New York Congressman Peter King, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, launched hearings into the influence of radical Islam in America today. This congressional probe has angered many who consider King nothing more than a modern day “Joseph McCarthy” who is promoting “Islamophobia draped in an American Flag.” King has also been accused of hypocrisy due to of his past support for the Irish Republican Army, and for his alleged intolerance of Islam that rivals the anti-Catholicism encountered by the wave of new immigrants in the 19th century who shared Rep. King’s Catholic faith.
Others see King’s hearings as a shameless attempt to elevate his stature in American politics, and claim his crusade will only lead to a culture of distrust and thus less cooperation from Muslim Americans in criminal investigations of terrorist activity.
Those accusations represent various streams of thought in American society. However, concerns about Islamic terrorism have prompted many to support King’s initiatives, including prominent Muslim Americans. Asra Nomani- a journalism professor at Georgetown University and author of Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam-has penned an intriguing defense of King’s hearing in the Washington Post. She says extremism is a threat in Muslim-American communities and that it needs to be confronted openly:
“Instead of circling the wagons with a public relations campaign of victimization, Muslims should rise to the occasion and honestly discuss what we all know: there is a very real interpretation of Islam inside our communities that threatens to convert our youth and others to extremism. It is expressed through publishing houses, imams, YouTube videos, websites and arm-chair ideologues.We need to have an open conversations about how extremist Islam gets into the heads of Muslims such as would-be Time Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hassan and so many others. We need to own up to the fact that some within Islam have a problematic interpretation, and we need to have the moral courage to be honest about it. We will not shame ourselves. We will not shame Islam. There is no shame in honesty. In fact, I think we would engender more good will--and invite less anger and rage by folks frustrated by our stonewalling.”
Peter King will make many enemies with his investigation of Radical Islam in the United States. As Americans determine whether or not they will support his congressional hearings, they should not just listen to the personal attacks on King himself, but also to the voices of Muslim-Americans who warn of the need for due diligence in the face of extremism. We should never view all Muslims through the prism of Islamic terrorism. Neither should we necessarily compare King’s actions to those of anti-Muslim bigots who fail to separate the actions of the few from the peaceful presence of the majority.