Tomorrow New York Republican Rep. Peter King will open his Homeland Security Committee hearings on the question of whether or not Muslim-Americans are doing enough to help safeguard the nation from terrorism. The hearings have been pilloried as an exercise in attention-grabbing ethnic-baiting and scapegoating and as an essentially unfair government-sanctioned exercise in Islamophobia. After all, what ethnic group in America is doing enough to safeguard the nation from terrorism? Could any group — much less a loosely affiliated ethnic or religious group– do enough to safeguard the nation from terrorism? King has responded to such criticism by doubling down. He has rearranged the committee schedule to ratchet up its partisan circus quality and he has dismissed his own past as an unabashed supporter of the terrorist Irish Republican Army.
House Minority Leader Eric Cantor defended the hearings, making them sound like a friendly extended hand from Capitol Hill to American Muslims.
“The purpose [of the hearing] is, if you ask Chairman King, to try and assess how we can better work with the Muslim community in America to stop the spread of radical Islam,” he said.
That description will likely pale when set beside the hearings themselves.
As Greg Sargent at the Washington Post reports, King’s re-working of the testimony schedule has all but guaranteed Americans will be treated to a “three ring circus.”
[T]he committee has quietly divided its plan for the hearings into three separate panels — separating Republicans from Democrats who might disagree with them on the issues in question.
For instance, the first panel features as a witness Dem Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress, while the second features GOP Rep. Frank Wolf. Dems expect Wolf, who has a long history of doing battle with the Council of American-Islamic Relations, to support King’s views of the threat of Muslim radicalization. Previously, Dems say, the plan was for Ellison to be on the same panel as Wolf, but now the two have been separated — meaning that Dems won’t be able to ask Ellison to rebut Wolf during hearings that are expected to attract national attention.
“This type of division based on party and ideology is curious. especially when the hearing is supposed to be combining thoughts to combat radicalization,” one Dem staffer on the committee tells me. “Now, if Representative Wolf says something negative about Muslims, Mr. Ellison will not have the opportunity to rebut it. There is no rationale for this decision.”
Forbes magazine blogger Osha Gray Davidson has called on King to resign. He notes that, presented with his past stance on the IRA, King hasn’t flinched.
Hypocrisy? Rep. King reacts indignantly to the charge. His terrorists, he explains, “never attacked the United States.” Only British civilians, a distinction which, in King’s moral universe, makes his support acceptable.
It is not.
The man who has a history of supporting terrorism abroad, a man who, let’s not mince words, who has the blood of innocents on his hands, has no place in the U.S. Congress. He should resign.
Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart had a predictable field day lampooning King and his “Islamic radicalization in America” hearings.
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If Cantor really believes King’s hearings will result in increased cooperation with the Muslim community in America, former Colorado Republican politician and founder of Muslims for Bush Ali Hasan might disabuse him of that notion.
A hard-core fiscal conservative and outspoken supporter of Republican causes and candidates for years, Hasan fled the party last year. He told the Colorado Independent demagogic bigotry against Muslims and gays and Latinos had taken over as a core Republican Party message. He said the policy proposals springing from the message mocked the Constitution.