Why does Peter King, not Islamic terrorism, elicit outrage?
That Thursday’s congressional hearings on Islamic radicalization have provoked a greater outcry from the American Muslim community than any number of atrocities committed in their religion’s name ironically hints at the grounds for the probe.
On Sunday, several hundred demonstrators poured into Times Square, where Faisal Shahzad’s attempt to curtail the civil liberties of Americans sparked no such assembled outrage, to protest Congressman Peter King’s hearings. “To single out Muslim-Americans as the source of homegrown terrorism,” Rabbi Marc Schneier told those gathered, “and not examine all forms of violence motivated by extremist belief—that, my friends, is an injustice.”
On MSNBC, Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison, one of two Muslims in Congress, called the Homeland Security Committee’s inquest “a disturbing use of a Congressional hearing.” On Wednesday, the ACLU’s Laura Murphy warned at Politico that the inquiry “calls to mind the McCarthy hearings.” “Notice that the hearing is solely about Muslims,” the New York Times editorialized Monday. “It might be perfectly legitimate for the Homeland Security Committee to investigate violent radicalism in America among a wide variety of groups, but that doesn’t seem to be Mr. King’s real interest.”
The White House made sure to voice its displeasure with the congressional inquiry. “In the United States of America, we don’t practice guilt by association,” deputy national security adviser Denis McDonough said at a Dulles, Virginia mosque over the weekend. “And let’s remember that just as violence and extremism are not unique to any one faith, the responsibility to oppose ignorance and violence rests with us all.”
Did Peter King overlook sleeper cells plaguing Quaker Meeting Houses? What, but bigotry, explains the exclusion of Orthodox Jews from the Homeland Security Committee’s inquest? Could he have missed the wave of Episcopalian suicide bombers?
Pretending for social harmony’s sake that Islam is Hinduism is Christianity is Judaism is Zoroastrianism makes a farce out of anti-terror efforts. It does so at airport security screening, where geriatric Asian women get singled out alongside twenty-something Pakistani men. It does so in congressional hearings, which will be deemed unacceptable so long as the 21st-century Nazis and South African white nationalists who terrorize movie audiences aren’t duly represented alongside al Qaeda. Political correctness, a point of ridicule on college campuses, kills in this context.
The idea that varying religions account for equal amounts of violence is a hallucination brought on by an overdose of political correctness. In India, in Israel, in Russia, in Somalia we see diverse acts of murder committed by terrorists uniform in faith. But in America, it’s impolite to notice. The impulse to dismiss Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hasan as a crazy and to infuse politics into Tucson crazy Jared Lee Loughner’s shooting spree demonstrate the degree to which ideologues flock to the narrative when faced with uncooperative facts. Janet Napolitano’s 2009 report, “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” underscores this delusional take that the nature of the terroristic threat comes from the administration’s domestic political enemies rather than Islamists. Abstraction trumps reality.
If Peter King did call these hearings for publicity purposes, he did so better understanding the public mood than his critics. “The threat is coming from the Muslim community,” King matter-of-factly explained to the Times. “The radicalization attempts are directed at the Muslim community. Why should I investigate other communities?”
When people act differently they don’t get treated the same. This isn’t bigotry. The fact that young men populate prisons in greater numbers than old women doesn’t indicate sexism or ageism. It indicates that behaviors differ among various groups. There are surely old female murderers and young male saints. But to expend equal resources investigating both groups on the question of crime would be a colossal waste.
King’s focus on young Muslim men similarly isn’t motivated by bigotry but common sense. The liberal vision blames internal maladaptivity on the jaundiced eyes looking in from the outside. A Republican from Long Island, not Muslims killing thousands of Americas over the past decade, is responsible for the association of Islam with terrorism. But the American people don’t see it that way.
From Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab trying to unleash explosives in his underwear over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 to Faisal Shahzad leaving a car bomb in the middle of Times Square in May of 2010, the elaborate plots aiming to kill large numbers of Americans stem almost exclusively from young men practicing Islam. Why shouldn’t Peter King investigate this?
This isn’t, in the words of the New York Times, the stuff of a “show trial.” It is the stuff a Homeland Security Committee examines.
Daniel J. Flynn is the author of A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008), Intellectual Morons (Crown Forum, 2004), and Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002). He has appeared on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, Sky News, PBS, CSPAN, and other broadcast networks. He writes a Monday column for Human Events and blogs at www.flynnfiles.com.