Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Let's Talk About Sects
I'll once again make this quick.
Peter King is a shameless, reactionary turd -- the kind of unapolgetically bigoted loudmouth that could only have crawled out of a pool of cultural and intellectual quicksand as impressive as Long Island.
That being said, his assertion that the potential radicalization of Muslim Americans is an issue worth looking into isn't entirely without merit. Like any insular group, Muslims in this country have been reluctant to self-examine when it comes to potential dangers within their own ranks. I can't say I don't understand the reasoning behind this, but it doesn't exactly let community leaders off the hook when the time comes to speak up against those who would radicalize otherwise decent, peaceful people and those who seem to willingly fall into the trap of radicalization. It wasn't wrong to ask, say, after the arrest of would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, "Are Muslim imams doing everything in their power, without hedging, to root out and prevent potentially dangerous anti-Western fundamentalism within their mosques -- even if that means nothing more than consistently driving home the message of peace and tolerance?" Of course not every Muslim is a terrorist -- far from it, and only the most ignorant and xenophobic would believe otherwise -- but there's no denying that the battle to stop the breeding of potential Muslim terrorists on home soil or the assimilation of outsiders with destructive agendas within our borders begins with the Islamic community itself. More than anyone, it knows what to look for among its own populace.
So, no, in theory the decision to hold hearings examining Islamic radicalization isn't half as chilling as it sounds; it's a conversation worth having, one that's typically been prevented by placing our desire not to offend over a willingness to confront reality.
The problem, as I already alluded to, is with who took it upon himself to order the hearings -- which begin tomorrow. While it's true that we sometimes concern ourselves too much with the need for political correctness -- occasionally at our own peril -- Muslims in this country really do have reason to feel that they're at best regarded with suspicion and at worst the target of outright hostility. In other words, if you dare to broach a subject as sensitive as the potential danger posed by those who subscribe to a fundamentalist version of their one specific religion, you'd better damn well be someone who owns an entire armoire full of kid gloves. And I think it's safe to say that a tactless buffoon with a well-documented history of stoking Islamophobic paranoia -- a guy who perpetuates the worst kind of ugly American stereotype and whose rise to power coincided with his vocal support of the IRA -- isn't who you want at the helm of this particular ship, not considering the level of skill required to avoid the considerable mines in the water.
Peter King isn't the kind of two-dimensional thinker who can appreciate that there's a legitimate argument to be made that by even singling out the Muslim religion for official scrutiny, we run the risk of violating everything we stand for as Americans -- or that there's hypocrisy in not confronting, say, Christian leaders and demanding the same level of accountability for the fringe elements within their ranks, given that most homegrown anti-government terrorists here in America are die-hard Jesus freaks. These are the sorts of subtleties and ethical paradoxes that will almost certainly whiz overtop of the Buttafuocoian pompadour that frames King's cartoonishly hang-dog face. And the result will be that more harm is done by this tragically inevitable dog-and-pony show than good.
Once again, this is a conversation that needs to happen. I just don't think Peter King -- to say nothing of his conspicuously clear personal agenda -- should be the one starting and dominating it.