During the 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy led Americans on a wild goose chase to hunt down 'communists' and 'communist agents' within the United States. As a consequence, anyone who dared to even question him, quickly became the subject of harassment as well. A virtual state of paranoia quickly spread across the nation. Many innocent people were tormented, many lost their jobs and perhaps worst of all, many felt for the first time that they were outsiders in their own country. The delusional actions of Senator McCarthy eventually resulted in his own demise, but the fear mongering of his twisted ideology provided a dangerous platform by which another group could be scapegoated in the future. Unfortunately, that moment has reared its ugly head this week as Rep. Peter King of NY begins Congressional hearings on American Muslims.
Dubbed "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community's Response," the hearings have been orchestrated to investigate extremism within the American Muslim community and their cooperation with authorities, according to King's explanations. Openly disparaging mosques and Muslims across the country for not going far enough in preventing radicalization, King fails to realize that a vast majority of foiled attacks in the U.S. were a direct result of Muslims stepping up and reporting suspicious individuals/behavior. Rep. King is ignoring the blatant reality that his investigations will in fact do more to deepen the mistrust between Muslims and their own government. And perhaps most damning of all, these hearings are nothing short of racial/religious profiling that will only further an alarming rise of Islamophobia.
No one -- not even Muslims themselves -- will dismiss the idea that extremism and violence must be eliminated so that we all can attain a peaceful future. Muslims are, after all, the greatest victims of acts of terrorism around the world. But to state or imply that terror and violence is only created and perpetrated by this one group is categorically false and disturbingly misleading. If an individual like Jared Loughner, the accused Tucson shooter, allegedly pulled the trigger and killed innocent civilians, do we now start investigating all young White men? And if there are now more than 1,000 hate/militia groups in the U.S. -- the highest number ever -- why are we not holding Congressional hearings on the radicalization of this segment of the population?
By marginalizing a religious minority, King is sending a dangerous message to the Muslim community and the entire populous that runs counter to the very foundation of our nation. If we truly believe in religious freedom and tolerance, we cannot lump an entire group of people with a notion of collective guilt for the grievous crimes of a few. And we cannot arbitrarily hold hearings on all American Muslims -- in effect saying that they are different from everyone else. We cannot allow King or anyone else to dictate whose patriotism can be questioned, and whose will not.
Senator McCarthy created hysteria that paralyzed this country and distracted us from more pertinent issues. Today, as we face rampant unemployment, a struggling economy, an educational crisis and an unstable future, perhaps we should direct our energy towards these very grave dilemmas instead of profiling Muslims and creating a notion of 'otherness'. Unlike what Islamophobia purports, Muslims have been in this country since its inception and it's time we acknowledge their contribution to the fabric of American society -- not demonize them with unnecessary investigations.
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