There's a well-known truism that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Unwilling to give up his irrational hate of Muslims or the uncomfortable parallels to Senator Eugene McCarthy's hearings of the 50s, Rep Peter King is holding
March 7, 2011

There's a well-known truism that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Unwilling to give up his irrational hate of Muslims or the uncomfortable parallels to Senator Joe McCarthy's hearings of the 50s, Rep Peter King is holding hearings beginning Monday on the "threat" of terrorism stemming from Muslim-Americans.

Rep. Peter King of New York defended on Sunday a congressional hearing he will hold this week on the threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism that focuses on Muslim-Americans, calling it an issue "which is not being talked about publicly" and needs to be.

"People in this country are being self-radicalized, whether it's Major Hasan or whether it's Shahzad or whether it was Zazi in New York," King said on CNN's "State of the Union." "These were all people who were identifying, in one way or another, with al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. So it's an international movement with elements here in the United States."

King was referring to Army Major Nidal Malik Hassan, a military psychiatrist whose shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2009 claimed 13 lives; Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan-born man living in Colorado charged in 2009 with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction; and Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-born man living in suburban Connecticut, whose attempt to blow up a bomb in Times Square last June was foiled.

I have no problem whatsoever with the notion of having a hearing on the threats of domestic terrorism, but for cryin' out loud, how intellectually dishonest of King to focus on one religious group and ignore the fact that the vast majority of domestic terrorism comes not from radicalized Muslim-Americans but from radicalized right wingnuts.

Keith Ellison does a yeoman's job trying to temper King's hate-on for Muslims, but this kind of wingnuttery requires a statement from the White House too. So Sunday, we got it:

We have a choice. We can choose to send a message to certain Americans that they are somehow “less American” because of their faith or how they look; that we see their entire community as a potential threat—as we’ve seen in several inexcusable incidents in recent weeks across the country that were captured on video. Well, those incidents do not represent America. And if we make that choice, we risk feeding the very feelings of disenchantment that may push some members of that community to violent extremism.

Or, we can make another choice. We can send the message that we’re all Americans. That’s the message that the President conveyed last summer when he was discussing Muslim Americans serving in our military and the need to honor their service. “Part of honoring their service, he said, “is making sure that they understand that we don’t differentiate between them and us. It’s just us.”

Informed by what we know, several basic principles must guide us in what we do—as individuals, as communities and as a country. We must resolve not to label someone as an extremist simply because of their opposition to the policies of the U.S. government or their strong religious beliefs. Under our Constitution, we have the freedom to speak our minds. And we have the right to practice our faiths freely knowing that the government should neither promote nor hinder any one religion over the other.

As such, we must resolve to protect the rights and civil liberties of every American. That’s why, under President Obama, the civil rights division at the Justice Department is devoting new energy and effort to its founding mission—protecting civil rights. It’s why we are vigorously enforcing new hate crimes laws. And it’s why even as we do everything in our power to protect the American people from terrorist attacks, we’re also doing everything in our power to uphold civil liberties.

We must resolve that, in our determination to protect our nation, we will not stigmatize or demonize entire communities because of the actions of a few. In the United States of America, we don’t practice guilt by association. And let’s remember that just as violence and extremism are not unique to any one faith, the responsibility to oppose ignorance and violence rests with us all.

In the wake of terrorist attacks, instead of condemning whole communities, we need to join with those communities to help them protect themselves as well. And if one faith community faces intimidation, we need to come together across faiths, as happened several years ago here at the ADAMS Center, when Christian and Jewish leaders literally stood guard overnight to protect this center from vandalism. You showed us the true meaning of e pluribus unum—out of many, one.

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