Thursday, March 10, 2011

Listen, my children, and we shall sing, of the ignorance of Peter King

Is Deroy Murdock rehearsing for April Fool's Day? The National Review contributor called New York Republican Congressman Peter King a "modern Paul Revere" for his nonsensical and time-wasting hearings on Islamic radicalization. A closer description might be H.L. Mencken's memorial summation of William Jennings Bryan: "A charlatan, a mountebank, a zany without sense or dignity."

Never mind the fact that King has loudly defended Irish Republican Army terror in Northern Ireland and compared the slippery Gerry Adams to George Washington(!) Begosh and begorra, if the damn'd Mooslims would just hoist a glass or two and act as if they longed to return to auld sod, they might find a soft spot in the Congressman's heart and he'd forget the whole thing. But it at least makes you wonder how the man decides who his enemies are.

Does Islamic radicalism exist among some middle-class westerners and is it preached by some irresponsible imams? Yes and hell yes. Nothing has amazed and exasperated me more, in frequenting message boards and chat rooms peopled by atheists and agnostics, than to discover a certain type of skeptic of religion who, when he loudly objects to God, really means Christianity: Buddhism is enlightened, Hinduism is exotic, Taoism is nonjudgmental, and as to violent manifestations of Islam, well, who are we to judge—anyway, ever heard of the Crusades? As long as no one in their neighborhood is being beaten, stoned, or beheaded, they don't want to talk about it. That kind of two-facedness disgusts me.

Yes, there is Islamic radicalism, and I would say it has certainly shown its problematic face in Britain and other parts of Europe, though not so much here. (The Times Square bombing attempt, Ft. Hood shooting, and attempted "underwear bombing" were reprehensible incidents so far isolated, in the U.S.; in Britain, there is more of a trend.) King says that Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano lie awake nights worrying about it, and insofar as the nature of their assignments is to anticipate events and head off terror before it could happen, I don't blame them. When I worked at Memphis's City Hall and was in the anteroom of the Mayor's office one day, I was amazed at the fact that we were in the direct line of sight of any sniper wannabe who cared to park himself on the walkway to Mud Island, but it never occurred to me to try to get the Mayor to convene hearings on the risk of psychos posing as tourists. Holder and Napolitano have their quite valid concerns, which include wondering about the next Anwar Al-Awlaki or Nidal Malik Hasan, while King has his tawdry search for the limelight, which includes exploiting an aggrieved dad from Memphis who mourns for the son who became radicalized and is now dead. His grief for his son is as real as was the tragedy, but isolated instances do not make a trend, and King has shown nothing to prove otherwise.

Can a single Al-Awlaki exercise a dangerous influence? Certainly. Could 50 Al-Awlakis sow the seeds for hundreds of Fort Hood shootings? I have no doubt of it. Does King have any evidence that such vipers are being nurtured in American mosques? Thus far, as the Washington Post noted today, there is a large ratio of drama in his hearings to real substance.

Meanwhile, the likely effect of his hearings is to needlessly demonize the hundreds of thousands of Muslims who live peaceful productive lives in the United States and are as horrified by bombings, female genital mutilation, and the like, as you or I. Does King have facts and figures to show that the other kind of Muslim is somehow in the ascendant in our country? If so, let him cite them. If not, let him remember the lamentable example of a certain United States Senator of 50 years ago who went down to everlasting and richly deserved disgrace.

© Michael Huggins, 2011. All rights reserved.

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