Published On: Dissident Voice, January 4th, 2011
When the GOP overtakes Congress next year, Representative Peter King (R-NY) will become chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. For his first major initiative, King has chosen to address what he sees as the “radicalization” of American Muslims. The issue is to be taken up in a Congressional inquiry in 2011.
King told the New York Times that the inquiry is his response “to what he has described as frequent concerns raised by law enforcement officials that Muslim leaders have been uncooperative in terror investigations.” A vocal opponent of the “Ground Zero Mosque” back when it was a hot-button issue (“it is very offensive and wrong”), King harbours clear and controversial sentiments regarding Muslims in the U.S.—to put it very mildly. Citing cases where Muslim imams are slow to co-operate with law enforcement, King apparently is worried that Muslims in America are not taking the good old “War on Terror” seriously enough.
Indicative of where this new Congress is headed, the hearing/inquiry set to take place makes a number of troubling fundamental assumptions. First, following classic post-9/11 fear mongering, King has decided to isolate “radicalization” in the American Muslim community as the major problem in terms of national security. He ignores the fact that most terrorism in the U.S. is conducted by white supremacists, and that a third of suspicious activity in American Muslim communities are tipped off by Muslims. Second, King’s concern that Muslim leaders are slow to cooperate with law enforcement conveniently overlooks the fact that the past decade has been characterized by a meta-narrative of fear/demonization vis a vis Muslims. Under this climate, how enthusiastic does King expect those who adhere to Islam to be when the FBI comes knocking on their doors?
Regarding whether terrorism of the al-Qaeda kind is a major problem in the United States, it is useful to listen to what Michael Leiter, the head of the National Counterterrorism Centre [PDF], has to say:
“It has been only a tiny, tiny percentage of Americans—increasingly more this year, but still a tiny percentage of Muslim Americans—who have for a variety of reasons found appeal in this al-Qaeda ideology.”
In other words, there has been a slight increase in sentiment aligned with al-Qaeda-like ideology, but nothing that would prompt an actual Congressional hearing. Unfortunately, King seems to have already made up his mind, which is not surprising given that King is not exactly heading into the new year free of pre-concieved notions regarding American Muslim communities. Appearing on FOX’s Sean Hannity’s show in 2004, King has suggested that “80-85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists,” and that “This is an enemy living amongst us.” With such a framework of mind, one wonders why King is even bothering with an “inquiry” in the first place.
In fact, if by now those in the U.S. political establishment are still wondering why a tiny fringe of Muslims (domestic or not) are still antagonizing America, they need not look very far. Here is what Faisal Shahzad, the “Times Square Bomber” had to say in court:
“They don’t understand my side of the story, where the Muslim life of is no value…So decree whatever you desire to decree, for you can only decree regarding the life of this world. The crusading U.S. and NATO forces who have occupied the Muslim lands under the pretext of democracy and freedom for the last nine years and are saying with their mouths that they are fighting terrorism. I say to them: we don’t accept your democracy nor your freedom, because we already have Sharia law and freedom. Furthermore, brace yourselves, because the war with Muslims has just begun. Consider me only a first droplet of the flood that will follow me.”
It should by now be obvious that the colossal military footprint the United States has created in the Middle East is having unintended consequences. The U.S. is on its way in obliterating the dam that holds back the flood that Shahzad speaks of. However, we should not give into such hyperbole just yet. There are, estimated by Leon Panetta (Head of the CIA), around 100 Al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan. Given this reality, President Obama and General Patraeus’s decisions to escalate the war in Afghanistan can be for nothing but extraneous political reasons.
On the one hand, it is not impossible for individuals like Shahzad to exist. Anger can become a toxic elixir, especially in the face of immense injustice. Nevertheless, according to actual, empirical data, the likes of Shahzad do not exist in large numbers in the United States, despite a somewhat significant rise in the disapproval of Obama’s foreign policy. In the face of all of this, Peter King still wants to hold hearings on “radicalization”, as if nothing under his purview required more immediate attention.
The rise in hatred of Muslims after 9/11 is not the result of a random collection of individual spasms. According to investigative journalist Max Blumenthal, a veteran of covering the cultic elements of right-wing America, “it’s the fruit of an organized, long-term campaign by a tight confederation of right-wing activists and operatives who first focused on Islamophobia soon after the September 11th attacks, but only attained critical mass during the Obama era.”
Behind the scenes are millionaire and billionaire barons like Aubrey Chernick and the Koch Brothers, who fund right-wing thinks tanks as well as pro-Israeli outfits. More “intellectual” operatives like Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer feed off of the funding provided by Chernick’s ilk, and use their poisonous pens to spread the fears of an “Islamist takeover”. Then there are the media clowns like Pamela Geller, who, after inheriting millions from her dead husband, spends her time blogging about how Barack Obama is Malcolm X’s love child. All of these elements have, over the years, come together in a discursive process to produce a system of mass hatred. They, and those who ally with them, bring together the causes of crazed Christian Reconstructionists, fanatical right-wing Zionists, and even neo-Nazi parties in Europe.
Capitalizing on a disenfranchised America with a crippled economy and an embittered citizenship, those who seek to incite hatred have sought to use Muslims has a scapegoat for America’s problems. Retreating into absolute infantilism, a shocked and largely deceived citizenry searches for moral renewal. Whether this renewal will be achieved through a blind following of those who seek to deceive, or through a realistic recognition of where America is actually headed, has yet to be decided.