On the upcoming Muslim hearings...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I think Ruth Marcus' take on Congressman (NY-R) Peter King's upcoming hearings regarding "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community's Response" is a thoughtful one, but I can't say I agree with it. 
Marcus writes that, on the one hand, we can't hold an entire community or faith responsible for acts that are carried on in its name, but that on the other hand we can't let political correctness prevent us from asking difficult questions.

But the unavoidable fact is that, however much violent terror reflects a distortion of the tenets of Islam, it is not only practiced by adherents of the religion but practiced in its name.
To ignore the religious nature of the terrorist threat is to succumb to politically correct delusion. To ignore the homegrown religious nature of the terrorist threat is to succumb even further.
As Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified last month before the House Committee on Homeland Security, "One of the most striking elements of today's threat picture is that plots to attack America increasingly involve American residents and citizens." 
Napolitano wasn't referring to right-wing militias or lone-wolf crazies. She was talking about "terrorist groups inspired by al-Qaeda ideology." And, she pointed out, "This threat of homegrown violent extremism fundamentally changes who is most often in the best position to spot terrorist activity, investigate and respond."
True enough. But there is a difference between investigating political radicalism and investigating an entire community. This difference is spelled out by Congressman Keith Ellison, who is quoted at the end of Marcus' column:
"It's absolutely the right thing to do for the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee to investigate radicalization, but to say we're going to investigate a religious minority . . . is the wrong course of action to take," Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison 
The biggest problem with King's hearings is Peter King himself. King appears to be supremely ill-equipped to lead the sort of sober, valuable discussion about Muslims and US security agencies that would be worth having. King's record of incendiary and ignorant statements about Muslims in the US (such as his claim that 85% of mosques in the US are run by radicals, his divisive role in the Muslim-community-center-in-NYC episode, and his attacks on the leadership of Muslim organizations in the US) make it unlikely that any light will be generated from the hearings. Indeed, the hearings instead seem destined to accomplish little other than making American citizens angry at one another. 
Without question, there are problems today developing between American security agencies and Muslim communities. Many Muslims in the US do indeed seem wary of getting in touch with the FBI, an organization that is increasingly viewed by Muslim-Americans as inherently hostile to their community. This issue of mutual distrust is one that needs to be resolved. But King's hearings, I fear, will just make things much worse. 
The goal of people like King should be the reconciliation of communities, bringing Muslim community leaders into efforts to fight radicalism. But the reason why many Muslims in this country distrust the FBI is because the FBI seems to distrust them

If King were to create hearings that were actually designed to seek out  solutions to growing distrust among non-Muslim Americans towards Muslims and among American Muslims towards the state, that would be a discussion worth having. But the possibilities of anything constructive coming out of King's hearings--or of the hearings not simply serving to increase anger and suspicion among both Muslims and non-Muslims in this country--at this point seem really remote.