Peter King vs. the American public
By Robert P Jones, WaPo
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, will begin holding hearings Thursday on “the extent of the radicalization of American Muslims.” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has characterized the hearings as “a witch hunt.” Are they?
King also has said he believes the “self-radicalization” of American Muslims represents “a very small minority” of the overall community. What are the potential consequences of singling out one religious group?
As the congressional hearings on the alleged radicalization of Islam approach, one key question is how Rep. Peter King’s justifications for holding the hearings stack up to what the American public thinks about Islam and the place of American Muslims in society. The recent PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, to date the only barometer for public opinion on the hearings, gives us a window into the differences between King and the public. The poll, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service, reveals that while a majority (56%) of the public may think the hearings are a good idea, they don’t see eye-to-eye with Rep. King on his justifications for the hearings.
King sees the singular focus on Muslims as justified and has dismissed calls to broaden the hearings as “political correctness at its worst.” But an overwhelming majority of the public say the hearings should be broadened to focus on religious extremism wherever it may be found rather than focusing on Muslims alone.
In the face of mounting calls by Muslim and other religious groups to broaden the hearings, Mr. King responded, “I totally reject that. That, to me, is political correctness at its worst…. I’m not going to dilute the hearings by including other extremists.”
The American public:
More than 7-in-10 (72%) Americans believe Congress should investigate religious extremism anywhere it exists and not just focus on the American Muslim community. Support for this broader approach is strong across political and religious affiliation groups, including 77% of Republicans, and 73% of white evangelicals.
King has asserted that there is “insufficient cooperation” with law enforcement on the part of the American Muslim community. But the public is divided.
Asked about a recent report saying that 40% of cases involving terrorist plots were the result of tips from the Muslim-American community, King reasserted that he believes there has been “insufficient cooperation.”
The American public:
While the PRRI/RNS poll did not ask directly about cooperation with law enforcement, the poll found that the public is divided on the question of whether American Muslims are doing enough to combat extremism. A plurality (46%) say American Muslims have not done enough to oppose extremism in their communities, but one-third disagree, and 1-in-5 say they are unsure.
As I wrote earlier at Washington Post On Faith, Americans are wrestling with two things in their thinking about the hearings: fear and fairness. King seems to be leading with fear. While the public shares some of these fears, the data reveals that they will also be bringing other values to their evaluations of the hearings: a strong commitment to fairness and an appreciation for the diversity of the American religious landscape.
You can read the full results of the PRRI/RNS Religion News Poll on the upcoming hearings, including analysis of a strong “Fox News effect” on this issue, here.
Muslim Radicalization: Rebutting Peter King’s Critics
“Islamophobia!” “McCarthyism!” “Bigotry!” Islamists and those who apologize for them have been running their fog machines at full blast in preparation for Congressman Peter King’s March 10 hearing on Muslim radicalization in America and what the Islamic community is doing to combat it. However, arguments that the inquiry is based on false premises cannot stand up to the data.
*Claim: Islamic extremism is no more worthy of attention than other types of extremism. Islamist groups, the ACLU, congressmen, and pundits have pushed the meme, with many pointing to the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security’s recent analysis of 2010 data. It finds “more than 20 terrorist plots by non-Muslims in the United States in 2010,” compared to 20 Muslim-American terror suspects. Yet the report actually bolsters King’s thesis that radical Islam requires special scrutiny. With Muslims comprising around one percent of the population, roughly equal numbers of Muslims and non-Muslims engaging in terrorism would mean that the problem is a hundred times more prevalent among U.S. Muslims. Hence, terrorism can be curtailed most efficiently by focusing on Muslim radicalization, just as King posits.
* Claim: Radical beliefs are rare in the U.S. Muslim population. A 2007 Pew poll has been cited as proof that American Muslims exhibit little radicalism, but its results are far from reassuring. Five percent of U.S. Muslims indicated a favorable view of al-Qaeda; another 27% did not know or refused to answer. Eight percent stated that suicide bombings can be justified at least “sometimes.” Even the one percent who said that such jihadist attacks “often” are justified amounts to tens of thousands of radicals presenting a grave challenge to homeland security. King is right for investigating where they pick up these ideas.
* Claim: Muslims help thwart terrorist plots. The Triangle Center study and a second by MPAC, which state that Muslims have helped disrupt a third of post-9/11 terror plots involving their community, are being used to counter King’s assertion that Muslims give insufficient aid to law enforcement. Yes, Muslims have played a role in derailing some plots, but this has happened despite efforts of prominent Muslim groups. Consider CAIR. In recent years, it threatened to suspend contact with the FBI over informants, was protested by Minneapolis Muslims who accused it of hampering investigations of jihad recruitment, claimed entrapment of terror suspects, and was shamed when its San Francisco branch employed a “Don’t Talk to the FBI” poster. The real issue is how much more assistance Muslims would provide if not for the obstructionism of CAIR and others.
Some foes of jihad have taken pessimistic views of King’s approach, but his hearing already has borne fruit. Massive resistance to probing Muslim extremism has exposed Islamist organizations’ true mindset and “pathetic record on combating Islamic radicalism.” As reformist Muslim Asra Nomani notes, “Our worst enemies in America … are Muslim interest groups and leaders, who do more to deny the problem than defeat it.”
by David J. Rusin • Mar 9, 2011