Peter King: On the wrong side of history

By Aseal Tineh, Government Affairs Intern

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The hysteria over Representative Peter King’s (R-NY) chauvinistic hearings on the supposed radicalization in the American Muslim community has since died down. The reason for this is unknown as it may be the cause of several things. Perhaps the opposition to these hearings has found another important issue to set its focus on or maybe the opposition has simply forgotten. Perhaps opponents have finally admitted defeat. Regardless, those who support civil rights and oppose any and all forms of discrimination ought to know that there is still reason for concern: the hearings are not over.

In 2011, Representative King solidified his political legacy as the embodiment of Islamophobia by calling forth these hearings on the supposed radicalization in the American Muslim community. The hearings, a gross misrepresentation of the American Muslim community, were quickly met with disapproval from Americans across the country. The hearings were unjust in that they ascribed the actions of a few radical individuals to a whole peaceful community, failing to differentiate between the individual and the community. The hearings created unwarranted fear and paranoia of Muslim Americans among other American citizens, furthering the divide between them.

The first four hearings, which spanned ten months from March to December of 2011, gained a plethora of media coverage. Since then, there has been little to no coverage despite the continuation of these hearings. On June 20, 2012, Rep. King held a fifth hearing (yes, another one) titled, “The American Muslim Response to Hearings on Radicalization within their Community,” to discuss the impact of the previous four hearings in the American Muslim community. What’s next? Another hearing on the so-called “threat posed by radicalized Muslim-Americans?” Or will Rep. King, as Congressman Al Green (D-TX) proposed, finally put the nation’s money and time to better use and have hearings on the entirety of radicalization found within every religion?

Rep. King may say he believes “the necessity of these hearings was obvious,” but as Faiza Patel, Co-Director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security, stated in her testimony during the fifth hearing, factual evidence proves otherwise: “[D]o we have any evidence indicating that ‘radical’ ideas are at all common among American Muslim communities? On the basis of empirical evidence, the answer is a resounding no.” Patel supports her claim with data collected from various reliable sources including the Pew Research Center and Gallup. Patel states that polls from both sources, among others, have shown “that individuals turning toward violence would find little support in American Muslim communities,” refuting the idea that “the necessity of these hearings was obvious.”

Why were these hearings held, really?

Peter King’s animus towards Islam and American Muslims has been made well-known to the public from previous statements he has made concerning Islam and Muslims. Among his past Islamophobic statements, Rep. King has claimed there to be “too many mosques in this country.” He also applauded the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) discriminatory surveillance program that monitored Muslim communities, schools, mosques, and students without reason, evidence, or suspicion of wrongdoing because of their religious affiliations.

Congressman King has succeeded in doing nothing else except further alienating the American Muslim community from the rest of the American population. By continuing to unfairly excoriate American Muslims, King is adding fuel to the fire by aggravating a community that has already suffered more than its fair share of intolerance, hate, and bigotry. It is well past time Peter King stopped satisfying his personal hostility and silenced his unwarranted animus towards American Muslims.

America has always prided itself in being different from both its enemies and its allies. People from across the globe have traveled to this great nation with the hopes of a new beginning and the American Dream dangling in front of them, waiting to be reached. With each passing decade, America finds itself changing and adapting to embrace new groups and new cultures, but it has not always been easy. Each group has been faced with intolerance, bigotry, and hate. History has shown that justice always prevails and each group of newcomers has eventually been met with acceptance, becoming integrated into the American community.

The same will be done with the American Muslim community. While this community now finds itself faced with unprecedented amounts of intolerance and hate, there will come a day when Muslims are too accepted into the American community. When that day comes, Peter King, along with his Islamophobic friends, will have found themselves on the wrong side of history.

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