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Links of interest - on Rep. Peter King's hearings, Islam, and America

You've probably heard or read that Representative Peter King is slated to begin holding hearings tomorrow which purport to investigate the extent to which, as he claims, Muslim radicalism is on the rise and when push comes to shove Muslims aren't really "American". I don't have the time to write a cogent essay of my own before I have to fetch Drew at daycare in half an hour, so in lieu of any eloquence of my own, here are a few links to essays and articles I've found valuable:

  • Peter King's Obsession, an OpEd in the New York Times:

    Not much spreads fear and bigotry faster than a public official intent on playing the politics of division. On Thursday, Representative Peter King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is scheduled to open a series of hearings that seem designed to stoke fear against American Muslims. His refusal to tone down the provocation despite widespread opposition suggests that he is far more interested in exploiting ethnic misunderstanding than in trying to heal it.

  • Setting the Record Straight on Sharia, an interview with Intisar Rabb, a member of the law faculty at Boston College Law School where she teaches advanced constitutional law, criminal law, and comparative and Islamic law. (This is a more general article about Sharia, Muslim religious law, but I think it's relevant.) She writes:

    Sharia is the ideal law of God according to Islam. Muslims believe that the Islamic legal system is one that aims toward ideals of justice, fairness, and the good life. Sharia has tremendous diversity, as jurists and learned scholars figure out and articulate what that law is. Historically, Sharia served as a means for political dissent against arbitrary rule. It is not a monolithic doctrine of violence, as has been characterized in the recently introduced Tennessee bill that would criminalize practices of Sharia...

    Sharia historically was a broad system that encompassed ritual laws, so in some ways it is like Jewish law that has rules for how to pray, how to make ablution before prayers—that sort of thing. There are also broader principles that Sharia tries to embody, such as justice and fairness.

  • Stoking irrational fears about Islam by Eugene Robinson:

    King offers no support for his insinuation that Muslim Americans are giving aid and comfort to terrorists; to the contrary, Muslim clerics and worshipers in this country have been vocal in their rejection of jihadist rhetoric and violence. And unless King believes Muslims are clairvoyant, why would he expect them to be any better than Christians, Jews or anyone else in identifying lone-wolf gunmen or bombers whose private torment becomes obvious only in retrospect?

    Security hearings that focus exclusively on Muslim Americans serve only to amplify the rumblings of Islamophobia that seem to become louder and crazier by the day.

  • Today I Am a Muslim Too by Rabbi Amy Eilberg:

    I stand with all American Muslims today. Why? Because I am a Jew, and at the very heart of the Jewish religion is the imperative to remember that we were slaves long ago in the Land of Egypt. Just as our national identity was beginning to emerge, we were the downtrodden, the oppressed, the ones who suffered hate, fear, and persecution. Our tradition might have encouraged us to recall that experience in anger or in vengeful memory, but it did not. Rather, the Israelites’ experience in Egypt became the very center of the Jewish collective psyche. Thirty-six times in the Five Books of Moses, we are told to remember the "stranger, the widow and the orphan" – the oppressed minorities of those times, for, as the Torah repeatedly reminds us, "we were slaves in the Land of Egypt." We know the soul of the stranger, and so we are to love the strangers in our own day, stand with them and champion their cause. We know what it is to be in their place, and so their cause is our own.

    Without question, Muslims are among America’s persecuted minorities today, a group regularly defamed with impunity on the airwaves and even in the halls of Congress.

  • To Bigotry, No Sanction by Rabbi Arthur Waskow: 

    In two sorts of crises in the past—wars and economic depressions—some Americans have reacted with fear of "the other" and attacks on freedom. These moments include passage of the Alien & Sedition Acts in the 1790s during the half-war with France, the "draft riots" that killed hundreds of Blacks in NYC during the Civil War, the "Red Scare" deportations led by J. Edgar Hoover in 1919,  the wave of anti-Semitism during the Great Depression, the imprisonment of tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War II, the hounding of artists and professors and actors and activists by Joe McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee early in the Cold War.

    Afterward, almost all Americans have felt deeply ashamed of these behaviors. But during each episode, some political forces in America benefited from inciting bigotry.

    Now, we are in the midst of both mass disemployment and an endless, unwinnable war. For those modern analogues of Pharaoh who rule and support centers of great undemocratic power and wealth while stripping others of public services and servants—teachers, nurses, social workers—indeed, while some lose jobs, homes, lives, and limbs—it is convenient to make scapegoats, just as Pharaoh did.

  • Rabbis for Human Rights' statement to the Homeland Security Committee:

    The members of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America (RHR-NA) proudly stand with our fellow children of Abraham, the Muslim American community, in urging that extremism be fought wherever it is found, and that one community not be singled out for unnecessary scrutiny.

I think Representative King's hearings are likely to result in many non-Muslim Americans feeling greater fear and mistrust of the American Muslim community, and many Muslim Americans experiencing greater mistreatment and suspicion as a result. The America of my hopes and dreams is better than this.