Rep. Peter King (R-NY) chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, started his congressional hearing on Islamic radicalization Thursday amidst accusations of "Islamophobia" from the Sharia activists and expressions of distaste from most Democrats. In his opening statement King cited recent terror plots against the United States to justify his decision and suggested the hearings could help fulfill the committee's duty to "protect America from a terrorist attack" by examining the cause of those plots.
On the first day a heart-warming echo of Marx (Groucho, not Karl) came in the convoluted syllogism of Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., ranking Democrat on the Committee, who warned King that extremists could exploit the hearing for "propaganda" to inspire a "new generation of suicide bombers." Since even discussing Muslim extremism breeds more Muslim extremism, the subject of Muslim extremism should be left undiscussed so as to make us safer from Muslim extremism.
A touch of farce was provided by Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.—a practicing Muslim—who accused King of „stereotyping and scapegoating“ and then burst into tears as he described the work of a Muslim-American paramedic who lost his life on 9-11. Mr. Ellison evidently does not expect to go broke underestimating the taste of the American public. He is right.
In a normal country the King hearings would have taken place years ago, and they would have focused on the key issues of the Islamic Weltanschauung and its practical manifestations over the past 14 centuries. It is to be feared that the hearings will do no such thing.
“Recent terror plots” notwithstanding, for the time being America is still in far better shape than Europe. It would be dangerous to assume that this is so because Muslims have better assimilated into American culture. It would be an even greater folly to hope that America’s economic, political and cultural institutions will act as a powerful source of self-identification that breeds personal loyalty and commitment to the host-society that is so evidently absent among the Muslims in Europe. In fact there is ample evidence that Muslims in America share the attitudes and aspirations of their European coreligionists.
Some opponents of King’s hearings claim that Muslims are much better integrated in the United States than they are in Europe. This supposedly proves that America is doing a good job of assimilating them, and therefore “stigmatization” supposedly resulting from the hearings will bring more harm than good. This is not true. That things are not as bad in America as they are in France, Britain or Benelux is due to three factors.
First of all, Muslims do not account for much more than one percent of the population of the United States, in contrast to Western Europe where their share of the population is up to ten times greater. They like to pretend otherwise, of course, and groups such as the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the American Muslim Council (AMC) et al routinely assert that there are between 5 and 9 million Muslims in the United States. It is remarkable that these sources do not provide any empirically verifiable basis for their figures. Impartial studies currently place their number at between 2 and 4 million.
The second difference is in the fact that Muslim enclaves in Europe are ethnically more homogenous. Most Muslims in France, Spain and Belgium came from Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. In Germany and Austria they are mostly Turks. In Britain they are overwhelmingly from the Indian Subcontinent. Their group cohesiveness based on Islam is additionally reinforced by the bonds of ethnic, cultural and linguistic kinship. In the United States, by contrast, neither Arabs nor Subcontinentals enjoy similar dominance within the Muslim community, which is therefore not equally monolithic and thus not equally aggressive.
Last but not least, there are proportionately fewer U.S. citizens among Muslims in America. In France and Britain, most Muslims are citizens of those countries and feel free to act assertively (or even criminally) without any fear of deportation. The attitudes of Muslims coming to the United States also tend to change once their status in America is secure. When applying for admission or asylum, however, and while awaiting green cards, they are careful. As permanent residents they continue to refrain from statements and acts that may make them excludable under current laws. But as soon as they gain citizenship, many of them soon rediscover the virtues of sharia—and some start longing to do their bit in the path of Allah.
The trouble with King is that he, too, believes that your average Muslim is as Americanisable as any Tom, Dick, or Harry, and that the problem exists only in a small, unrepresentative fringe. It is patronizing, racist even, to expect that Muslim immigrants coming to the United States will suddenly become tabulae rasae and discard various political and cultural convictions shared by their compatriots back home. As it happens, the image of America in the Muslim world is far more negative than that of any European country: four-fifths of our Turkish and Pakistani “allies” and newly-democratized Egyptians loath America. Only slightly lower percentages of Muslims all over the world believe that suicide bombings can be justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies.
Rep. King’s panel should be told—but it will not be told—that this baggage comes to America with the Muslim immigrants and that it is transmitted to their American-born children. In a survey of newly naturalized citizens, 90 percent of Muslim immigrants admitted that if there were a conflict between the United States and their country of origin, they would be inclined to support their country of origin. In Detroit over 80 percent of Muslims “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that Shari’a should be the law of the land.
It is an even bet that after the hearings we’ll see many more variations on a familiar theme which runs as this: some members of a Muslim community somewhere in the United States are arrested and accused of terrorist links or plans. Local Muslims respond with a mix of indignation and denial, with the assurances of the suspects’ impeccable character, and accusations of anti-Muslim bias. Non-Muslim civic leaders then respond by reassuring the Muslim community that it is loved and appreciated and by calling on their fellow-citizens to be warm and supportive to their Muslim neighbors. The media report heart-rendering stories of the Muslim sense of sadness, rejection and alienation. The “experts” say that the magnitude of the threat is exaggerated. And Muslim activists and “community leaders” scream “Islamophobia,” of course.
Of course, if the plot is carried to fruition the politicians wonder and will continue to wonder what made him (them) do it. Was Major Nidal Hasan just stressed out or victimized by discrimination? Were all those “Kosovar” Albanians plotting attacks on Ft. Dix or murdering U.S. servicemen in Frankfurt really crying for help, having been traumatized by Serb brutality? To profess ignorance of “why it happened” after “it” happens, and to pretend that the answer is not contained in the culprit’s name and self-professed beliefs, is a strange form of fanaticism, as deadly in its consequences as any sleeper cell in New Jersey.
King should be told, but won’t, that in any group of 1,000 Muslim immigrants whose lives are centered on a mosque two things can be predicted with near-certainty. The first is that a sizable percentage—around a quarter—will sympathize with the motives of Al-Qaeda and its ilk, if not with their methods. The second is that some smaller percentage of that group—not more than one-in-ten, no fewer than one-in-twenty—especially among the Western-born young, will support those methods as well, and be potentially willing to apply them in practice.
The sense of hostile detachment from any recognizably American identity and values that breeds terrorist intent is not confined to any single group of Muslims. In Britain the people who raged against Rushdie included bankers and property developers as well as halal butchers and factory workers. In America, too, it transcends class and affects students, doctors, criminals, soldiers and arty bohemians equally. The problem is not limited to those Muslims who come to the United States as adults either.
The same sentiment of hostile detachment can be found among many American-born converts to Islam, both white and black. The tone was set in 1996 by Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, an NBA player, who refused to obey the League’s demand that players stand in a “dignified posture” when the national anthem is played. Beginning with the 1995-96 season, the 27-year-old former Baptist from Mississippi who had converted to Islam five years earlier had remained seated during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. He declared that as a Muslim he could not pay homage to the American flag—which he called a "symbol of oppression, of tyranny." He argued further that the flag directly contradicted his Islamic faith.
Mr. King’s hearings will answer nothing and resolve nothing, because they operate within an ideological paradigm within which it is inadmissible that a serious Muslim believer who comes to the United States cannot be “absolutely and entirely” loyal to the United States by definition. The basis of the social and legal order and source of all obligation in Islam is the Kuran, the final revelation of Allah’s will that is to be obeyed by all creation. His divine sovereignty is irreconcilable with popular sovereignty, the keystone of democracy. Politics is not “part of Islam,” as this would imply that, in origin, it is a distinctly separate sphere of existence that is then eventually amalgamated with Islam. Politics is the intrinsic core of the Islamic imperative of Allah’s sovereignty.
The result of that imperative is that among some three million Muslims in the United States of America there are sufficient numbers of terrorist sympathizers and active human assets to justify expenditure of over $300 billion annually in direct and indirect homeland security costs, excluding military operations abroad. That money would not need to be spent if America had been prudent enough to devise a sane immigration policy back in the days of Lyndon Johnson. The tangible cost of the presence of a Muslim man, woman and child to the American taxpayer is at least $100,000 each year. The cost of the general unpleasantness associated with the terrorist threat and its impact on the quality of our lives is, of course, incalculable.
I confidently expect that on the key issue of the message and record of Islam the hearings will have nothing to say. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if they touch the fundamentals of immigration policy, which is essential to understanding the problem of terrorism. The terms of the debate, as currently structured, reject the notion that religious faith can be a prime motivating factor in human affairs. Having reduced religion, literature and art to “narratives” and “metaphors” which merely reflect prejudices based on the distribution of power, the elite class treats the jihadist mindset as a curable idiosyncrasy.
Far from discriminating or stigmatizing anyone, my prediction is that Rep. King will conclude that the potential terrorists here in America are decent but misguided or else mistreated people who will change their ways if we are more determined to reach out to them. He will not say so, but other will conclude, that we need more prayer-rooms at colleges and workplaces, more pork-free menus in schools and jails, more welfare, public housing, and taxpayer subsidies for Islamic social and cultural societies. The belief that the problem can be legislated away or neutralized with public money goes hand-in-hand the elite class’s evident fear of an anti-Muslim backlash among the majority host-population.
Ignorant of Islam’s tenets and history, as the threat grows more onerous by the day, the elite class insists ever more stridently that counter-terrorist policies must not be pursued at the expense of liberal values since any alternative would “play into the hands of terrorists.” Which brings us back to Rep. Bennie Thompson and his warning that extremists could exploit the hearing for "propaganda" to inspire a "new generation of suicide bombers." Dixit.