Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Islamic Witch Trials

His name is Representative Peter King of New York, and while “representative” might be his title, it is certainly not a functional attribute of his, for he does not represent anything a law-abiding, Constitution-loving American would espouse. What he does represent is that underbelly of America that has become so prominent right now: the retooled and reinvigorated “My America, Love It or Leave It” crowd. He has taken the phobia of many toward Islam since September 11th, and turned it to his political advantage, preparing to hold hearing on the “radicalization” of Muslims in America. That anyone would pander to a constituency by invoking the horror of that day nearly ten years ago is reprehensible enough, but Representative King brings a special spin to this tale, given his support for the Irish Republican Army during its heyday decades ago. In that, at least it can be said that he personally knows some terrorists.

The number of levels of absurdity upon which this whole idea of hearings to delve into the subject is based, would make Dante sit up and take notice. Let us start with the least obvious and least connected to religion in any form: the creation of jobs. Speaker John Boehner and his Republican horde in the House of Representatives pledged to concentrate on stimulating the American economy and creating jobs. To say that this hearing does none of that should be self-evident. That such hearings exist at all is anathema, but let us focus on the fact that such hearings might have been more useful – if at all – before the attacks of September 11th, 2001, and, as such, do nothing more than stir up a pot that had been simmering rather than boiling over.

Given Representative King's intimate relations with a terrorist organization in the past, the IRA, it might be thought that his judgment would be colored by those experiences, as if there were some “perfect model” of how a terrorist organization should handle itself. The peace in Ireland had little to do with the IRA's campaign of terror, save to make the people of Ireland tired of it, and usher in an era of peace. That does not make the IRA heroes. It could be said Rep. King backed the wrong horse, and is looking to make amends by taking on an easy target, except the target he has picked is so far off that he has no chance of hitting the mark.

Let us consider, as well, that this is merely an extension of the deplorable treatment of Muslims in this country, of late marked by the furor over the Islamic cultural center slated to be built near Ground Zero, the threat of burning the Qur'an by a minor and wholly insipid Christian sect in Florida which was blown out of all proportion, and the recent virulent protests against a Muslim charity group in California, that was merely trying to raise money to help the destitute in their hour of need. These hearings only serve to fan those flames, and nothing so revealed by them could possibly do anything more than intensify the negative rhetoric and abject hatred displayed in this country toward worshipers of Islam.

We should not forget, also, that were such hearings to take place, say, to speak of the “radicalization” of Christianity in America, there would be howls of indignation that would ring out from every corner of the nation. Even though, it can be said, such “radicalization” is in clear evidence, but the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller, the bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the constant harassment of those who perform abortions, the Westboro Baptist Church's disturbing homophobia, and the list goes on. But no hearings are scheduled to examine such things; it would be “inappropriate.”

Let us jump to the singular reason that these hearings serve as no more than a recycling of ignorant and bigoted dogma surrounding Islam – it violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. That hallowed document, and the first amendment to be placed in the Bill of Rights, expressly forbids the Federal Government from establishing, maintaining, or encouraging the establishment of a singular religion, nor promoting one religion over another through the auspices of its power. These hearings – and hearings like them regarding other religions – violate the sanctity of the First Amendment, by claiming that a religion, like Islam, is fundamentally and inherently flawed, to the point of being corrupt and corrupting of American “values.” That a whole religion would be tarred-and-feathered through the actions of a few, is sheer hypocrisy, lest anyone forget the number of atrocities and other horrific happenings that have taken place in the name of religion over the centuries (the Salem Witch Trials come to mind). The government has no business passing judgment on a religion or its adherents where they have broken no laws and have not attempted to impress their beliefs on others against their wishes.

Representative King would better serve his constituency by dropping this matter, to focus on the real concerns that affect their day-to-day lives: Wall Street excess, foreclosures, debt relief, job creation, and the proper taxation of those who have skipped paying their share. As long as his intent is to spend time setting up his party for victory in 2012, while padding his own reputation in said party, he is not a servant of the people, but of his own self-interest. Those who will not govern as the people need them to, face the possibility the people will tire of the self-aggrandizement and excuses for inaction. One can only hope that if he continues in this course, the citizens in Rep. King's district will send him a distinct and unequivocal message in the next election, by removing him from his position and sending him home.

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