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The American Inquisition of 2011

Posted on Mar 7, 2011

By Eugene Robinson

Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is about to convene hearings whose premise offends our nation’s founding ideals and whose targets are law-abiding members of a religious minority. King has decided to investigate Islam.

A Republican from Long Island in his 10th term, King seems untroubled that the freedoms of religion and association are guaranteed by the Constitution. His public exercise in Islamophobia, scheduled to begin Thursday, can do no good—and much harm.

The legitimate-sounding goal of this exercise, King explained Sunday on CNN, is to investigate “self-radicalization going on within the Muslim community” and the threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism. Who doesn’t want to uncover al-Qaida sleeper cells? Who doesn’t want to do everything that is possible—and legal—to prevent terrorist attacks?

But King further alleges that Muslim Americans have failed to demonstrate “sufficient cooperation” with law enforcement in uncovering potential terrorist plots. With this libel, King casts doubt on the loyalties of millions of Americans solely because of their faith. This is religious persecution—and it’s un-American and wrong.

King says he only wants to root out potential terrorists and bears no animus toward the vast majority of Muslim Americans. But he once complained that “unfortunately, we have too many mosques in this country,” and on another occasion offered the ludicrous opinion that “80 to 85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists.” His claim to be free of anti-Muslim bias lacks credibility.

The irony is that it would be perfectly appropriate for King and his committee to look into any and all potential sources of domestic terrorism, emphasis on any and all. Before the 9/11 attacks, people seem to forget, the deadliest single act of terrorism on U.S. soil had been perpetrated by a right-wing loser named Timothy McVeigh—who was not, as it happened, a follower of Islam. For more than a century, the most remorseless and violent terrorist organization in the nation was the Ku Klux Klan. Watchdogs such as the Southern Poverty Law Center would be happy to share with King voluminous information about heavily armed militia groups out in the backwoods, training for some imagined Armageddon.

But the fact is that the 9/11 atrocities were indeed committed by men who espoused a version of Islam—one that the vast majority of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims reject as warped and blasphemous. It’s also true that al-Qaida and its affiliates continue to mount attacks against the United States and the West, and that jihadist ideology is a deadly weapon.

Some conservatives make a frank argument for ethnic and religious profiling as an anti-terrorism tool. They scoff that failing to single out Muslims for extra scrutiny is nothing but political correctness.

These self-styled “realists” are stoking irrational fears while ignoring rational ones. King offers no support for his insinuation that Muslim Americans are giving aid and comfort to terrorists; to the contrary, Muslim clerics and worshipers in this country have been vocal in their rejection of jihadist rhetoric and violence. And unless King believes Muslims are clairvoyant, why would he expect them to be any better than Christians, Jews or anyone else in identifying lone-wolf gunmen or bombers whose private torment becomes obvious only in retrospect?

Security hearings that focus exclusively on Muslim Americans serve only to amplify the rumblings of Islamophobia that seem to become louder and crazier by the day.

Bad enough is the ridiculous controversy over the proposed Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan that became known as the “Ground Zero Mosque.” This episode taught Muslim Americans that even a mainstream cleric, specifically bent on building an institution for interfaith outreach and understanding, is not welcome to enjoy the nation’s guarantee of religious freedom.

Worse is all the ugly noise—it doesn’t qualify as debate—about the imagined encroachment of Islamic Shariah law. As a threat to the American way of life, the chance that our justice system would be taken over by “creeping” Shariah is less likely than the emergence of Godzilla from New York Harbor. Yet state legislatures are taking up actual legislation to guard against this imaginary Islamic threat.

The narrative that al-Qaeda uses to recruit suicide bombers is that the United States and the West are not fighting terrorism but trying to destroy Islam. Peter King, with his little hearings, is about to make it harder to refute the jihadists’ big lie.

Eugene Robinson’s e-mail address is eugenerobinson(at)
© 2011, Washington Post Writers Group


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By laceration, March 8, 2011 at 10:34 am Link to this comment

There is another group proving to be destructive to our Nation and they pose a great threat of inflicting further devastating damage.  Hearings must be held, action must be taken!  The group…Politicians!

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By bogi666, March 8, 2011 at 9:49 am Link to this comment
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you’ve got it right gerard, plus he gets paid by the Zionists extremists to do this.King represents Zionism 1st and formost.

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By Go Right Young Man, March 8, 2011 at 9:25 am Link to this comment


These hearings haven’t even begun. Placing such labels now is, well, not at all warranted. 

Robinson’s unmitigated bigotry is sickening.

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By SarcastiCanuck, March 8, 2011 at 9:21 am Link to this comment
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Bravo kerryrose,you took the words right out of my mouth.McCarthy totally comes to mind in this witch hunt.I just pray they don’t start going after masturbators or I’ll be doing hard time in sing sing.They are also a threat to society….

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By Dennis, March 8, 2011 at 9:01 am Link to this comment
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Read the Beer Doctors post. He nailed it. So did Gerard

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By kerryrose, March 8, 2011 at 8:53 am Link to this comment


‘Inquisition’ is better phrased as McCarthyism.

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By Go Right Young Man, March 8, 2011 at 8:45 am Link to this comment

I am unsure of the efficacy of these public hearings, however, for Eugene Robinson, this unapologetic bigot, to label these hearings as an American Inquisition, before the hearings have begun, is the same idiotic fear-mongering he has spread for a decade.

You’re a nasty and narrow-minded bigot, Mr. Robinson.  You truly make me ill.

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By aacme, March 8, 2011 at 8:01 am Link to this comment
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There is an extremely dangerous and subversive element creeping up on America, and has in fact gained control of the Congress, and many of the legislatures and state houses of the nation. It is hard to imagine a more insidious threat, greater than we have ever faced. Adherents expound intolerance to anyone unlike them, though they profess a religion of tolerance, but distort its teachings to their own ends.
Politically, they espouse policies that, on reflection, appear to be counter to their own well being, as well as the nation’s as a whole. However, not given to introspection, they appear totally unaware of this contradiction.
They are supremely well-financed, and have successfully pursued changes in the laws that enable unlimited funding without disclosure of the source.
Militarist in outlook, their leaders frequently whip them to a frenzy against one group or country, or another, likely for the profits inherent in their favored procurement method, known as “no-bid contracts”. While illegal, no-one seems to challenge their use. Interestingly, one group that has come under the broadest and most sustained attack is the middle class, from which most of the rank and file adherents spring. They have almost completely succeeded in crippling this target group, but to the extent the adherents are affected, it seems to increase the fury with which they involve themselves in the subversive activities, blaming their own misfortunes on the people opposing their movement.
The leadership and financial support of this element is believed to be in the corporate and moneyed segments of society. Apparently the motive is simple greed, but successfully obfuscated by the razzle- dazzle omnipresence of their propaganda machine, likely the greatest ever assembled.
As was noted before, this is likely the most dangerous crisis our country has ever faced, and an in-depth investigation by the Congress would be broadly supported by that segment of the population not implicated in the subversive activity.

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By Mike789, March 8, 2011 at 7:51 am Link to this comment

As Mr Robinson states, the facts to do support King’s ascentions. Muslims were instrumental in exposing 40 of 120 terrorist threats. I suppose that’s not good enough.

All American’s of islamic faith should drop every day to day chores, establish neighborhood truth councils and hector one another to find a few traitors. Once an individual passes review, he or she gets an honor badge to openly sport to confirm his allegiance and everybody can be reassured, most prodominantly, Rep. King, that all the olive colored citizens in NYC are cool. Preposterous.

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By thebeerdoctor, March 8, 2011 at 7:34 am Link to this comment

I have to laugh at the thought of Mr. Peter King being concerned about terrorism. An Irish Republican Army enabler, he defended that terrorist organization, even when they smuggled arms into Ireland, supplied by that Col guy still seeking to run things in Libya. Representative Peter King: an immaculate political fraud who enhances his stature by magnifying his despicable xenophobia.

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By madisolation, March 8, 2011 at 6:39 am Link to this comment

Excellent comment by Gerard. This does takes attention off the dire circumstances we face every day. It also has a fear component, and fear makes people easily manipulated. They turn to “leaders,” not that any of the politicians in Washington—from the President on down—can be called a leader by any stretch of the imagination.
It’s also kabuki. One side can scapegoat, and the other side can pretend to be outraged at the scapegoating. Neither side really gives a flying crap about anything other than the fattening of their own wallets. Furthermore, it doesn’t even make for good theatre, because they’re all really rotten actors.

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By kerryrose, March 8, 2011 at 5:26 am Link to this comment

King is my representative.  People love him here.  Guess what kind of place I live?  It is the 2nd most wealthy district in the nation.  You will never see anything on the street that is not a BMW, Mercedes, or Lexus… and huge, huge trucks not dainty little cars.

So, it is the wealthy that support Mr McCarthy (King).  What is it they are afraid of losing?  It’s not a mystery.

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By ardee, March 8, 2011 at 5:17 am Link to this comment

We elect these morons,don’t we?

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By BeliTsari, March 8, 2011 at 3:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Exactly right. It’s an obvious, hammer-headed game they’re playing; to get lots of face-time on Fox (and now CNN) spitting and gesticulating hatred towards some disenfranchised, powerless victims to enrage the Snuggie clad, bloated hordes… self-aggrandizement, power, shilling for people who line their pockets. Right as the ‘baggers can’t afford to schlep their Hemi Dodge Ram to the WalMart any more, to buy plastic sweat-shop crap from half way round the planet. I do not know who sickens me more: these Pamela Geller, Michele Bachmann, Newton Leroy Gingrich goose-stepping vagina dentata; or their speciously gullible constituency, hateful know nothing cowards.

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By gerard, March 8, 2011 at 12:26 am Link to this comment

Yeah, but you know what?  This takes people’s attention off of their real problems (a failing war, high unemployment, pollution, mortgage foreclosures, a worthless media, inadequate schools and poor health care).  At the same time, promoting divisions increases public fear so that people are easier to propagandize and manipulate. 
  This is a well-known fascist technique and governments that are afraid they are falling apart will resort to anything to keep from admitting failure.
  Democracy is supposed to be self-correcting—but that means participation of a broad span on public-minded citizens who work consistently at the local level to preserve democratic practices and nip autocracy in the bud.

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