Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A King Not Fit to Lead

For all the fanfare and bluster, the US House of Representative’s Committee on Homeland Security hearings on “The Extent of Radicalisation in the Muslim Community and that Community’s Response” produced little of value. The entire affair was so shockingly ill-conceived and so poorly executed as to leave one wondering whether the committee’s chairman, New York Republican Peter King, was fit to lead.

Since King first announced the hearings, American Muslims, Arab Americans and a host of civil rights organisations feared that the effort could become a McCarthy-like witch hunt. And for good reason.

King has a long history of making virulently anti-Muslim remarks. For example, he once said “unfortunately, we have too many mosques in the country” and “85 per cent of American Muslim community leaders are an enemy living amongst us.” He charged that unlike other groups, Muslims do not volunteer to serve America. And when challenged by a journalist who said “it is clearly not the truth” that “the Muslim American community is abetting and aiding… radicalism,” King shot back “It is the truth.”

Amplifying concerns about the congressman’s views were his strong associations with individuals who have made Muslim-bashing their life’s work. They helped shape King’s views, designed his approach to the hearings (although one member of this group publicly broke with King when he refused to invite him to testify at the hearings he claimed to have inspired and designed) and have helped to promote the effort on their websites or TV and radio programmes.

Despite all the build up and fears for the worst, the best King could muster to make his case were the uncle of one of the young Somalis who was recruited from the US to go to Somalia to fight with the group Al-Shabab against the Ethiopians, who had invaded the country, and the father of the young American who was radicalised leading to his involvement in the terrorist murder of a US soldier in Arkansas. As tragic and condemnable as each of these cases was, they were unrelated anecdotes that failed to make the argument of widespread radicalisation and the systematic failure of American Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement.

King’s third witness, Arizona doctor Zuhdi Jasser, added nothing of value to the discussion. Jasser heads a group with few members and is best known as a Glenn Beck “long-time good friend”. He serves on a number of boards of anti-Muslim propaganda groups and frequently appears on right-wing media outlets as their Muslim voice of choice, since he can be counted on to attack Muslim organisations and to claim that Muslim Americans have become hostage of extremist ideologies and will not cooperate with US law enforcement agencies.

The bottom line was that the best King’s star witnesses could offer was two personal and tragic anecdotes and an ideological rant from a third.

For their part, Democrats were able to invite Congressman Keith Ellison, the first Muslim American Member of Congress, and Sheriff Lee Baca, the top law enforcement official from Los Angeles County. Ellison gave an emotional defence of the Muslim American community giving examples of Muslims who served the US and specific examples and data demonstrating the community’s cooperation with law enforcement agencies.

While Chairman King had based his hearing on the claim that unnamed law enforcement officials had told him that Muslim Americans would not cooperate with security efforts, Baca, the only law enforcement official on the panel, testified that exactly the opposite was true. He praised the community’s efforts, turning back every challenge from hostile committee members with specific examples of cooperation.

At the end of the session, two observations became painfully clear. The first was that King’s effort did little to advance a thoughtful and data-driven discussion about radicalisation. What also came through was the deep partisan divide that characterised the committee’s work. Democrats berated the chairman for convening an unbalanced hearing that singled out and threatened to demonise an American religious community. Some Democrats called King’s effort “McCarthy-like”, while others chided the chairman for his failure to examine other forms of radicalisation and noted the absence of testimony from experts who have studied the phenomena.

For their part, King’s colleagues on the Republican side did little more than “circle the wagons” around their leader, defending his efforts. They thanked King for holding the hearings, excessively terming the sessions as “historic” and “significant”.

The only bright spot of the day came in the immediate aftermath of the hearings when a group of leaders of major US religious communities and organisations came together to announce the formation of “Shoulder to Shoulder” — an interfaith effort to defend American Muslims. The group, which initially and informally came together last fall in the midst of the Park 51 controversy in order to defend Muslims against bigotry, has now formed itself into a permanent organisation. Founding members include: the leadership of the National Council of Churches (representing the US’s Protestant churches), heads of five major Jewish communities (Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist and the Jewish Community Relations Council), representatives from the US Catholic Bishop’s Conference, and more.

In the end, the King hearings were a bust — a shameful and wasted exercise. They created fear and hurt among Muslims, provided no useful information for law enforcement, and deepened the partisan divide. They weren’t even a good example of “McCarthyism”. Instead they were ideological folly — a suborning of an important committee’s resources to serve the chairman’s obsession with America’s Muslims, calling into question his ability to provide effective leadership on matters of homeland security.

JAMES ZOGBY is president of the Arab American Institute.

 

More articles by:
October 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Middle East, Not Russia, Will Prove Trump’s Downfall
Ipek S. Burnett
The Assault on The New Colossus: Trump’s Threat to Close the U.S.-Mexican Border
Mary Troy Johnston
The War on Terror is the Reign of Terror
Maximilian Werner
The Rhetoric and Reality of Death by Grizzly
David Macaray
Teamsters, Hells Angels, and Self-Determination
Jeffrey Sommers
“No People, Big Problem”: Democracy and Its Discontents In Latvia
Dean Baker
Looking for the Next Crisis: the Not Very Scary World of CLOs
Binoy Kampmark
Leaking for Change: ASIO, Jakarta, and Australia’s Jerusalem Problem
Chris Wright
The Necessity of “Lesser-Evil” Voting
Muhammad Othman
Daunting Challenge for Activists: The Cook Customer “Connection”
Don Fitz
A Debate for Auditor: What the Papers Wouldn’t Say
October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Suyapa Portillo Villeda
An Illegitimate, US-Backed Regime is Fueling the Honduran Refugee Crisis
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail