematic nature of King’s investigation of Islam, and a toll of thousands of children abused over five decades is hardly what the lawyers might call exculpatory evidence.

Little wonder that former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, a Republican, onetime FBI agent and federal prosecutor, and devout Catholic, likened some bishops to the Mafia when he was named in 2002 to be the first head of a lay oversight board to keep the hierarchy honest in its abuse-prevention policies.

Such characterizations got Keating forced out by the bishops after a year in the post, and his resignation letter still minced no words: “To resist grand jury subpoenas, to suppress the names of offending clerics, to deny, to obfuscate, to explain away; that is the model of a criminal organization, not my church.”

Of course, a congressional investigation of the Catholic Church would be met with howls of protests from the likes of Donohue and most certainly Peter King, and rightly so.

The point is that the religious community that Muslims today most clearly resemble is the Roman Catholic Church, and it was thus as recently as King’s own youth, when John F. Kennedy barely won election due to concerns that one could not be a “good Catholic” and a “good American.”

Indeed, during the campaign Kennedy famously had to assure Protestant pastors that he would never take orders from the Vatican (a pronouncement many conservative Christians today now hold against Kennedy and his Catholic heirs in the Democratic Party — sometimes you can’t win for losing).

King’s hearing set for Thursday has been compared to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, while others speculated that they would be akin to holding congressional hearings on the role of Christianity in promoting violence against gays or abortion providers.

But the Islamic-Catholic analogy is most apt.

Like Muslims in America today, Catholics were seen as foreign-born immigrants who were subject to a foreign ruler, namely the Pope in Rome, who did not recognize religious freedom and democratic governance.

The latter charges were actually true, more or less, until the reforms of the 1960s, though American Catholics took little notice of such teachings, much as American Muslims would stare blankly if asked about the latest fatwa from some imam in Iran.

(In 1928, New York Gov. Al Smith, the first Catholic nominated as a presidential candidate, was challenged by a prominent Episcopal layman to explain how he could expect to uphold the Constitution if elected while at the same time accepting the teaching in papal encyclicals. “What the hell is an encyclical?” Smith reportedly asked. He still got creamed by Herbert Hoover.)

During the 19th century a major political party was founded to combat Catholic influence, and Catholic students were unable to attend public schools without having to imbibe Protestant teachings. Catholics were subject to outbursts of popular violence, and when the pope donated a stone for the construction of the Washington Monument in 1854, an anti-Catholic mob threw it into the Potomac River. Thomas Nast’s famous 1875 cartoon, “The American River Ganges,” showed St. Peter’s Basilica in the background with mitred Catholic bishops as crocodiles attacking the United States to devour the nation’s schoolchildren.

Such sentiments were all too common, as were efforts — as Paul Moses noted in Commonweal magazine — to stop the construction of Catholic churches in U.S. cities, almost a mirror image of the fierce arguments last year against construction of the so-called “ground zero” mosque, also known as the Islamic center in Lower Manhattan.

It was King, in fact, who had a key role in fomenting opposition to the Islamic center, saying early last year that it was “particularly offensive” because “so many Muslim leaders have failed to speak out against radical Islam, against the attacks” of 9/11.

Those arguments laid the ground work for King’s subsequent charges that American Muslims and their leaders are not cooperating with authorities to thwart terrorist plots and that 80 percent of mosques in America are controlled by radical imams. Even though King has provided no evidence for the charges — and the latest research counters his claims — he is going ahead with a hearing to “test” his hypothesis.

King continued his line of argumentation on the eve of the hearing, telling the Associated Press that radical Islam is a distinct threat that must be investigated regardless of whose sensibilities are offended.

“You have a violent enemy from overseas which threatens us and which is recruiting people from a community living in our country,” King said. He could have been talking about his own Catholic community in the 1800s.

It is also interesting to note that Catholics often reacted to such denigration by trying to prove they were more patriotic than the Founding Fathers which, as Notre Dame church historians R. Scott Appleby and John T. McGreevy have pointed out, sometimes led to excesses like Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist hearings of the 1950s.

That’s a historical parallel Peter King may also want to remember.

By: David Gibson, Religion Reporter, Politics Daily, March 9, 2011

March 10, 2011 Posted by | Constitution, Equal Rights, Homeland Security, Islam, Islamophobia, Muslims, Politics, Racism, Religion, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

%d bloggers like this: