Congressman King creating a religious enemy

By Rep. Michael Honda A photo of five year old Michael Honda immediately following his family’s release from internment. Image … Continued

By Rep. Michael Honda


A photo of five year old Michael Honda immediately following his family’s release from internment. Image via the office of Rep. Honda.

Who would have thought that my early childhood experience in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II would offer such useful insight, sixty-five years later, in determining the direction America is headed? In reflecting on Thursday’s hearings on Muslim Americans, planned by Congressman Peter King (R-N.Y.), I feel like a mirror is being held up to my life, giving value to lessons learned as a child.

Make no mistake. Growing up in internment camp Amache in Colorado was no joy ride –just look at the pictures. We were treated like cattle in those camps. Never mind the fact that we were born in America. Never mind the fact that we were patriotic Americans and law-abiding citizens. Never mind the fact that we were constructively contributing to the American economy. Despite all this, hundreds of thousands of Americans suddenly became the enemy at the height of the war, with no cause, no crime, and no constitutional protection.

We look back now, as a nation, and we know this was the wrong reaction. We look back now and know that this was a result of “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.” We look back now and know that an entire ethnicity was said to be, and ultimately considered, the enemy. We know that internment occurred because few in Washington were brave enough to say “no.”

We know all this, and yet our country is now, within my lifetime, repeating the same mistakes from our past. The interned four-year old in me is crying out for a course correction so that we do not do to others what we did unjustly to countless Japanese-Americans.

This time, instead of creating an ethnic enemy, Congressman King is creating a religious enemy. Because of prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of Republican leadership, King is targeting the entire Muslim-American community. Similar to my experience, they are become increasingly marginalized and isolated by our policies.

Never mind the fact that many were born in America and have no allegiance to their ancestors’ native homeland. Never mind the fact that they are patriotic Americans and law-abiding citizens. Never mind the fact that they are constructively contributing to the American economy. Irrespective of all this, millions of Americans have become the new enemy, with no cause and no crime.

There is no question that a congressional hearing, which targets an entire religion, is morally and strategically wrong-headed. First, it is un-American. This is not the America that I know and have helped build as a life-long public servant. The America that I know has always provided refuge for those fleeing persecution, from early settlers to recent refugees. The America that I know, furthermore, does not hate and discriminate base on race, religion or creed.

Second, it is counterproductive. Congressman King is undermining his own objective. In hosting these hearings, King, as chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, has declared, erroneously, that the Muslim-American community does not partner actively enough with law-enforcement officials to prevent potential acts of violence. Despite the offensive and fallacious nature of King’s concern, given extensive evidence that contradicts his claim, the Homeland Security chairman’s strategy makes future partnerships unpalatable.

In one fell swoop of his discriminatory brush, King, in his apparent attempt to root out radicalization, marginalizes an entire American minority group, making enemies of them all. To add insult to injury, King has quipped (again, speciously) that America has too many mosques and that extremists run 80 percent of them. We can only hope that Rep King does not completely undermine all the goodwill established across this country between Muslim Americans and law enforcement officials. You can be certain that few will want to work with King going forward.

Don’t get me wrong. I support the Homeland Security Committee examining “radicalization” in this country, provided it is a comprehensive review, not a discriminatory one that targets only one subgroup of America. I support the committee examining “violent extremism” in this country, including an examination of militias and the 30,000-plus gun-related deaths occurring each year. I support a committee chair that is keen to keep our homeland secure.

This is not the case with King. These hearings do little to keep our country secure and do plenty to increase prejudice, discrimination and hate. I thought we learned a lesson or two from my internment camp experience in Colorado. I hope I am not proven wrong.

Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.) is Senior Democratic Whip and member of House Budget and Appropriations Committees.

  • YEAL9

    Getting to the heart of the problem:Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed. Then we can talk about the safety and location of mosques and what is taught therein. Until then, no male Muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere.

  • hitman2

    YEAL9I have not seen a shameless rant like yours, without reading a word, without reference to this thought-provoking article by a respected gentleman, You kept on your cut/pasting business as usual. The hate that rages within you, is in self a punishment for you.

  • hitman2

    Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.) I read your article with deep interest. It contains a honest analyisis of the situation and a timely warning to stop this craze filled misadventure.The question is, after all this time wasting, what results Peter King is going to achieve? His agenda is something else, and that is to win elections in 2012 for Reps by creating a fear and confusion in the minds of fellow Americans about American Muslims.

  • jamil51

    Thankyou for the truth and honesty,Mr.Honda.

Read More Articles

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

987_00
An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

shutterstock_134310734
Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.