Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Critics Condemn Islam Hearings as Witch Hunts

Inter Press Service

On the eve of a controversial hearing by lawmakers on extremist Islam in the United States, civil rights and Muslim- American groups are warning of its potential repercussions, which they say may undermine the very intent of the proceeding.

The House of Representatives' Committee on Homeland Security, spearheaded by Republican Peter King, will meet here Thursday morning to discuss the "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response" in the first of a series of contentious hearings about home-grown terrorist threats.

"His [King's] approach is going to radicalize the young people," said Muhammad Salim Akhtar, head of the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections, at a press conference Wednesday, which included 11 Muslim-American and civil liberties groups.

"The focus of the hearings should be of greater concern for the message they send overseas as well as to communities at home," echoed Paul Pillar, director of graduate studies at Georgetown University's Security Studies Program and a former CIA analyst for the Middle East and South Asia, in a blog post Tuesday.

"They will be widely read as an indication that U.S. postures and policies that are ostensibly aimed at combating terrorism are really more about combating Muslims," he warned in the 'National Interest'. "And that reading will in turn stir more anti-Americanism among Muslims."

President Barack Obama's administration dispatched deputy national security advisor Denis McDonough to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society on Sunday, where he made statements that seemed designed to counter these potential readings.

"[O]f the violent extremists we've captured or arrested, and who falsely claim to be fighting in the name of Islam, we know that they all share one thing: They all believe that the United States is somehow at war with Islam, and that this justifies violence against Americans," he told the audience of about 200.

"[W]e are actively and aggressively undermining that ideology," McDonough declared. "We're exposing the lie that America and Islam are somehow in conflict. That is why President Obama has stated time and again that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam."

Stoking Xenophobia

"[I]nstead of condemning whole communities, we need to join with those communities to help them protect themselves as well," McDonough continued. "We must resolve that, in our determination to protect our nation, we will not stigmatize or demonize entire communities because of the actions of a few."

Critics have called Thursday's meeting "inappropriate", "counterproductive" and a "witch-hunt".

Alejandro Beutel, Government and Policy Analyst for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said at the same press conference Wednesday that the hearing was "political theatre rather than actual problem-solving", with King "putting an entire religion on trial".

Critics fear that the hearings will fuel the rising tide of xenophobia that has flooded the nation recently, which last year contributed to highly-publicized hostility against an Islamic community centre to be built near Ground Zero, malicious attacks against mosques throughout the country and the proposal of a "Burn the Koran Day".

"[The] hearings, as currently proposed, do a disservice to the seriousness of the topic of 'domestic terrorism' and are likely to contribute to a public backlash against Muslim Americans," wrote the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights – a coalition of over 200 organizations – in a letter to King dated Feb. 4.

In prior statements and in a series of media interviews leading up to Thursday's hearing, King has erroneously claimed that 80 to 85 percent of mosques are controlled by radical Islamists – a claim that has been widely debunked. He has also alleged that Muslim community leaders are uncooperative with law enforcement and impede the process of finding and exposing potential extremists.

"Our community organizations have, for a long time, been playing a frontline role," countered Beutel. Instead of rhetoric, "[w]e need to let the data lead the discourse," he argued, citing a joint Duke University and University of North Carolina report that found that 40 percent of terrorist suspects apprehended since the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks were reported to authorities by fellow Muslims.

"We believe that these [King's] baseless accusations will put the Muslim population in danger," Naeem Baig, vice president of Public Affairs for the Islamic Circle of North America, told reporters Wednesday.

Misplaced Priorities

Many groups have urged that the hearings be cancelled. Instead, Akbar Ahmed, professor of Islamic studies at American University, argued in the New York Times Tuesday that the proceedings should take place and be used as "an opportunity to educate Americans about [the Muslim] community's diversity and faith".

"Muslims should embrace the chance to explain their beliefs fully and clearly. We have nothing to hide," Ahmed said. "But members of Congress also need to act responsibly. They should avoid broad accusations, and be aware that the hearings will be closely followed worldwide."

"We're not in denial in our community that something is going on. There are bad elements in every community" explained Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, representing the Council of Muslim Organizations in Wednesday's press conference. The issue is King's approach, the speakers contended.

"Congress simply has no business examining Americans' religious or political beliefs in official hearings – even if these beliefs are considered 'radical' by some," 42 civil liberties and free speech organizations wrote in a letter to King and other leading lawmakers dated Tuesday.

"Fear and misunderstanding should not drive our government policies," asserted the rights groups, which included the ACLU, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Friends of the Earth.

Meanwhile, accused of scape-goating and fear-mongering, King defends the hearings as "essential", while supporters claim they are overdue.

"It should be no surprise that such [critical] groups have been aggressively vilifying the chairman as a 'racist' and 'bigot', assailing his choice of witnesses, including an authentic Muslim reformer, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, and denouncing the whole hearing enterprise as an example of 'Islamophobia' and McCarthyism," wrote Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, in the Washington Times Tuesday.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

The millionaire pastor of the Cornerstone Church in Texas, John Hagee argues that U.S. support for Israel will play a “a pivotal role in the second coming” of Jesus. He has also risen to new prominence during the Trump administration.


Michael Gerson, an evangelical Christian who served as a chief aide and speechwriter in the George W. Bush White House, is a conservative columnist for the Washington Post and one of Donald Trump’s harshest critics on the right, calling him an “unhinged president.”


Robert Kagan, a cofounder of the Project for the New American Century, is a neoconservative policy pundit and historian based at the Brookings Institution.


Mira Ricardel, former weapons marketer for Boeing, is the deputy national security adviser under John Bolton. She is a well-known foreign policy hawk who has served in key positions in the administration of George W. Bush and, earlier, in the office of former Senator Robert Dole (R-KS).


Fred Fleitz left his role as chief of staff at the National Security Council under John Bolton to succeed notorious Islamophobe Frank Gaffney as president and CEO of the Center for Security Policy.


Brian Hook is the director of policy planning and senior policy advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and is the head of the Iran Action Group.


Haim Saban is a media mogul and major donor to the Democratic Party known for his hardline stance on Israel and opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

U.S. supporters of Israel are in a bind: public opinion is changing; there are more actors publicly challenging Israel; and the crude, heavy-handed tactics they have successfully used in the past to silence criticism now only aggravate the situation.


As the civilian death toll from Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen grows and the backlash against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in Khashoggi’s murder escalates, former Sen. Norm Coleman’s control of Republican Party campaign purse strings positions him as a key influencer of Republican congressional action, or inaction, in curtailing the increasingly aggressive and reckless actions of Saudi Arabia.


Increasingly, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are positioned as rivals, each with pretensions to Middle Eastern influence or even hegemony. It’s not clear whether they can continue to coexist without one or the other—or both—backing down. This has made it more difficult for the United States to maintain its ties with both countries.


What does President Trump’s recent nomination of retired Army General John Abizaid to become the next U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia signify? Next to nothing — and arguably quite a lot.


The Donald Trump administration’s handling of nuclear negotiations with Saudi Arabia promises to lay bare some realities about security issues and nuclear programs in that part of the world that the administration has refused to acknowledge.


Eminent U.S. foreign policy expert Stephen Walt’s new book critique’s the “liberal hegemony” grand strategy that has dominated U.S. foreign policy since the end of the Cold War.


(Lobelog)  Retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told LobeLog he will remain on the board of the Gatestone Institute, a right-wing think tank that receives money from Trump megadonors Robert and Rebekah Mercer and disseminates anti-Muslim and anti-refugee conspiracy theories. Last week, LobeLog reported that Dershowitz received $120,000 from the Gatestone Institute in 2017 and…


RightWeb
share