Here’s how Representative Peter King’s plans to host a congressional inquiry into Muslim radicalization could help the country – enhancing public safety and strengthening social cohesion.
First, King can conduct a public study of the path to radicalization of various high-profile American Muslim extremists over the past few years (Fort Hood, Times Square, Portland Christmas Tree Lighting). Mostly likely, he will find that most were ‘self-radicalized’ through online engagement – watching the videos of Anwar Al-Awlaki, reading the terrorist magazine Inspire.
This is no doubt a serious problem. It appears that a small number of young Muslim men are sitting in basements watching and reading twisted material online that tells them to kill others. Some take the next step, and try.
Second, Peter King can shine a light on the role that the mainstream Muslim community has played in these attacks. By and large, it has been to help prevent them. Mainstream American Muslims have been vigilant against extremists in their communities – confronting their views, flushing them out and if need be reporting them to law enforcement.
A Muslim Public Affairs Council study found that American Muslim communities had played a central role in helping law enforcement prevent seven of the last ten Al Qaeda related plots. How did the FBI get turned on to Mohamed Osman Mohamud, the young man who planned to attack the Christmas Tree Lighting in Portland? His Muslim father reported him.
King should repeat those points over and over. The pattern of extremism amongst American Muslim is ‘self-radicalization’ online. The American Muslim community has been a strong partner in changing the views of potential extremists or disrupting their dangerous actions.
King should help the country draw the obvious conclusion from these two points: let’s reduce the number of people who self-radicalize online, let’s lift up the good work of the mainstream American Muslim community and let’s strengthen our partnerships so we keep our nation safe. Doing anything else is bad for the country.
Saying ugly, bigoted things about Islam is bad for the country (just like saying ugly, bigoted things about another religion or race or tradition is bad for the country). It gives the online radicals more stuff to put in their videos and write about in their magazines. Suggesting that mainstream American Muslims are part of the problem instead of part of the solution is both false and bad for the country. Why would you blame a group that’s manifestly on your side?
Anytime those two things come up in the course of the inquiry, Representative King should say: “I will not stand for bigoted things to be said about a great religion and an American community.”
Peter King can do the nation a great service – giving us an accurate view of the problem, and strengthening the solution.