Rep. Peter King held his second round of Homeland Security subcommittee hearings on the radicalization of Muslim Americans. This time the focus was on radicalization in our prison system and the threat it poses to the USA, some witnesses and Congressmen termed the concept “prislam,” a silly neologism that gives me headaches just hearing. Here’s hoping the word doesn’t take off.
It must be repeated from the very beginning that King is tarnished by his past Islamophobic and anti-Muslim comments. A point which has been made by countless journalists as well as by fellow Congressmen/women during the first hearing. He hasn’t apologized for, or retracted, any of those comments, which makes the present populist exercise he is involved in even more deplorable.
King also lacks all credibility considering he supported IRA terrorists for over a decade. Only in the magical realism world of Washington politics would someone who supported terrorists be the chairman of a committee discussing homegrown terrorism and radicalization, unless King is now going to argue that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter?”
Now that we’ve established the serious problems with King chairing such a committee, lets get to today’s hearing. The hearing was less of a circus than the first one in March, mainly due to the absence of such clowns and non-experts as Zuhdi Jasser, Melvin Bledsoe, and co., but that doesn’t mean that it was any better.
Aside from the contribution made by Prof. Brent Useem much of the testimony was unsubstantial. Prof. Useem essentially summed it all up when he said, “Prisons are infertile ground for the growth of radicalization.” He had a mountain of evidence to back this quote up, which he submitted to the committee.
The most eloquent, touching and thoughtful questions and comments came from Rep.Hansen Clarke, Rep. Jackson Lee and Rep. Richardson, who did excellent jobs in questioning the premise of the hearings, highlighting its discriminatory nature and also providing perspective when it comes to violence and radicalization at large in our prison system.
Here are some choice cuts:
“You know what pisses me off? It’s not about Islam. It’s about the prison system,” …”It’s about the prison culture. We’ve got to change it.”
Rep. Jackson Lee:
“If we look to the informational, we should include an analysis of how Christian militants are intending to undermine the laws of this nation.”
“My political correctness is based on this document, ‘the Constitution'”.
Rep. Laura Richardson:
“I disagree with the scope of this committee, I deem that these hearings are discriminatory.”
“In the Attica and Sing-Sing prison riots, Muslims helped decrease violence and stem deaths.”
The WTF comment of the day from Michael Downing:
“Gangs as urban terrorists, the distinction is that they don’t target innocent civilians”
Peter King attempted to defend these hearings and the scapegoating that him and his colleagues are parlaying by saying,
“I have repeatedly said the overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans are outstanding Americans”…“Yet, the first radicalization hearing which this committee held in March of this year was met with much mindless hysteria — led by radical groups such as the Council of Islamic Relations and their allies in the liberal media personified by the New York Times.”
He thereby effectively made it about CAIR once again, which actually stands for Council on American Islamic Relations not Council of Islamic Relations. By doing so he dodged addressing the core criticisms leveled at him and the premise of these hearings, by not only CAIR, but a wide range of groups.
Such a hearing, aside from stigmatizing a whole group of people is also a waste of time, resources and energy,
Last year, the bipartisan Congressional Research Service determined that only a single example of homegrown terrorism stemmed from an individual who was radicalized in prison. CRS concluded that prisons, “while seen by some as potential hotbeds of radicalization, have not played a large role in producing homegrown terrorists.”
So whats all the fuss about?
Peter King wants to sharpen his hawkish GOP credentials, pander to the anti-Muslim base of his party and present an image of being tough on terror, while also continuing the scapegoating and fear-mongering of Muslim Americans.
These hearings only reinforce the point that Muslim Americans have been making the past few years, they are being unfairly targeted and feel besieged as a community. Rep. Mike Honda, a Japanese-American sympathizes, drawing on his own experience of having been interned by the USA during World War II,
Make no mistake. Growing up in internment camp Amache in Colorado was no joy ride — just look at the pictures. We were treated like cattle in those camps…We look back, as a nation, and we know this was wrong. We look back and know that this was a result of “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.” We look back and know that an entire ethnicity was said to be, and ultimately considered, the enemy. We know that internment happened because few in Washington were brave enough to say “no.”
We know all this, and yet our country is now, within my lifetime, repeating the same mistakes from our past. The interned 4-year-old in me is crying out for a course correction so that we do not do to others what we did unjustly to countless Japanese-Americans.
This time, instead of creating an ethnic enemy, Rep. King is creating a religious enemy. Because of prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of Republican leadership, King is targeting the entire Muslim-American community. Similar to my experience, they are become increasingly marginalized and isolated by our policies.
Mike Honda’s words are like a clarion call to our political elites to recognize the dangerous path this nation is headed toward. Lets hope it won’t take another internment camp scenario for our leaders to wake up.