Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Is McCarthyism Being Revived by Representative Peter King?

Is McCarthyism Being Revived by Representative Peter King?

MAS Freedom conducts Activism workshop on Islamophobia at National Conference

"Are you now, or have you ever been, associated with the religion of Islam? This is not an absurd question, but one that very well may be directed to individuals who may be subpoenaed to testify before a future hearing called by Representative Peter King(R-NY) before the Department of Homeland Security. King will be the new committee chairperson in January for the House Committee on Homeland Security, replacing the outgoing Chair Representative Bennie Thompson(D-MS.

The issue that Representative King would like to investigate is what he believes to be the growth of Islamic radicalism in America, and presumably, the failure of national Muslim leaders and organizations to address it. Mr. King expressed his views in a recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal. Presumably, some of his Republican House colleagues, including ones who have been at the forefront of public anti-Muslim rhetoric, will join him in his interrogations.

But for many people, these hearings bring up memories of a tragic episode in the America of the 1950s American history when Right-wing zealots, led by then-Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, dragged people before a House Committee on Un-American Activities. These hearings targeted numerous Americans, who had committed no crimes against their government of fellow citizens, and accused them of being pro-Communist dupes of the Soviet Union. This crusade against Left activists, intellectuals, and notable persons in the entertainment industry resulted in the destruction of reputations, livelihoods, and even actual lives.

It may be that Rep. King, who has expressed no fear at being characterized as an anti-Muslim bigot, wants to do the same thing now to Muslims in America that Joe McCarthy did for suspected Socialists more than 50 years ago.

Conventional wisdom has always suggested that global Islam has replaced global Communism as the primary threat to the U.S. national security establishment, and the actions of hostile networks like Al Qaeda, Al Shabab, and the Taliban in Afghanistan give some substance to this evaluation. But Representative King's relentless focus on the "homegrown" threat of what he calls "Islamic radicalism" is an invitation to accelerate the same unjust attacks on Muslim leaders and national organizations that characterized the "Red Scare" antics of "Tail Gunner Joe".

And as long as our organizations are viewed with hostility and suspicion, law-abiding Muslims will be unjustly painted with the brush of collective guild for the malfeasance of a small minority of Muslims in America who have actually been involved in illegal or violent activities that actually threaten the security of the people of this nation.

Rep. King should understand that Muslim leaders and organizations in America have indeed condemned extremism, and in fact two organizations-the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Muslim American Society-have been commended in a 2010 congressional reports for work to counter the attempted radicalization of American Muslim youth. Moreover, there are many examples of ongoing interfaith dialogue in America and positive Muslim civic engagement with the larger society.

What is likely to emerge from these hearings is not a deeper understanding of "Islamic" radicalism, or even the legitimate exposure of threats to our security, but rather, another round of taxpayer-funded Muslim bashing that whips up even more divisive xenophobia and religious bigotry in the nation. Perhaps Rep. King should leave the real detective and law enforcement work to the professionals at DHS.

MAS Freedom will address issues related to the Muslim community response to Islamophobia and unprincipled attacks on our collective civil rights at in a workshop on "Muslim Activism 101", to be held at the upcoming MAS-ICNA conference in Chicago, IL from December 23rd to December 26th, 2010. We encourage members of our community to join us in learning more about how we can collectively respond to these threats against Muslims in America while building more positive civic engagement.