When the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was destroyed by terrorists a decade and a half ago, press reports pointed the finger at Muslim extremists as the authors of the crime.
TV talking heads tripped over themselves to see who could call for the most outrageous punishment for the Muslim community: Don’t let Muslims into the country, send secret government agents to infiltrate mosques, quarantine Muslim immigrants. Those were just a few of the proposals I heard floated on the airwaves. When the mass murderers turned out to be American-born white guys with ties to the militias, there were no similar calls for branding all white men with the same marks of shame and exclusion.
The worst terrorist act in history of the United States was carried out by terrorists who claimed to be speaking for the Muslim world. Many of us lost friends and relatives on September 11 to the jihad cooked up by Osama bin Laden. We all know that he continues to try to recruit supporters here in the US through the Internet.
But there are others who use the Internet to promote violence and terrorism.
Most acts of political violence in the United States over the last several decades have been committed by native-born, non-Muslim Americans. From the Weatherman bombings and the Ku Klux Klan shootings in Greensboro, North Carolina, to the abortion clinic bombings of the 1990s, to the current wave of violence by people like Minuteman leader Shawna Forde, terrorism is not the product of one religion or one nationality.
When the Holocaust museum was attacked just two years ago, this symbol of Jewish suffering was not the target of Muslim radicals, but of a man with an abiding sense of the superiority of whites and a hatred of the Jews.
Websites like the white supremacist StormFront allow users to post videos featuring the political terrorism fantasies. Other sites allow radical extremists to get in touch with each other to discuss violent acts against, immigrants, blacks, and Jews.
Congressman Peter King is right to hold hearings on the danger of terrorism in the United States. It is a real danger. However, he is foolish to think that terrorism is a peculiarly Muslim threat. His plan, as chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, to hold hearings focusing on the danger posed by Muslim Americans caters to Tea Party prejudices, but does nothing to reveal the multiple dangers of political violence facing America.
The hearings also serve to stigmatize the Muslim community in America. Muslims now live in every state in our country. Many live in small towns across the US. Why draw their neighbors’ suspicion to people who are just trying to live a decent life with these hearings?
King should also understand the negative international implications of his hearings. What message does it send to Muslims working for democracy in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia to find out that the Congress of the greatest democracy in the world views their religion as the source of terrorism?