Republican Congressman Peter King has announced that he is going to hold hearings about “radicalization of the American Muslim community”. It will, of course, be an exercise in good ol’ American fearmongering. Your average American, who knows NOTHING about Islam, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Somalia, American foreign policy, terrorism, or a single American Muslim, will have soundbites lobbed their way that sound very sinister to the uneducated ear. Pure political theater. You may not have a job, and you may be about to lose your home, but at least those Republicans in Congress are trying to protect you from Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood or something.
The emphasis on Islam is ironic. The fear leapt into being after 9/11, but those attacks were only tangentially related to Islam. Osama bin Laden said time and time again that he wanted to strike out at the US not because of religion, but because the US was “occupying” Saudi Arabia and supporting Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. So it would be more accurate to say that 9/11 was an attack on US policies that affected Muslims more than it was about Islam itself.
Anyhow, I imagine that King’s hearings will be an embarassing sham. But y’know, if he was actually going to do it in an honest way, it could almost be a good thing. Why? Because evidence shows that the most radical Muslims in the US, the ones who attempt to carry out terrorist attacks, became radical for two main reasons: US military actions in the Middle East, and FBI entrapment of angry Muslim men.
First off, there does not seem to be much of a “radical Muslim” problem inside the United States. No one seems to have a proper estimate, but the guess is that there are 5-7 million Muslims out of 300+ million Americans. If a significant number of those Muslims were “radical”, they could be causing all sorts of havok on a daily basis. They don’t. Over the past several years, there seem to have been 1-2 attempted terrorist attacks a year, most of which are kind of iffy (more below) and are unsuccessful. When they have been successful, perhaps a dozen people have died in the attacks. This is horrible, but it makes up a tiny fraction of the 18,000+ murders that take place in the US every year.
If we actually listen to what these terrorists say, they claim it was because of their anger at the US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. The failed “Times Square Bomber”, after his arrest, tried to justify his violence by talking about US drone strikes on Pakistan. The man who shot up his workplace in Fort Hood said that it was a duty to fight back against the Americans who were killing Muslims. Of course, you can always question if a person’s stated motives are their true reasons for their actions. Fair enough. But if we take them at their word, it does seem that if there is an increase in radical Islam in the United States, US foreign policy is one of the driving forces.
Of the other, foiled, terrorist attacks inside the US in the past several years, they almost always seem shady. After the initial sensationlist storm of coverage, the fine print usually tells the tale of an angry, or possibly crazy person who publicly proclaims their desire to attack America. The person is then approached by an undercover agent or other informant, who commiserates with the angry/crazy person, encourages them to take action, provides them with plans and weapons, and then busts them when they begin their “attack.” I don’t know if this fits the legal definition of entrapment or not. But from what I’ve read, it seems that many of these men didn’t have the drive, resources, or sometimes competence to pull off any sort of terrorist attack without these government agents holding their hand and walking them to the target.
So if Rep. King was having an honest hearing, it would be interesting to see a fearful nation taking stock, and seeing that their military actions may be making them unsafe, and their would-be protectors are drumming up plots where there weren’t really any to start with. But instead of shedding light on real problems, he’s probably going to drum up a lot of anger that’s going to get a lot of American Muslims harassed and intimidated for no good reason.