Congressman Peter King of New York is the incoming Chairman of the House’s Homeland Security Committee. In that capacity, he intends to conduct hearings on the reasons for the radicalization of some American Muslims. He has explained his intention in some detail on his own web site:
Before 9/11, few if any American politicians had a closer relationship with the Muslim community and its leadership than I did. During my first months in Congress in 1993, I traveled to the Balkans – including Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo – to support that region’s Muslims from aggression by Serbian Orthodox Christians. I was one of a bare handful of Republicans who supported President Bill Clinton’s military offensives in Bosnia in 1995 and Kosovo in 1998.
I attended the Islamic Center of Long Island (ICLI) in Westbury on a regular basis, visited socially with local Muslim leaders, had Muslim students intern in my office, and advocated for Pakistan’s position against India in Kashmir. Indeed, in 1995 the ICLI honored me for my “support of the Muslim community in general” and my “advocacy of human rights in Bosnia and Kashmir.”
In the days following 9/11, I made several television and radio appearances supporting American Muslims, saying that they had nothing to do with the attacks and were as loyal and patriotic as any Americans. I particularly warned that we could not do to Muslims what was done to Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor.
Unfortunately, Rep. King found that not all American Muslims saw the September 11 attacks as he did:
Even today I cannot begin to describe the disappointment, anger and outrage I felt when, barely a month after those attacks that killed so many hundreds of Long Islanders, prominent Long Island Muslim leaders were insisting there was no evidence that al-Qaida was responsible for the attacks – even saying it could have been the CIA, the FBI or the Zionists! …
As I became more immersed in attempting to unravel the radical Islamic threat to our nation and our civilization, it became more and more obvious to me that the moral myopia of Long Island’s Muslim leaders and their apologists in the media was the rule – and that there were few exceptions.
Federal and local law enforcement officials throughout the country told me they received little or – in most cases – no cooperation from Muslim leaders and imams. …
Al-Qaida has adjusted to this new reality and is recruiting Muslims living legally in the United States – homegrown terrorists who have managed to stay under the anti-terror radar screen. This is why the hearings I will hold next year are so critical.
In the past 15 months we saw Najibullah Zazi, who was raised and educated in Queens, attempt to attack the New York City subway system with liquid explosives, using skills he learned in terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. We learned about Zazi by chance when his name came up on a wiretap. The case was almost compromised when a Queens imam – ostensibly cooperating with the New York City Police Department – tipped off Zazi.
Then there was Nidal Hasan, the Army major accused in the murder of 13 innocent people at Fort Hood last year. And Faisal Shahzad, an American citizen trained in Pakistan, who attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square in May. There have also been the recent arrests of homegrown Muslim terrorists in Texas, Chicago, Virginia, Riverdale, North Jersey, San Diego and Portland, Ore.
To anyone who follows the news, the growing threat of home-grown terrorism is obvious. King is careful, as always, not to indict all or most Muslims:
The great majority of Muslims in our country are hardworking, dedicated Americans. Yet a Pew Poll showed that 15 percent of Muslim Americans between 18 and 29 say suicide bombing is justified. I also know of imams instructing members of their mosques not to cooperate with law enforcement officials investigating the recruiting of young men in their mosques as suicide bombers. We need to find the reasons for this alienation.
There’s a disconnect between outstanding Muslims who contribute so much to the future of our country and those leaders who – for whatever reason – acquiesce in terror or ignore the threat.
Most would consider this a reasonable, balanced approach. If it is true that many imams urge their parishioners–if that is the word–not to cooperate with law enforcement, the fact should be brought to light.
Predictably, Rep. King’s intended hearings have brought howls of outrage from the usual suspects, led by the New York Times, which, in an editorial, pronounced his plans “disturbing.”
Mr. King, a New York Republican, is no stranger to bluster, but his sweeping slur on Muslim citizens is unacceptable.
Did you notice a “sweeping slur”? Neither did I.
The new chairman, of course, acknowledges “the great majority of Muslims in our country are hardworking, dedicated Americans.” At the same time he claims, with no evidence, that the hearing is urgently needed because “law enforcement officials throughout the country told me they received little or — in most cases — no cooperation from Muslim leaders and imams” in tracking domestic threats, according to his essay in Newsday.
But wait! Isn’t input from law enforcement officials evidence? Or at the Times, is “evidence” whatever supports left-wing policies?
We agree with Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the nation’s first Muslim elected to the House, who called Mr. King’s words “very scary.” It is worthwhile to try to fathom “what turns somebody from a normal citizen into a violent radical,” Mr. Ellison says, but not by vilifying an entire community for openers.
But the Times has already admitted that King hasn’t “vilified an entire community.” Further, most Americans would say that the acts of domestic terror we have witnessed over the last year or two are “very scary,” and that efforts to get to the bottom of why some American Muslims become radicals, and whether they are encouraged by some imams and other Muslim leaders, are commendable.
Yesterday, The Hill asked Congressman King to comment on the Times’ criticism:
“I’m absolutely delighted that The New York Times would attack me,” he said in an interview with The Hill. “I have nothing but contempt for them. They should be indicted under the Espionage Act. … The New York Times is just basically being a mouthpiece for political correctness.” …
King has a longstanding contempt for The New York Times, so his aggressive response comes as no surprise. When he said the newspaper should be tried for espionage, he was referring to an article it published a few years ago about the government’s secret tracking of terrorist financing that relied on cooperation with U.S. and international banks. He said the policy was perfectly legal and effective at the time, but the Times article undercut the program because international banks became less cooperative. …
“I’m certainly not going to take any political advice or direction from The New York Times,” he said. “I have more contempt for The New York Times than anything or anyone I can think of.”
That strikes me as an appropriate response. The executives who manage the Times are lucky that they are not serving time in a federal penitentiary. They have no standing to critique anyone, and the level of discourse of their editorials is below average. Below average for a water cooler, not for the op-ed page of a newspaper. As Congressional Republicans go about their business, it will be important not to be distracted by criticism from the least respectable reaches of the peanut gallery.