Steve Miller, Opinions Editor:
Whether it’s for media attention or a true interest in the well-being of Americans, Representative Peter King has made his beliefs about Muslims loud and clear, for the entire world to hear.
Last month, the Republican New York representative and Homeland Security Committee
chairman held a series of hearings on the radicalization of Muslim Americans. But while King claims to draw from a long list of supporters, many both within and outside of the Muslim community have questioned his methods, reasons, and goals. Perhaps most troubling about these hearings are the ramifications and the image they have projected toward other nations—a society that marginalizes its fellow citizens based on religious affiliation.
Some have likened King’s actions to a modern day form of McCarthyism; a witch hunt of sorts that seeks out a perpetrator without any factual support and instead relies on the dated and media-induced belief that all Muslims are terrorists.
Most troubling of all are King’s previous statements and positions towards the American Muslim community. He has been quoted as saying that there are “too many mosques in this country” and that Muslims are “an enemy living amongst us.” Those are some pretty intense opinions, but it gets better. Also, according to King citing false figures, “over 80 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by radical Imams.”
By singling out a particular religious community for investigation, Peter King is going against everything he claims to wish to protect—freedom of religion, given to all American citizens under the First Amendment. Each of us has the right to practice whatever is it we believe in. Whether you’re a Southern Baptist or a full-fledged Satanist, under the Constitution you and I are able to do so without fear of persecution. These hearings not only blindingly ignore this federal right, but are the wrong way to discover the possible extent of radicalization of American Muslims.
These hearings will only perpetuate negative anti-Muslim beliefs in America today, a subject greatly debated since the 9/11 attacks.
There is no doubt our country faces threat to both homeland and international security, and I understand King’s desire to make our country a safer place to live both now and in the future. He’s even been quoted as saying, “I have said over and over again, 99 percent—more than that maybe—of Muslims in this country are outstanding Americans, but their community is being targeted. That’s why the investigation is there.”
But King’s trials only seek to question the Muslim faith and demonize an entire demographic of citizens, which is overwhelmingly questionable. The duty of out elected officials is to encourage truth and civility in a public forum, not liken one’s beliefs to that of assumed terrorist involvement.
If these trials are to be held again in the future, more emphasis needs to placed on numerous suspected terrorist organizations—not just one religious group. The Aryan Brotherhood, Environmental extremists, proven members of al-Qa’ida and dozens of other organizations which have proven to have had ties to terrorism in the United States.
And what’s to come if more of these trials for other demographics begin? Why stop at religion, why not sexuality, or the color of one’s skin? If we are talking about extremism or terrorism it should include everyone. Where do we draw the line when accusations are based solely on perceived threats, and individual opinion?
I’m not underestimating the idea that terrorism doesn’t exist in our country and that now isn’t the time to stand up and fight against unnecessary violence. But to do so by singling out Muslim Americans, King and his supporters are blatantly going against everything our nation stands for and what we project to the entire world: A nation that, despite all our collective differences, believes we all have the right to freedom of unpersecuted religious practice.