Columns / Discourse / April 7, 2011

World Politics Corner: Terrorist or victim?

On March 10, 2011, the House Committee on Homeland Security held a meeting on the “Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.” The meeting, proposed by Representative Peter T. King, Chairman of the committee, had four people on the panel. Two were people whom had a family member who was radicalized, another was a Muslim medical doctor who founded the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and the fourth was a sheriff from Los Angeles who has experimented with new ways of interacting with diverse communities and has had much success. Without basing too much on the small blurbs of the panel, it was clear during the discussion that none of these members were experts on the topic.

Members of the panel relied heavily on personal anecdotes, and not at all on statistics, facts or anything resembling a scholarly approach to the issue. Other panel members included members of Congress. While Republican members of the committee praised their guests and pitted questions that would elicit a certain answer, Democrat members called the protest discriminatory towards Muslims; the most notable moment was from Representative Sheila Lee Jackson.

In the end, nothing was said or learned from the hearing. It seemed to be a waste of money and time. Thankfully though, it seemed to be the end.

Or not. This Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee held a Hearing on the Civil Rights of Muslim Americans; this was to focus on Civil Rights violations committed against American Muslims. While this committee at least had federal attorneys in Civil Rights, they still had mostly anecdotal stories from the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, a Dean of a College and another Muslim Advocate.

“This just perpetuates the myth that somehow Muslims are the victim of September 11,” Representative King said to Fox News about the hearing. Despite the 70 Muslim American families who were affected by 9/11, somehow he’s opposed to the idea that Muslims can be victims. He seems to prefer his hearing’s view that Muslims can only amount to terrorists.

It was hilarious, in a tragic sense, to see some members of the committee ask “why are there no hearings on hatred towards Jews and Christians,” when they previously refused to answer why they weren’t having any hearings on the radicalization of Americans by, let’s say … the KKK which still bases much of their hatred on the Bible. Muslims are not the only group that has pockets of radicalization in the U.S.; we can look at many hate groups with religious affiliations that spread hostility in sermons.

To be fair, Muslims are not the only group that has portions who suffer from discrimination. Actually Muslims, even with a 150 percent increase in hate crimes against them immediately after 9/11, rank fourth behind African-Americans, Jewish-Americans and homosexual Americans. The striking aspect is that politicians and commentators actively embrace this hate speech against Muslims. This seems to justify Senator Durbin’s hearing. Just take an anti-Islam speech by any U.S. politician and replace the word “Muslims” with “Blacks” or “Gays,” and you know those same lines would not be as acceptable. This reality makes the hearing on Civil Rights more reasonable.

Instead of focusing on whether the hearings are warranted, the media has left it up to quick opinion feeds to discuss. Some believe Representative King’s hearing and Senator Durbin’s hearing give Muslims one of two ways to exist in the U.S.: as victims or terrorists in waiting. Others believe this to be another partisan distraction from real problems like the economy. It is clear, though that, whatever the motive, Islam is a convenient political tool for Western Democracies as much as it is to Terrorist Organizations.

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