Detroit Free Press March 5, 2011
BY VICTOR GHALIB BEGG
America has had a difficult year. We have seen a rise in acts of violence by marginalized and disgruntled individuals. Some have been motivated by politics, some by their misinterpretation of religion and others have proven mentally unsound — a trend we must challenge in all its forms, working as one nation committed to a shared struggle.
The unfortunate truth however, is that throughout our history, there have always been politicians who tried to capitalize on the aftermath of such tragedies. Rather than resolutely responding to the threats or rallying their countrymen in a common struggle, some have taken a less responsible path. Often, under the cloak of patriotism, they have found ways to divide Americans.
This week, Rep. Peter King, a Republican from New York, is falling in that trap by proposing to hold hearings to investigate a single segment of the American population — Muslims. Sadly, his hearings will paint an entire faith community with a broad brush of suspicion and distrust based on the actions of a tiny minority of violent extremists. The first hearing is slated for Thursday.
This is not the first time an overzealous lawmaker has indiscriminately cast suspicion over a wide swath of Americans. It happened during the McCarthy era and it happened when Americans, in the guise of protecting the nation, sent a segment of our population to internment camps — this is part of our history that we all know well.
And as with these prior excesses, King’s hearings are largely based on unsubstantiated claims and irresponsible generalizations. King has repeatedly stated that American Muslims do not cooperate with law enforcement, a claim that simply does not square with the facts.
The Imams Committee of the Council of Islamic Organizations and other Islamic leaders in Michigan meet regularly with the local U.S. Attorney’s office and with the FBI’s Special Agent in charge of the Detroit Office. Such meetings are equally aimed at protecting the civil rights of the Muslim community and making sure that there is a strong and open dialogue with law enforcement. Issues are openly discussed in order to build trust and enhance communications. While King claims this cooperation does not exist, he has declined to hear the testimony of law enforcement officials who have worked so diligently across America to build partnership with the Muslim community.