Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Divide and Conquer, Religious Style
Rep. Peter King is using his position as chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security to terrorize Muslims.  He is instituting hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims based on vague accusations that ordinary Muslims and their leaders have not done enough to speak out against terrorism.  He has yet to produce, of course, any proof of any of his claims that American Muslims are becoming more radicalized and that they are not adequately assisting the police and counter-terrorism officials.

The impetus for these hearings likely has nothing to do with the radicalization of Muslims, and everything to do with politics.  By turning Americans against each other politicians can pursue the old divide and conquer technique.  Anyone who knows American Muslims knows that they are just like everyone else.  They are mostly good, hardworking, honest people who value their freedoms and abhor oppression.  They are serious about their religion and embrace their cultural and familial roots.  While most are good, some are not.  The same could be said about nearly every group of Americans, no matter how you dissect them.  You could say the same about Catholics, Mormons, atheists, middle class, lower class, New Yorkers, Utahns, blacks, whites, and on and on. It is cliche but still basically true that the things that tie us together are both more numerous and more important than the things that differentiate us.

But politicians know, and Rep. King best of all, apparently, that creating connections based on virtuous commonalities is bad politics.  So King is finding ways to divide us, and his weapon of choice is religion.  Instead of pointing to all the ways that Muslims are a valuable part of our nation, and world, he is making false allegations and fomenting fear and dividing us artificially along religious lines.  It suddenly becomes very comforting for the average white Christian to identify with Peter King and his brand of politics against the sinister "other" that is, in this case, Muslims.  Proof and logic have no place in this debate, this is about emotion.

It won't do any good to point to studies that show that Muslims are becoming less and less likely to radicalize and how helpful Muslims have been in anti-terrorism cases.  It won't do any good to point out that in America there is no guilt of identity.  It won't do any good to point out that every group has extremist wings and that we don't require every Christian, for instance, to denounce White Supremacists or else be considered anti-American and come before a McCarthyite congressional hearing.  It won't do any good to point out King's own ties to the Irish terrorist group, the IRA, and that therefore he is a hypocrite.

We can't allow our leaders to use our religion against us.  If we're concerned about freedom of religion, and we should be, then we should stand up with Muslims against this oppression.  Because Mormons could always be next.  Have you publicly denounced Warren Jeffs, the FLDS, and Mountain Meadows yet?

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