What’s causing me a good bit of non-specific discomfort about Rep. Peter King’s hearing today ("The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response") is the premise that we should investigate if Muslims are cooperating with law enforcement in the fight against terrorism. Why isn’t he investigating the cooperation of Baptists, or Buddhists? Or the Unitarians or the Wiccans or the Scientologists?
Because they didn’t attack America on September 11? No, they didn’t; a few adherents to a twisted interpretation of Islam did. But “Muslims” as a group did not, and certainly Muslim Americans didn’t.
First, King has only a handful of anecdotal examples of Muslims not cooperating with the FBI or other law enforcement agencies in investigating homegrown terrorism; certainly nothing to justify this hearing, which could actually have been something constructive if it had been used as an opportunity for Muslims in America to talk about what they really believe.
Second, he’s wrong: research shows that law enforcement’s biggest source of help in fighting domestic terrorism comes from Muslim Americans and Muslim organizations (page 6).
Third, it shows the rest of the world just how stupid we can be at times, and might help Al Qaeda convince a few feeble-minded individuals that America really does hate Muslims.
That’s not to say that no Muslim Americans hate America or sympathize with Al Qaeda; crazy people belong to every religion—religions don’t test for crazy when they you sign up. But this hearing targets people for suspicion because of their religion, and that’s just not right.
People are not the groups they belong to. As Harry Reasoner put it, labels only lump me in among people with whom I have one thing in common. Granted, it’s much easier to stereotype…once you understand that all Irish are drunks, all Mexicans are lazy, all Hindus worship cows, and all Muslims want to kill Americans, then no hard thinking is required.