Peter King's Muslim hearings: more questions than answers
By Hussein Rashid
Approximately half-way through the King hearings today, I am struck by how nebulous the purpose of the hearings are. I am unclear as to why Rep. King has called them, and what goals they will serve. The congressional panel spoke to the confused nature, with Rep. Keith Ellison pointing out that the very name of the hearings, "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community's Response," which presupposes guilt, not just of individuals, but of the entire community.
Other witnesses also seem unclear. Some witnesses are focusing on non-cooperation of Muslim American organizations with law enforcement. Zuhdi Jasser even suggests that speaking to law enforcement with an attorney is non-cooperation, not an exercise of one's rights. So this particular line of reasoning, non-cooperation, is also ill-defined. I think most Americans would be aghast if they were told that exercising their rights is an un-American activity.
Mr. Bledsoe and Mr. Bihi both spoke of the losses in their family, and my heart go out to them. However, what they described was recruitment by gang-like methods. This approach has been identified by both the NYPD and the LAPD, and is not unique to the Muslim community. Then Mr. Bihi says that the same criminals who recruited his son did not want him to speak to the police. This event is held up as an example of non-cooperation. Is it really surprising that criminals do not want engagement with police? It is a poor example that seems to chase a point that cannot be made. Rep. Jackson-Lee raised the question --How can you say that Muslim do not cooperate when you have Muslims on today's panel?
Another track is pointing out CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator. Sarah Posner, at Religion Dispatches, talks about the problem with this label. She points out that this label was applied to 200 American Muslim groups, and that a court ruling has come down saying that the use of the label violates the Fifth Amendment and DOJ policy. However, bashing CAIR seems to be a key focus of the hearings. CAIR is a professional media and political organization that can defend themselves, so why bring the entire Muslim-American community into Republican concerns about CAIR? It seems that these hearings are in part an attack on one organization.
If Americans feel that these hearings are un-American, it's because there is no clarity. It seems like a violation of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and by focusing on a religious group by virtue of their religion, and determining who Muslims can associate with, is also a violation of multiple clauses of the First Amendment. I really wish Peter King had done more homework and really tried to figure what he wanted to do to keep America safe, instead of going after a group of people based on their religion.
Hussein Rashid, is a specialist on Islam in America. He has taught at Hofstra University, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and Virginia Theological Seminary. He is currently an Associate Editor at Religion Dispatches
By Hussein Rashid |
March 10, 2011; 12:22 PM ET
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Posted by: secularcitizen | March 12, 2011 2:07 PM
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