Peter King's anti-Muslim Congressional hearings get underway tomorrow just as news breaks that the bomb planted at an MLK march this January was allegedly left by someone with ties to white supremacists. This begs the question: Why is King - a man with terrorist ties of his own - only investigating Muslims and not violent extremism in general?
First, The Seattle Times reports:
A Stevens County man charged with the attempted bombing along the route of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Spokane has links to a neo-Nazi group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Kevin William Harpham, 36, was a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance in late 2004, Mark Potok, director of the center's Intelligence Project, said following Harpham's arrest Wednesday.
The bomb was said to have been large enough to have caused mass casualties.
As the Southern Poverty law Center notes, right-wing extremism and the threat of domestic terrorism (not from Muslims but from people who often self-identify as Christian) continues to grow in the United States.
But we are ignoring that reality and focusing in only on Muslims even though the U.S. Department of Justice clearly has stated - despite Rep. King's claims - that U.S. Muslims are active partners in the fight against terrorism. Religious bigotry is the fuel for these hearings.
The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, said at a New York rally this weekend that:
In 2011, Americans are in danger of succumbing to a bigotry that will scar our generation in the same way that bigotry scarred those who came before us.
Three hundred years ago, Europeans came to these shores with a determination to conquer and settle at the expense of millions of indigenous peoples who were dismissed as sub-human—certainly not part of “us.”
One hundred fifty years ago, white Americans still subjugated black human beings to a cruel slavery that was justified with Bible prooftexts and a self-serving belief that Blacks are inferior—not part of “us.”
Seventy years ago, in a time of war and fearfulness, tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans were deprived of their property and forced into detention camps because surely persons of such ancestry aren’t part of “us.”
Today, we look back on these horrifying events with anguished remorse; and yet I wonder if we’ve learned anything from history. Today, millions of Muslim Americans are subjected to thoughtless generalizations, open discrimination, and outright hostility because of a tiny minority whose acts of violence deny the teachings of the Quran and are denounced by other Muslims! No matter what Rep. King may say, his hearings convey the implicit message that Muslims aren’t part of “us”—and to this sort of bigotry, all citizens of conscience must say NO! When the family portrait of this country is painted, Muslims should have, must have, an honored place in it.
One of our closest partners at the National Council of Churches is the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). This past week, to take only one example, ISNA issued a statement condemning in the strongest possible language the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian who was Pakistan’s Minister for Minorities. According to ISNA’s statement, Mr. Bhatti’s work for religious and civic tolerance is more in line with Quranic teachings than those Muslims who justify or engage in violence. To quote from the statement, “we believe strongly in the responsibility of Muslims to ensure the safety and dignity of religious minorities in Muslim majority countries,” and “convey our deepest condolences for the burning of churches and the murder of Christians over the past few months.”
As this indicates, Rep. King’s assertion that Muslims have not spoken out forcefully enough against extremism is simply wrong—indeed, it is slanderous. If he wants to investigate extremism, then do so—but do not target one entire religion!
As General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, I care deeply about US security and about the wellbeing of Christians in places where extremism is prevalent. But so do millions of Muslims across this country! In the same way, the churches of the NCC affirm that we must care about the wellbeing, the dignity, of Muslims in our midst. On behalf of the fifty million members of our churches, I declare as loudly as possible that whenever Muslims are threatened or demeaned, so are we—because “today we are Muslims, too”!
We all need to stand up against religious extremism, violence and bigotry wherever we might find it. But we shouldn't allow a witch hunt against an entire religion. It is un-American.