Friday, December 24, 2010

Channeling Joe McCarthy

In an op-ed piece in Long Island's Newsday news paper this past Sunday, Congressman Peter King wrote an article justifying his intention to hold hearings on Muslims in America and domestic terrorism.In it Rep. King noted an abrupt change in his attitude toward Muslim Americans after 911 based on a remark by an individual Muslim (uttered in the heat of the moment during a contentious discussion) in which this individual indicated, not that the terror attacks were in any way justified, but that they might have been the work of someone other than a Muslim extremist group- a remark Mr. King says, the public record to the contrary notwithstanding, were never properly repudiated by Muslim leaders. In point of fact, it was not only retracted by the individual who made it, but denounced publicly over and over again- a fact to which I can personally attest.

Even if it wasn't, no one has demanded that I or any other Christian leader publicly apologize for the remarks of Terry Fox, the infamous would-be Quran-burner of central Florida and therein lies the crux of the issue. Peter King, is an elected representative of the US government who is sworn to uphold the constitution. That includes the right to be an individual whose patriotism is not subject to congressional hearings because someone else makes a statement that offends- even if it offends your local congressman. It is a sad commentary on Mr. King's own character that his opinion of an entire religion is apparently turned 180 degrees because of one or even a few ill-thought-out remarks, but it is worse when he uses his office to initiate a witch hunt against a group which, also contrary to what he claims, the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well as our local police commissioner have lauded for their cooperation with law enforcement in the fight against terror. But facts rarely matter when political opportunism rears its ugly head. Muslims are a vulnerable group, easy to victimize under the guise of concerns about security. A few well publicized incidents of domestic terror recruiting among Muslims in America, provide the excuse and anxiety about Islam and Muslims the fuel for a return to the Joe McCarthy-style congressional witch hunts that cast a shadow over our democracy, ruined countless innocent lives and disgraced our nation in the early 1950's. Is the threat of domestic terrorism real? Of course it is- not only or even primarily from Muslim extremists, but from right wing religious extremists in the mold of Timothy McVeigh, from so-called "sovereign citizens," armed militias and a number of other groups, the majority of which have nothing to do with Islam- extremist or otherwise. But King apparently doesn't see a political pay-off in going after domestic terrorism in general. Instead, he is picking on a vulnerable minority, cynically exploiting the fears of Americans and like his predecessor, Senator McCarthy, bringing shame to this nation, even as his enemies rejoice that America seems to be at war with Islam after all.
Shame on you Congressman King, shame on you!