By Arab News
THE Muslim Americans find themselves in the spotlight all over again. Representative Peter King has taken it upon himself to “save America” from Islam and Muslims, claiming that the community is a clear and present danger to the Land of the Free. The Congressman from New York claims that 85 percent of mosques in the US are run by terrorists and that the Muslim community has not just failed to “stop the radicalization” in its midst, it has become a grave threat to the country. So King has been holding his own court, conducting “public hearings” about the threat of “extremist Islam” to the American way of life.
Now the great melting pot that America is, it has its fair share of all sorts of freaks and fruitcakes. So these rants by King shouldn’t excessively worry the thriving Muslim community in the US or the American society at large. But King is not just like any other politician or lawmaker. He heads the powerful House Homeland Security Committee.
The issue is so serious that in the run-up to the hearings, the White House had to issue a statement affirming its faith in the Muslim community. Several rights groups have also held demonstrations protesting against King’s hearings that are completely one-sided and unabashedly pander to religious extremists and white supremacists. Many in the US media, including the New York Times, have condemned King’s rants against Muslims and ridiculous claims about the community being some sort of fifth column as being “foolish and dangerous.”
However, the damage inflicted by King’s dangerous shenanigans is likely to last long and is bound to add to the woes of the diverse minority community that has already been pushed to the margins after the outrage of 9/11 strikes. Islamophobia in the US and across the Atlantic in Europe has already touched alarming levels. Memories of the storm set off by the vicious campaign against a community center-mosque near the World Trade Center and a Florida priest’s threat to burn the Holy Qur’an last year are still fresh in the minds of Muslims.
The Muslim community has demonstrated admirable restraint, courage and understanding to deal with the blistering wave of anti-Muslim sentiment following the 9/11 attacks and has bent over backward to address the US authorities’ demands and concerns about potential terrorists in its midst. This despite the fact that nearly half of terror plots were thwarted with the help provided by Muslim groups. As Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Boca insisted at the hearing on Thursday, the Muslim Americans have played a crucial role in “securing our homeland.” More important, the majority of terror attacks since 9/11 were plotted by non-Muslims, especially white supremacists and Christian extremists. Examples include the failed Martin Luther King parade bomber; Jared Lee Loughner, the Arizona shooter who killed six people and Joseph Stack who flew his plane into an IRS building last year. At least a thousand hate groups and anti-government zealots currently operate in the US. So this targeting and demonization of Muslims is not just absurd, it’s downright dangerous. Especially by someone like King who not long ago defended the terrorist attacks by the IRA. That such a hate campaign should be encouraged and tolerated by the Republicans, one of the two main political parties, is most unfortunate and disturbing. For the nuts like King are not just a threat to Muslims and religious peace, they’re a mortal danger to the very idea of America.