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Mar 16 2011

Let’s call this what it is…

Those accommodationists among us (I am not calling them “diplomats” here – there is nothing diplomatic about being a coward) will say that one ought not to use mean words or phrases against our opponents. Rational discussion is, they say, based on both sides maintaining a respectful stance – a stance which is impossible if people use words or phrases that put the other side on the defensive. When confronted, people will put their fingers in their ears and refuse to hear your side.

If the protests in the Arab world have taught us anything, it’s that the accommodationist position is full of shit. Standing up and calling out your opponents is an effective method of achieving change, provided you can mobilize those who agree with you. This has long been my suspicion, but it’s nice of the Arab world to prove it for me.

So, in the spirit of not pretending that bullshit arguments have merit in order not to offend the bullshitters, I invite everyone to call these anti-Muslim “hearings” what they are: straight up racism

A U.S. congressional hearing on homegrown terrorism has been labelled “shameful” and “un-American” by prominent Muslim leaders. A Republican-led Homeland Security committee began hearing testimony Thursday in Washington on radicalization in the U.S. Muslim community. Representative Peter King, the New York Republican who organized the hearing, has stirred controversy by accusing Muslims of refusing to help law enforcement with the growing number of terrorists and extremists.

Muslim Americans, according to Peter King, aren’t licensed to simply exist as law-abiding citizens. No, that’s too good for ‘those people’. They also have to help law enforcement do its job, I suppose by acting as sleeper agents. You know, just like how white Christians flocked to aid law enforcement crack down on anti-abortion terrorist groups. Oh wait… that never happened, did it? You know why? Partially because it’s not a group’s collective responsibility to do law enforcement’s job for them, partially because terrorists are a tiny fraction of the overall population of white Christians, but also because they’re white! White people don’t get scapegoated – it’s in their contract.

I wish I could accuse Mr. King of being shockingly ignorant of American history, but I am not so sure that he doesn’t know who Joe McCarthy was and what his legacy is. Considering the number of people making the explicit comparison between the two, I will simply take a step back now that I’ve planted the seed and let you read on your own (if you care to).

If this were a more popular blog, and we had more American Conservatives(tm) commenting (or indeed, any American Conservatives), I’m sure I’d be flooded with comments like this one:

Nobody is “targetting” the entirety of American Muslims. That being said, an overwhelming majority of terrorist incidents in the United States within the past two years have been perpetrated by Muslims. These are FACTS – not biases or racist screeds – duly recognized by Congress, and the executives within the Obama administration.

It’s not racism, guys! Really! It’s just that those durn Mooslims keep blowin’ stuff up! Well, unless you actually bother to count:

But even if it was Muslims who are predominantly committing acts of terror (and it isn’t – I can’t stress this enough), that doesn’t empower Mr. King to put the Muslim community on trial for those acts. If Mr. King was really interested in getting to the bottom of this issue rather than just demonizing a minority group, he’d be inviting experts and members of the community, talking to law enforcement specialists, consulting statistics.

But he’s not:

Consider, for example, that so far at least, King’s witness list does not contain the name of Charles Kurzman, a professor of sociology of the University of North Carolina. A non-Muslim, Kurzman has produced a report for the university’s Triangle Centre on Terrorism and Homeland Security that actually uses statistics and facts to examine the question posed in the report’s opening paragraph: “Are Muslim-Americans turning increasingly to terrorism?” Kurzman examines things like the number of Muslim-Americans who perpetrated or were suspected of perpetrating attacks since 9/11: 24 in 2003, 16 in 2006, 16 in 2007, a spike of 47 in 2009, and a drop to 20 in 2010. A total of 161 over nearly 10 years.

In a few cases, Muslim groups have even turned in provocateurs urging jihad who turned out to be undercover police agents.

This isn’t a concerned citizen looking to find the solution to a serious problem – this is an opportunist who is cashing in on the rampant anti-Muslim sentiment of the populace to make hay and brand himself as a patriot. Considering his hypocritical stance on state-sponsored terrorism – defending the IRA in the 90s when they were perpetrating acts of terrorism in Ireland – it’s patently obvious that Mr. King’s motivation here is to demonize the “other”. In this case, in this day and age, that “other” is the Muslim community.

And why do I care (and, by extension, why should you)? I’m certainly no friend of Islam, and am suspicious of all religious people, particularly those whose religion requires extraordinary levels of piety and compliance with arcane rules. Why should I defend people I disagree with so vociferously? First of all, I care because it’s the right thing to do. Innocent people are being scapegoated by the U.S. government, and that’s a violation of their rights. Second, any time a minority group is made an example of, every person should become immediately uneasy. As an atheist and a black person, two groups that have received its unfair share of negative attention from governments and social institutions, I am standing up for myself here too.

There is no virtue in pretending that Mr. King has a noble purpose in these witch hunts. It is not diplomatic to try and hear his side – his side is built on lies, hypocrisy and thinly-veiled racial animosity. The virtue here is in calling this exactly what it is, and refusing to stop naming it until Mr. King is shamed into obscurity.

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4 comments

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  1. 1
    Katherine

    partially because terrorists are a tiny fraction of the overall population of white Christians, but also because they’re white! White people don’t get scapegoated – it’s in their contract.

    Whoa, I get a contract that says I don’t get scapegoated? I should bring this up the next time someone accuses me of being an atheistic baby eater or something. ;-P

    Otherwise, great article.

  2. 2
    Crommunist

    Hahaha, I meant scapegoated for being white. Obviously if you are white and gay you get blamed for volcanoes, white and immodestly dressed it’s your fault for earthquakes, and so on…

  3. 3
    grassrute

    When did Islam become a race? Sounds like religious profiling to me.

  4. 4
    Crommunist

    That’s a good point. The spirit that is motivating these hearings is functionally identical to racism, but it is not strictly race-based. It’s important to note, however, that these hearings are not about the religion of Islam, but the community. I don’t have a word for this kind of group-based prejudice, and so I used racism as a place-holder, but as you note it is inaccurate.

    I’m not entirely unconvinced that, much like the “illegal immigrant” demonization going on there, there isn’t a strong undercurrent of racial bias against a specific group, but that’s just my take on it.

    Thanks.

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