There's a lot not to like about next week's Congressional hearings into "Islamic Radicalization," but one of its most appalling aspects is the naked hypocrisy of the hearing's chairman, Republican Peter King of New York.
Until now, Rep. King has been best known for his very public support of the Irish Republican Army, which of course was internationally recognized as a terrorist organization. Despite the IRA's long history of murder, violence and intimidation, King argued (until breaking with the group over it's failure to support the US invasion of Iraq) that the IRA represented the "the legitimate voice of occupied Ireland."
And frankly, we're not mad at Rep. King for that. By relentlessly lobbying for the IRA in Washington, Rep. King created an environment where it was possible for the British government to finally sit down and talk with the IRA's political wing, Sin Féin. Negotiations that ultimately led to a peaceful end to a decades old war and undoubtedly saved many lives.
Instead, our beef with Rep. King is that while he was happy to operate within the gray areas of the IRA debate, when the conversation turned to Muslim Americans, his world view become black and white. To Rep. King, a Muslim seems to equal terrorist (or at least terrorist sympathizer), no matter what a person's background, political leanings or actions.
When pressing for the rights of the Irish people, King was careful to make a distinction between the violent extremists in the IRA and those in Sin Féin who were for legitimate political reform. But when it comes to Muslim Americans, some of whom are his own constituents, Rep. King has no problem lumping everyday, hardworking, peace loving Muslims in with the terrorists.
Having witnessed first hand how conversation between Sinn Féin and the British directly led to peace, Rep King more than anyone should know that the best resolutions are always reached through honest dialogue, not demonization and divisiveness.
The deep irony is that Rep. King has begun polluting our national conversation with his hypocritical hate mongering at just the moment that the Arab world's secular revolution has created a unique opportunity for strengthened cultural ties. Maybe that's not a coincidence. Politicians like Rep. King make a living playing on people's fears and misconceptions. It makes their job easier when we view all Muslims as terrorists out for blood, instead of possible partners in a shared future.
Let's not let Rep. King get away with it. We need to hear from politicians who are looking to bring people together, not needlessly push them apart. If we're truly worried about America's future, we need to look at hate mongering politicians like Rep King, not our Muslim fellow citizens who reject violence and extremism and simply look to be part of this great American fabric.
On Sunday, March 6th at 2pm in Times Square, NYC, I will thousands of people in support of Muslim Americans, in a rally called "Today, I Am A Muslim Too!" Please join me on Sunday in NYC or on Facebook as a show of support.