Out with the old Islamophobe, in with the new: Texas Republican tapped to chair Homeland Security committee

US Politics
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McCaul
Rep. Mike McCaul is set to take over as head of the
Homeland Security Committee (Photo: Cliff Owen/AP Photo)

When the news broke that Peter King (R-NY) was stepping down from his post as head of the House Homeland Security Committee due to party-imposed term limits, those concerned with Islamophobia breathed a sigh of relief. But his replacement, Mike McCaul (R-TX), may be no better. What the Republicans essentially did is replace one anti-Muslim lawmaker with another.

King was the nation’s most prominent elected purveyor of Islamophobia. He made a name for himself as head of the Homeland Security Committee by singling out the Muslim-American community as an incubator for anti-American radicalization. King held four hearings–four separate hearings–on Muslim-American “radicalization,” despite the fact that there is no evidence to show that Muslim-Americans are prone to extremism. In fact, the evidence shows the opposite.

Now, McCaul enters the fray, and he has already given hints that he will be treating his perch as head of the Homeland Security Committee in much the same way King did. McCaul, a representative from Texas’ 10th Congressional District, recently said that the Obama administration doesn’t take the threat of terrorism seriously enough.

In a statement announcing that Republicans had voted him in as head of the Homeland Security Committee, McCaul praised King by saying that he “would like to commend Chairman Peter King for his leadership. His contributions to homeland security in the post 9/11-world have been invaluable and I look forward to continuing to work with him.” King returned the favor by saying that McCaul “is committed to securing our homeland from terrorism and ensuring that the Department of Homeland Security acts in an effective and responsible manner.”

While McCaul has yet to say whether he intends to go on with even more hearings on Muslim-Americans, his past indicates that he will, at the very least, use his bully pulpit to fear-monger about Muslims and spread Islamophobia from an officially sanctioned place. McCaul praised King’s initial hearings on Muslim-American “radicalization,” calling them a way to “end the era of political correctness.” McCaul has also suggested that there is a “correlation between Islam and national security,” as Think Progress’ Hamed Aleaziz notes.

Beyond the praise for King’s hearings, though, lies even more indications of McCaul’s antipathy towards Muslims. McCaul appeared on lead Islamophobe Frank Gaffney’s radio show last year.

Gaffney, a top neoconservative and former Reagan administration official, is the director of the Center for Security Policy (CSP). The CSP is a lead pusher of the baseless conspiracy theory that Muslims are bent on taking over the US and instituting sharia law here. That theory was the basis of a report put out by CSP in 2010, which was backed by Republican members of Congress. David Yerushalmi, an extremist Orthodox Jewish Zionist who is the head of a group that explicitly states they are against democracy, is CSP’s general counsel. Gaffney, the New York Times reported, is “Mr. Yerushalmi’s primary link to a network of former and current government officials, security analysts and grass-roots political organizations.”

On Gaffney’s radio show, McCaul spoke about “the stealth jihad against the United States,” as a description on the radio site states. Gaffney opened up his segment with McCaul by asking about the “Muslim Brotherhood’s operations in the United States.” This theory–that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the US government–is one that Gaffney has pushed for a number of years, and was recently taken up by Michele Bachmann.

McCaul, of course, didn’t challenge any of Gaffney’s assertions, and played right along. McCaul also used his appearance to push the theory that Hezbollah was establishing a presence in the Western Hemisphere, specifically in Latin America. But, as PolitiFact noted when this claim made its way into the GOP primaries, there is little credible evidence that this is a real threat.

For McCaul, though, evidence doesn’t seem to mean much. And we can probably look forward to more fact-free statements about Muslims in the US in the years to come as McCaul takes the helm as head of the Homeland Security Committee.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and graduate student at New York University's Near East Studies and Journalism programs. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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