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Why Are Peter King’s Hearings So Loathsome? Let Us Count the Ways

By Mark Potok on March 8, 2011 - 3:07 pm, Posted in Anti-Muslim

Some people seem to have great difficulty in understanding why U.S. Rep. Peter King’s hearings on radicalization of American Muslims, set to open this Thursday, are seen as so loathsome by so many. Let me try to explain.

Imagine, for starters, if another congressman — say, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a Democrat and the first Muslim elected to Congress — decided to hold hearings on the Christian fundamentalist community and the radicalization of some of its members. After all, it is undeniably fundamentalists who have formed the bulk of the extremists who have burned or bombed hundreds of abortion clinics and murdered eight providers or their assistants. The vast majority of these people have been motivated, as most have said themselves, by their interpretations of Christianity.

Well, I think you can see where this is going. You wouldn’t have time to snap your fingers before outraged Americans, metaphorically speaking, surrounded the Capitol carrying pitchforks and torches, demanding the heads of their representatives. Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, to mention just a couple of the far-right talking heads, would erupt before their Fox News audiences. After all, just think back to the self-righteous hullabaloo that broke out when a leaked 2009 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report on the radical right suggested that hate groups were interested in recruiting returning veterans with military skills. Conservatives around the country went into outrage mode, shouting to the skies that the perfectly accurate report was calling all veterans potential Timothy McVeighs. The political right is the first to scream “demonization” when it feels it is being targeted.

There’s another very good reason why the hearings organized by King, a Republican from New York who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, amount to what an editorial in today’s New York Times called “Mr. King’s show trial.” Peter King does not come to the question of radical Islam with clean hands.

This is a man who has said that 80% to 85% of American mosques are run by extremists — jihadists — and who told a reporter that “unfortunately, we have too many mosques in this country.” He says that Al Qaeda is aggressively recruiting Muslims in this country. Last month, he was the first guest on a cable television show hosted by Brigitte Gabriel, the founder of the aggressively anti-Muslim ACT! for America group and one of the more obnoxious Muslim-bashers around (the Times reported Monday that she claims radical Muslims have “infiltrated” the CIA, FBI, Pentagon and more). He claims that the vast majority of American Muslims and their leaders have refused to cooperate with law enforcement investigations of jihadists — but then says he can’t reveal his law enforcement sources.

In fact, like virtually all King’s claims, that last is baloney. As a study last month from the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security revealed, 48 of the 120 Muslims suspected of plotting terror attacks in the United States since 9/11 were turned in by fellow Muslims. What’s more, leaders of virtually all responsible law enforcement groups report that most Muslims are highly cooperative.

King is holding his version of the McCarthy hearings at a time when extremist groups in the United States — hate groups, antigovernment “Patriot” zealots and extremist vigilante organizations — are expanding dramatically. Just last month, a new Southern Poverty Law Center report showed that the number of three strands of the radical right went from 1,753 groups in 2009 to 2,145 last year. In January, authorities arrested a neo-Nazi apparently planning a bomb attack on the Arizona border; found a powerful bomb set to explode by a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade; and seized a man apparently about to bomb a Michigan mosque. And  just last week, a large group of Muslim-haters screamed a litany of insults against Muslims at a California fundraisers, terrifying their cowering children, as can be seen in video of the event (which was taken down from the Web after this blog was first posted).

But King has no interest in these threats. To him, Islam is the enemy.

The reality is that King’s hearing are about demonizing Muslims, and they are, unfortunately, very likely to accomplish that goal. After all, they come in the midst of a renewed bout of Islamophobia — a round of hatred and fear that began last summer when other opportunistic politicians ginned up alarm about the Islamic center planned for lower Manhattan. They follow by just a few months the adoption of an absurd Oklahoma law designed to prevent the introduction of Islamic religious law in the state’s courts — a law that is now being emulated elsewhere.

Ultimately, this kind of demonization leads to violence against the targeted minorities. President George W. Bush understood that, and that is why, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, he gave a number of speeches saying that Muslims and Arabs were not our enemies — Al Qaeda was. As a result, anti-Muslim hate crimes, which had spiked up an astounding 1,700% after the attack, dropped by two thirds the following year. Bush may have made many mistakes as a president, but he clearly understood that demonizing minorities ultimately leads to violence.

Words have consequences — unfortunately, even Peter King’s.

  • chris barfoot

    Peter King is not JUST a terrorist apologist or sympathiser he is a terrorist. He has the blood of many on his hands.
    None of the murders carried out by the IRA would have happened if he had not financed them.
    As for the notion that the IRA is an army at war: nonsense.
    There are a handful of ill educated, ill informed Plastic Paddies who are naive enough to believe that Northern Ireland is a “colony” of Britain which the UK is desperate to hang onto. A few seconds research would show that Niorthern Ireland CHOSE to be British in democratic elections, and that the IRA are attempting to force their wishes on the majority through a campaign of terrorism which deliberately targets civilians and children.
    If America wants to support the people of an oppressed country then donate money to Iraq. Stop funding the killing of civilians -who are mostly Irish.

  • Tom Shelley

    Since some people might come across this discussion in the next several months or years or so, I want to let people know that I discuss these issues (King, torture, the IRA, and N. Ireland) further at- http://devlin-mcaliskey.blogsp.....and-n.html .


  • Jordan

    No, Tom it’s not, when someone meets the definition perfectly that is what they are. You agree with the values of a terrorist organization, I agree with the Sons of Liberty (another terrorist organization, this one responsible for the American Revolution). Terrorists are terrorists, most are horribly evil, doesn’t mean they all are. My comparison between the CIA calling torture “enhanced interogation” and the you calling the IRA’s tactics “persuasion” rather than terrorizing is not a comparison between torture (which the IRA also engages in) and the IRA’s use of explosives. Apparently that one went right over your head, I was trying to point out that changing the wording of something doesn’t change what it is.

  • Tom Shelley

    One last comment about me “conceding” that the IRA DID spend a fair amount of time “terrorizing.” I have said or at least indicated, almost invariably (both in this discussion and on my blog) that the crucial statistic is what % of their operations intentionally resulted in civilian death. I have also said that many of the civilians they did intentionally kill were not completely innocent. I have offered evidence that the African National Congress has seen what the IRA did during The Troubles as being comparable to the ANC’s military wing during the anti-Apartheid struggle. I did say that the IRA were trying to terrorize the civilians in the British government and both the British and Unionist elites. They almost never intentionally killed people in those three groups. Considering that, “putting pressure” on them, which is what I have usually said and what I meant when I used the word “terrorize,” is more or less acceptable. They almost NEVER did anything solely intended to terrorize the general civilian population. And probably some small majority of the the time, their operations were about attacking the security forces.

    So “terrorist” is really the wrong word for the IRA.

  • Mitch Beales

    b thompson so go already and good riddance!

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “You liberal people hate everything we love. You hate us. We want nothing from you except to be free of you. Why do you fight so hard to change us. That will never happen. NEVER NEVER…We just smile and let the heathen rage….Please, let us go and you can have things the way you want. OBAMA & OSAMA CAN BE YOUR KINGS… WE’LL STICK WE ANOTHER”

    LOL what? I can’t imagine what you love, thus I can’t hate it.

  • skinnyminny

    b thompson,

    I wouldn’t say we hate everything you love. I would, however, say that we don’t agree with everything you love. We don’t agree with everything, because, the way I see it, the things you say and do have consequences – and I don’t see any of you thinking things through before acting. Sometimes I wonder if you guys wake up everyday and say, “who can we eff with today,” or “what can I eff up today.” And I think you are implying that Obama is a muslim, if so, then I think you need to question Cheney’s background – afterall, they are cousins.

  • ruben

    to b thompson….i am far from being liberal i am logical and what i do not like from you and people like you is the fact that you always need someone to blame,scapegoat and demonize to justify what your real motives are…. which more often than not are racial ,religous and gender bigotry……you say that you want to be free from people that will not accept your hate but i guarantee you that if only people of your opinion were living together it would only be a matter of time before you guys would turn on each other because that is what you guys know best….just the fact that you compare obama with osama exposes you for what you really are and proves my point…..but i guess what really upsets you the most is that this is no longer 1920 and you cannot get away with your flagrant bigotry without consequences….we have a black president and it eats you up….too bad!!…..get over it!!

  • b thompson

    You liberal people hate everything we love. You hate us. We want nothing from you except to be free of you. Why do you fight so hard to change us. That will never happen. NEVER NEVER…We just smile and let the heathen rage….Please, let us go and you can have things the way you want. OBAMA & OSAMA CAN BE YOUR KINGS… WE’LL STICK WE ANOTHER

  • Tom Shelley


    Your second point. I have no idea how you cam compare the use of arms by the IRA with the use of torture by the CIA. The British government and military shouldn’t have been occupying part of Ireland- they were seen, by almost all the Catholics and a small minority of Protestants as, to one degree or another, a foreign and hostile occupying force (I’d say something sort of similar about the years since the Good Friday Agreement). Using force to get freedom in such a situation is legitimate. Also, the Republican Movement (Sinn Fein and the IRA) didn’t just use force, they also organized marches and rallies and used political power to preassure the government and elites.

    The African National Congress and specifically Nelson Mandela have expressed support for the IRA One of the examples is at- . Another is that, according to Tom Hayden in a online article for The Nation, ANC prisoners of war considered going on a hunger strike in solidarity with Irish Republican hunger-strikers in N. Ireland in 1981. According to the Irish Voice, in 1992 Nelson Mandela, on British TV, said that he supported the IRA. In 2005 a member of the government in South Africa who had been part of the armed struggle there compared what he did with what the IRA did. The point of all this is that the IRA were preassuring the British government and the British and Unionist elites pretty much the same way as the ANC’s military wing were preassuring the forces of Apartheid.

    Going back to your first comment, you wrote this, staring with a quote from me: “‘Once again, you don’t define a n organization by what they do some very tiny % of what they do.’ So their purpose wasn’t to scare the British into leaving Ireland? And they didn’t do this by killing people, ever?”

    At no point have I said they weren’t trying to get the British government and military out of Ireland, and I NEVER said that they didn’t kill people, ever.


  • Jordan

    “Once again, you don’t define a n organization by what they do some very tiny % of what they do.” So their purpose wasn’t to scare the British into leaving Ireland? And they didn’t do this by killing people, ever?
    “Preassuring them is a much better term to use, which I have used almost all the time.” Yes “pressuring” them, using explosives. Is that like how the CIA “enhanced” their “interrogation” techniques using pain (which they claim still doesn’t make it torture)?

  • http://yahoo ruben

    i would like to know where any of these holier then thou republican/tea party politicians are gonna speak out against the white right wing groups….every time they hold some type of event they openly display confederate flags and flags with the swastika symbol didn’t the government that these two flags represent kill tens of thousands of americans?…..where is the outrage……hypocrites!