Magazine article The National Interest

Muslims in America

Magazine article The National Interest

Muslims in America

Article excerpt

On March 10, Representative Peter King (R-NV), who has alleged that the vast majority of U.S. mosques are run by extremists, held a hearing on radicalization of Muslims in America. The event generated an astonishing reaction--from just about everyone. Demonstrators, both in favor of his position and against, gathered outside Mr. King's offices on Long Island. The congressman requested additional security, and Capitol police were deployed to protect the hearing room as well as his workplace in Washington. Some pundits praised Mr. King for speaking the unspeakable on a topic usually beleaguered by political correctness. The Tea Party Patriots' Facebook page urged supporters to call and stand behind Congressman King for his courage. But there were others who lambasted him for his lack of political sensitivity, pointing out that non-Muslim domestic terrorists are greater in number than Muslim ones. And Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) held up a copy of the Constitution while arguing that the hearing could well violate laws against religious discrimination: "this hearing today is playing right now into al-Qaeda, around the world." Meanwhile, Keith Ellison (I)-MN), one of two Muslims in the House, was unable to hold back tears as he recalled a Muslim paramedic who died while responding to the terrorist attacks of September 11.

Certainly Mr. King has had quite a lot to say about Muslims in America--much of it seemingly inflammatory.

"There is a real threat to the country from the Muslim community, and the only way to get to the bottom of it is to investigate what is happening."

"Over 80 percent of the mosques in this country are controlled by radical imams. Certainly from what I've seen and dealings I've had, that number seems accurate."

"85 percent of American Muslim community leaders are an enemy living amongst us"; "no (American) Muslims" cooperate in the war on terror.

"The average Muslim, no, they are loyal, but they don't work, they don't come forward, they don't tell the police."

"When a war begins, we're all Americans. But in this case, this is not the situation. And whether it's pressure, whether it's cultural tradition, whatever, the fact is the Muslim community does not cooperate anywhere near to the extent that it should."

How do we disentangle truth from provocation in this list of "observations"?

The congressman is right about the growing threat of violent Muslim extremism. The problem is he mischaracterizes the source. American mosques are not at the heart of the threat any more than is the Muslim community. Just as there is a difference between those who oppose abortion on religious grounds and those who target and kill abortion providers, there is a difference between the Muslim community and Muslim terrorists. But it is also wrong to claim, as some have suggested, that because they are greater in number and commit more crimes, white-supremacist and antigovernment groups pose more of a threat to national security than do Muslim extremists. Indeed, it is precisely because the threat of violent Muslim extremism is so serious that Mr. King's rhetoric is so dangerous.

The al-Qaeda movement has deliberately attempted to tailor its message to attract American youth, even encouraging them to act on their own, at home. Most of the American Muslims who are joining this jihad were not brought up to believe in the Salafi teachings that undergird the al-Qaeda ideology. Instead, the idea of jihad has become an extremely dangerous global trend. For a very small segment of young people across the world, it is a cool way of expressing dissatisfaction with a power elite--whether that elite is real or imagined; whether power is held by totalitarian monarchs or by liberal parliamentarians. And like all fads, this one too shall pass. But the threat is likely, in my view, to get worse before it gets better, both on our shores and further abroad. …

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