Talk Against Talk: Demonization of Rep. King’s Hearings on Domestic Muslim Radicalization

It is fully consistent to respect Islam and inquire about Islamist radicalization in America. To suggest otherwise — to suggest that inquiry into Islamist radicalization promotes discrimination, or Islamophobia — itself foments suspicion, furthers mistrust, and guarantees a space for Islamist radicalization.

Yet where there should be a dialogue, where there should be an open inquiry, there is bizarre partisan warfare.

Last Thursday, the House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing entitled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.”

Witnesses included M. Zuhdi Jasser, President and Founder, American Islamic Forum for Democracy; Abdirizak Bihi, Director, Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center; Melvin Bledsoe (father of a radicalized son); and (by written testimony only) Sheriff Leroy Baca, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Chairman King noted that he had said “repeatedly said the overwhelming majority of Muslim-Americans are outstanding Americans and make enormous contributions to our country.” Some of his past statements have been less temperate. To suggest that a man who has been intemperate cannot nevertheless do the right thing is to say that a man who said, “if they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” cannot nevertheless deliver a beautiful speech in Tucson. While we’re expecting the worst, our politicians often do better than expected.

But the Democrats, on this issue, appear to have encamped around the proposition that any (Republican) inquiry into Islamist radicalization and recruitment is “Islamophobia” — at least unless it includes inquiry into all manner of other extremism.

  • Bennie Thompson (D-Miss) urged the Chairman “to hold a hearing examining the homeland security threat posed by anti-government and white supremacist groups.” “I cannot help but wonder how propaganda about this hearing … will be used to inspire a new generation of suicide bombers,” said Thompson.
  • “The narrow scope of this hearing is discriminatory,” said California congresswoman Laura Richardson.
  • “We are seeing a very skewed discussion,” Californian congresswoman Jackie Speier said. “We should also be investigating the Army of God and their website, in which they openly praise Christian terrorists, as part of an effort to look at homegrown terrorism in this country.”
  • “This hearing today is playing into al Qaeda right now around the world,” Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) said. “It is diminishing soldiers along the front lines that are Muslim. And it is going the same route as Arizona and other states.”

It is doubtful that the hearing “played into al Qaeda right now around the world,” because it is doubtful that a hearing that featured most prominently America’s first Muslim congressman, Ralph Ellison (D. Minn.), and his condemnation of the hearing itself and anti-Muslim sentiment in America, would play well to the anti-American jihadists abroad. But even if it did, that simply confirms that no matter what we do, it will be distorted by anti-American jihadists, and so it’s best to keep doing what we do best, and that’s having the conversations of democracy.

Apart from brazen pandering, it is not necessary in every conversation to talk about every other form of extremism when you wish to focus on the one that has done the most damage. Nor would it be appropriate in the aftermath of any other form of extremist terrorist act for Congress to ignore its origins — as indeed the Senate conducted hearings on radical militias in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Why are Democrats now hostile to talking about domestic Islamist extremism? I get why Democrats don’t want to encourage anti-Muslim sentiment. That’s honorable. But when the purpose of a hearing includes a platform for Democrats — and Muslims — to condemn anti-Muslim sentiment, why the hostility?

And why the politicized hostility when the Senate has held multiple hearings on domestic Islamist radicalization for several years — without comment? Where was Sheila Jackson Lee condemning the multiple Senate hearings for “playing into Al-Qaeda right now around the world?” Democrats can convene a congressional hearing about domestic Islamist radicalization — but Republicans cannot?

This is a conversation we urgently need to have. Chairman King’s hearing was a balanced effort at promoting that conversation. To scream that it is “Islamophobic” plays directly into the hands of those who would laugh at our democratic traditions and kill us. They do not wish us to have a conversation, because they know that conversation, and the understanding that follows from it, binds us together as Americans and makes us stronger.

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11 Responses to Talk Against Talk: Demonization of Rep. King’s Hearings on Domestic Muslim Radicalization

  1. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    I don’t disagree with much of what you’ve written, Kendrick. But if American wants to protect itself from Islamic radicalization, then Muslims who oppose it must be in the forefront of speaking out against it and rooting it out. The conversation has to happen, as it did, but I’d prefer it to have happened elsewhere FIRST. Context has a tremendous influence on hearing and listening. Lots of loud angry voices stifled important issues because Chairman King wanted to be the spokesperson.

    • I agree SDS. I’m sure that’s why the prominent witnesses at the hearing were Muslim. Muslims most definitely need to be in the forefront of speaking out. But that’s not going to happen, or happen fast enough, if we’re all perpetually tripping over ourselves with politically correct Islamophobiaphobia. Also, as noted, the conversation has been happening — several times in the Senate in fact, so it’s not like Rep. King somehow broke new ground. But I agree with you in principle that some important issues got stifled by loud, angry voices, and that’s unfortunate. On the other hand, as can happen with political passions, maybe some of the loud, angry voices are calling the issue to the attention of more people, and we actually will see a better and richer national conversation about this issue. Think about how much more Americans know now about “public-sector collective bargaining,” on both sides of the issue, as a consequence of the passions in Wisconsin.

      • Snoring Dog Studio says:

        I hope that the issue is coming to the attention of more people who’ll have the kind of conversations we need. I hope that Muslims in America will realize that to be part of a democracy they have to denounce the violence among people in their culture. Loudly denounce it and denounce it often.

  2. Kendrick, You know I believe these hearings are counterproductive. It comes from King’s erroneous belief that Muslims aren’t doing enough policing of their own communities. When you start from that finger-pointing, I don’t blame people for becoming defensive.

    I believe politicized hostility has to do with the one holding the hearings. It goes beyond King’s IRA hypocrisy. He’s the one that said before about mosques being radicalized, “I’ll stand by that number of 85 percent. This is an enemy living amongst us.” He’s talked on a TV show produced by Act! for America, whose founder Brigitte Gabriel has stated, “This what we’re witnessing in the Arabic world, They have no SOUL!”

    I believe the guy has shown himself to be more anti-Muslim than anti-terror.

    • Hey Spinny, I conceded King’s prior intemperance — but I saw none of that on display at the hearing. In his opening statement, he said “the overwhelming majority of Muslim-Americans are outstanding Americans, and make enormous contributions to our society.” If the hearing is a good idea, why make it about what King has said in the past? I don’t know Rep. King personally, but maybe this process will have a civilizing influence on him as well. All good. Moreover, if the real cause of the political hostility is distaste for King (a) what does that have to do with whether we should have a hearing, and (b) that’s not what people at, or after, the hearing have actually said — and I doubt that’s driven by politeness toward King! The hostility is all about “singling out” Muslims, i.e., “Islamophobiaphobia.” I appreciate your distaste for King, but I think your view (and Snoring Dog Studio’s) about the hearing is much more nuanced that what has been passing for mainstream objection to the hearing. And that’s exactly one of the reasons we need to be having this kind of conversation.

      • You didn’t see any of that in the hearings because he promised everyone he would try not to be a jackass. 🙂 Islamophobiaphobia – I like that. Of course it’s singling out Muslims because his premise is that Muslims aren’t doing enough to police themselves, which isn’t true.

        There is Islamophobia, and it has taken up a certain segment of the Conservative side. Sites like Creeping Sharia and Jihad Watch are very popular. You only have to look at what happened in Orange County, and people screaming “Go Back Home” to Muslims. I believe King is a part of this segment.

  3. Paul Grubbs says:

    I share the “erroneous perception” that Muslims are not doing enough to police themselves. I perceive that many others share this perception. Perception is my reality. I would like for Spinny Liberal to enlighten us as to what Muslims at large are doing (not saying) to root out the malevolent ones who seek to bring Islam to war with any other religions. Political correctness will be our ultimate end to free speech.

    • “A recent study from the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security found that 40 percent of the terror attacks perpetrated by Islamic extremists or wannabes foiled with the aid of the Muslim community. That’s a large number — but that’s also because, while Islamic extremism draws a lot of eyeballs, there just haven’t been that many domestic attacks, period. The report also notes that “the number of Muslim-Americans engaged in terrorist acts with domestic targets declined from 18 in 2009 to 10 in 2010.”

      “Michael E. Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, stated, “Many of our tips to uncover active terrorist plots here in the United States have come from the Muslim community. So we have to make quite clear that the communities are part of the solution and not part of the problem.”

      They’re coming forward with information about these plots and alerting the authorities about people who they think are becoming radicalized.

      I guess that’s not enough for people. They might have to wrap themselves in the American flag and get bald eagle tattoos to prove their loyalty. 🙄

  4. lbwoodgate says:

    Kendrick,

    I have been meaning to respond to this post of yours for the last week or so but never quite found time to sit down and thoughtfully right out my counterpoints to it. Fortunately, this morning, as I reading my local daily newspaper there was a column written by Leonard Pitts in it that hits all of the points exactly as I was going with this. Really!

    Give it a read and we can discuss it in further detail if you like.

    Same Old Fear Returns

  5. Pingback: On the American Peril of Islamophobiaphobia « The Prince and The Little Prince

  6. christophe deal says:

    we should then be looking into those other homegrown extreme organizations: codepink, seiu, act up, queer nation, sds……..

    oh wait…those are democrat groups who dont even protest a democrat president for being a baby killer for openly having wars on 4 fronts. hippocracy at its finest!

    i guess its just all george bush’s fault anyway.

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