Zuhdi Jasser, on the left, with Peter King
(Photo: AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
New York Rep. Peter King, a Republican, wants to cement his reputation as the politician incessantly focusing on the threat of Muslim-American radicalization–a threat that is highly exaggerated. But the facts matter little–King has announced a fifth House hearing on the “radicalization” of Muslim-Americans, set to take place next Wednesday. The topic? “The American Muslim Response to Hearings on Radicalization within their Community.”
The notion of a hearing on a prior hearing would be funny, but King’s fear-mongering is no laughing matter. It represents how Islamophobia is entrenched at high levels of government. King is particularly influential on terrorism issues; he’s the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
In a statement, King explained his rationale for the hearings:
When I began this series of investigative hearings in March of last year to examine radicalization within the Muslim-American community, I was vilified by the politically correct media, pandering politicians and radical groups such as CAIR…Next week’s hearing, at which I will be calling three Muslim witnesses, will expand on the prior hearings to examine the impact they have had in the Muslim Community’s ability to address this issue and on U.S. efforts to counter al-Qaeda and affiliated groups’ radicalizing of Muslims in this country to carry out terrorist attacks on the homeland.
It appears that part of King’s motivation in calling these hearings is to create another opportunity to attack his political opponents, like the Council on American-Islamic Relations. More proof of that motivation emerges if you look at his witnesses. If King really wanted to find out how Muslims in the U.S. reacted to his set of hearings focused on them, he would have invited an entirely different set of expert witnesses. But much like his past hearings, the one that will take place next Wednesday is not interested in a sober look at the issue.
The three “Muslim witnesses” are: Zuhdi Jasser, the right-wing’s favorite Muslim and the president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD); Asra Nomani, who has defended the New York Police Department’s spying on Muslims in The Daily Beast; and Qanta Ahmed, another defender of the NYPD.
Jasser is the most well-known of the witnesses, and he testified at King’s first hearings. But do some digging into where the one-man organization he runs gets its money, and it becomes transparently clear, if it wasn’t already, that these hearings have nothing to do with addressing “radicalization” and more to do with ginning up fear of Muslim political activism. As Max Blumenthal reports in the latest issue of The Nation, Jasser’s group, AIFD, received $10,000 from Nina Rosenwald, a right-wing Zionist who has used her fortune to solidify the nexus of Islamophobia and the Israel lobby.
Muslim activist groups have denounced King’s hearings. Here’s what the Muslim Public Affairs Council had to say:
King has shown his mastery of political theater, or utter boredom before summer break; inviting these three witnesses under the guise of experts is truly the ultimate prank. The gall of King to think Jasser, Ahmed and Nomani will be taken seriously as people who have intimate knowledge of law enforcement and American Muslim communities is the epitome of absurd. Rather than investigating actual threats, this hearing is only serving King’s own biases. He has created his own echo chamber to mimic what he wants to hear, not what he needs to hear.