House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY) plans to hold hearings on the domestic threat posed by Muslim-Americans because, he claims, "over 80 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by radical Imams."
This reminds me of Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ), who charged last year that 90% of Planned Parenthood's services were abortion-related. It turns out Kyl overshot his mark by 87 percentage points.
A stronger parallel is to Sen. Joe McCarthy and his infamous Lincoln Day speech in 1950, in which he claimed there were 205 or 57 members (accounts differed) of the Communist Party "still working and shaping policy in the State Department." McCarthy's charges led to a Congressional hearing, where he grandstanded but presented little real evidence.
In King's copycat demagoguery of McCarthy, he also declared there are "too many mosques in this country" and that Muslims are "an enemy living amongst us."
By King's own admission, the evidence for his 80 percent charge is weak. "The only real testimony we have on it," he conceded, "is from Sheikh Kabbani who was a Muslim leader during the Clinton Administration. He testified back in 1999 and 2000 before the State Department that he thought over 80 percent of the mosques in this country are controlled by radical Imams. Certainly from what I've seen and dealings I've had, that number seems accurate."
You have to wonder just what King's imaginative mind has seen. It certainly wasn't any of the available evidence. Consider:
- A study conducted in 2000 of U.S. mosques determined that more than 70 percent of mosque participants "strongly agree" that Muslim-Americans should be involved in American institutions and should participate in the political process.
- A study titled A Portrait of Detroit Mosques: Muslim Views on Policy, Politics and Religion concluded in 2004 that just "six percent of Detroit's mosque-attending population espoused" extreme views, while the "vast majority of American-Muslims" rejected such beliefs.
- A new study, Muslim-American Terrorism in the Decade Since 9/11, found that the number of Muslim-Americans who carried out or were arrested for violent terrorist crimes continues to fall -- from 49 to 26 to 20 over the last three years.
I'm no statistician, but I think it's safe to call this a "downward trend."
Throughout our history, unpopular groups -- all too often immigrants -- have been targeted for the public's wrath in difficult times. Demagogues like King have been only too anxious to steer and cheer on this wrath.