Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 4:28 PM ET, 03/10/2011

Pete King's Muslim hearings turned out to be relatively sane -- thanks to pressure from left

By Adam Serwer

At the conclusion of his Homeland Security Committee hearings on "the Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response," GOP Rep. Peter King noted with obvious satisfaction that the hearings had gone better than they could have. And he was right. 

The premise of the hearing was flawed from the beginning, focused broadly on the "Muslim community" rather than an infinite number of more specific issues related to domestic radicalization -- and, as a result, it didn't offer much in the way of policy guidance and left the impression that Muslims in America are an issue to be concerned about, rather than terrorism itself. To the extent that the hearings were, in the words of former Bush national security official Matthew Levitt, "semantically shaped to point a finger at an entire community," they may have been actively counterproductive.

But while there were some embarrassing moments from a few Republicans warning about the "danger of sharia law to the U.S. Constitution," the withering criticism from Democrats, civil liberties groups, and religious organizations in advance of the hearing seemed to put legislators on their best behavior. King had even removed two controversial witnesses with histories of anti-Muslim remarks prior to the hearings actually taking place.

Both King and one of his witnesses, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, backed down from previous unsubstantiated remarks alleging that most American mosques were radicalized. That's important, because even anti-Muslim activists assumed that the plan was to filter conservative generalizations about Islam through Muslim spokespeople. Republican legislators prefaced their remarks carefully by stating that the vast majority of American Muslims were peaceful and law abiding, and that it was not the religion of Islam that was the problem. This approach was not a foregone conclusion given King's history of inflammatory generalizations about Islam, and the manufactured sharia panic sweeping state legislatures.

L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, who had been called by Democrats, deftly punctured the myth that Muslims refuse to cooperate with law enforcement. The Council on American Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group that has been longtime target of conservatives because they were listed as unindicted co-conspirators in a terrorism financing case, was mentioned more times than any actual terrorist group at the hearing. When Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) accused Baca of "dealing with a terrorist organization," because CAIR's LA chapter had supported Baca's outreach efforts, Baca pushed back hard, saying "If the FBI has any charges against CAIR, let the FBI bring them. You have facts, and you have a crime. Deal with it."

If Republican legislators who deployed restraint are willing to tell their own base that Muslim Americans are not the enemy, the hearings may ultimately have a net positive effect on the audience most in need of seeing Muslims playing a positive role -- conservatives themselves. As Greg noted the other day, more than two-thirds of those who identify with the Tea Party movement see Islam as violent.

The framing of the hearings was still wrong, implying that radicalization is a widespread problem in the American Muslim community. In fact, it is the definition of a miniscule -- if still very serious--problem. As Adam Rawnsley reported, American Muslims who have participated in terrorist attacks are between "0.007 to 0.006 percent" of the population. While legislators in the hearing itself emphasized the patriotism and moderation of the American Muslim community, the way the hearing was set up still leaves one with the impression that the Muslim community is a problem to be solved.

Conservatives will be eager to argue that the outcome of the King hearings shows that all of his critics were overreacting in worrying about American Muslims being singled out as a group. Again, given the avalanche of anti-Muslim laws being proposed by Republican state legislatures, and the rhetoric of many conservative leaders, I don't think that's true.

But as Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, director of the Center for the Study of Terrorist Radicalization at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies put it to me yesterday, conservatives have every reason to empathize. "Many conservatives would absolutely have a fit if there were such hearings on right-wing extremism, just as they had a rather unjustifiable fit following DHS's controversial intelligence assessment on right-wing extremism," Gartenstein-Ross said. "The fact that conservatives felt so personally slighted by that report shows why they should be at least sympathetic to Muslims' real concerns in this instance."

King's hearings did not devolve into a circus or a witch hunt, and it's fair for King to point that out. A hearing holding American Muslims collectively responsible for terrorism was very clearly what some segment of the right wanted. But if outside groups hadn't been so critical of King and Republicans to begin with, it might not have played out that way.

By Adam Serwer  | March 10, 2011; 4:28 PM ET
Categories:  Foreign policy and national security, House GOPers  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Wisconsin Dems ask district attorney to invalidate GOP maneuver
Next: Happy Hour Roundup


Now I will sleep better tonight, but you still never know when seemingly peaceful Muslims will flip into jihadi rages, especially as the full moon is only a week away.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 10, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Plato thousands of years ago gave humanity some good advice for harmonious societies delete text purported to be from Gods which informs evil action.

Everyone of us base our lives on less than perfect text. To target one without the other is rather hypocritical.

It should be about all text which vilifies other Religious or Secular not persons.

The fact is Muslims are already radicalized the reason being from the Islamic texts Quran foundation chapter "THE COW" onwards vilification of and justification of 'grevious harm' against other is the main theme.

This is why terrorists are good boys and girls coming from good Muslim families. It is that simple.

Change the text forming our new citizen’s change the outcomes otherwise more of the same.

Posted by: markjuliansmith1 | March 10, 2011 4:53 PM | Report abuse

"This is why terrorists are good boys and girls coming from good Muslim families. delete text Case Closed."

Paranoia strikes deep, but 37th, is that you? Maybe...I am in more trouble than I thought.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 10, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse

"The outcome of the King hearings shows that all of his critics were overreacting in worrying about American Muslims being singled out as a group."

Adam and I agree again!

Posted by: sbj3 | March 10, 2011 5:21 PM | Report abuse


Did you even bother to finish reading that paragraph?

"""given the avalanche of anti-Muslim laws being proposed by Republican state legislatures, and the rhetoric of many conservative leaders, I don't think that's true."""

I mean, I guess you were just kidding, but wow, you are such a liar! It's right there in front of your face that he disagrees with you! Give me a break.

Posted by: ronnieandrush | March 10, 2011 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Modern TERRORISM was invented by this video:

Peter King is an ugly faced racist. Too many lies over the course of his life issued from his frontal-lobes in his brain and then to hide them has put those ugly features on his face. Bush crime family and Cheney and NEOCON ZIONISTS have the same although Bush had to get the subtle BOTOX job.


American Media and OFFICIALS makes white lies - as proven on its stance on double murderer Raymond Davis - CIA operative caught RED HANDED in Pakistan for recruiting terrorists and planning to give them NUCLEAR material as reported by EUROPEAN TIMES and Russian Intelligence.

Almost everyone with high IQ knows that 911 is inside job.

Posted by: BuildingSeven | March 10, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse


""@shrink Did you not catch the irony in your AOL post. Now INDIA is getting jobs outsourced. What is it they say...Karma is a real MFer""

I blame Hanuman.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 10, 2011 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Building7 and markjuliansmith need to get a room, far far away.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 10, 2011 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Once again, it's too bad Sargent didn't speak out like this against Homeland Security's similarly unfair scapegoating of the right wing last year. We always lose when government authority is abused in this way, no matter how much enjoyment we might get from seeing it wielded against political adversaries.

Posted by: tomtildrum | March 10, 2011 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Don't break your arm patting yourself on the back, Adam.

Posted by: sold2u | March 10, 2011 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Peter King has any morality or SHAME?
King himself is a long-time supporter of the IRA, and in the 1980s proclaimed: "If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the IRA for it." On what ground he can say that extremism of others are sinful but not his or HIS OWN GOONS?

Posted by: citysoilverizonnet | March 10, 2011 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Awwwwwww! The Muslim inquest didn't turn out badly like all the Muslim loving liberals had hoped.

Too bad.

I see Adam Sewer is trying to gobble up all the credit.

Trying to slavage something, I guess.

America is very fortunate to have a tiny Muslim population and a vast ocean between it and the Islamic caliphates.

Very fortunate indeed.

Posted by: battleground51 | March 10, 2011 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Almost everyone with high IQ knows that 911 is inside job.

Posted by: BuildingSeven

Uh, hate to break the news to you, but 60 is not a high IQ. Be gone, truther.

Posted by: bearclaw1 | March 10, 2011 6:29 PM | Report abuse

All, Happy Hour Roundup posted:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | March 10, 2011 6:30 PM | Report abuse

@shrink2 Paranoria mmm I wonder if the many millions of ghosts and victims to come will believe it is Paranoria.

Explain how you came to believe what you believe. If you read the Quran - only Chapter "THE COW" which sets up the framework by which the Islamic text will be challenged, vilifies the perpetrators sets them as less and then informs the remedy 'grevious harm' with the ultimate authority God authorizing all within, given this is an old recipe for genocide against other and the terror we clearly are experiencing would it not be rational to be rightfully concerned?

Also more importantly as we are all formed by textual constructs such as the Islamic text, there may just exist evil text informing evil action and we should seek it out be it secular or religious so we can change the future for humanity?

The number is not 37 it is 42

Posted by: markjuliansmith1 | March 10, 2011 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Despite all of the vitriolic hate and demonizing of Muslims by the right-wing republicans and teabaggers, the Muslim community will flock, in droves, to vote for these same republicans.

Posted by: Sammy2 | March 10, 2011 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Once again Greg's version of reality and reality don't coincide and he is left scratching his head. Let me tell you what really happened. Liberals acted like panicked hysterical idiots for about a week because they are so frightened of muslims that merely mentioning the words islam and terrorism in the same sentence causing them to involuntarily wet themselves. The hearings that were supposed to herald the apocalypse according to liberals like Greg occur and turn out to be just another boring useless congressional hearing. The next day liberals like Greg pontificate endless about why the apocalypse did not occur instead of facing the obvious reality they are in fact idiots.

Posted by: peterg73 | March 11, 2011 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

characters remaining

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company