Thursday, March 17, 2011

Race-baiting in Congress Somewhat Unsuccessful

Though the fact that it is occurring in the first place is troubling as well as telling. From

Last week’s congressional hearings on the Muslim community didn’t go quite the way Rep. Peter King hoped and expected. Their content turned out to be more of a referendum on whether such hearings themselves were a good idea, interrupting the fear mongering political theater that King had set up.


Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, stole the show by crying as he told the story of 23-year-old paramedic Mohammed Salman Hamdani, who became the subject of speculation that he’d collaborated with the hijackers after he disappeared on 9/11. It turned out that he was actually among the first responders who died in the towers. Hamdani’s mother, Talat, went to D.C. several weeks ago with other family members of 9/11 victims for a scheduled meeting with Peter King, but he stood them up.

King argued that Muslims have a greater responsibility to turn each other in than other Americans, as he thinks that every Mosque has a bomber hiding in its basement. King refused to broaden the hearing to include other groups, asserting that there is no equivalent between Muslim extremism and, say, neo-Nazis. But of course there was the case of Byron Williams, who was intercepted by California Highway Patrol on his way to shoot up the ACLU and the Tides Foundation last year. And just last week, police arrested Kevin Marpham (a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance) for appearing to construct a bomb with which to greet marchers at Spokane’s MLK Day rally. In a recent report, Charles Kurzman notes that in 2010, there were more than 20 terrorist plots by non-Muslims. A certain segment of white men appear to be very, very angry.


But there is some room for change. While most polls, taken ahead of the hearings, showed just over 50 percent support for King’s effort, that broke down heavily along political lines, with Republicans at about 70 percent and Democrats at around 40 percent. Seven in 10 people polled by the Public Religion Research Institute said King should expand the scope of the hearing to other groups. In a Gallup poll, most people said that Muslims are not too extreme in their religious beliefs or supportive of Al Qaeda. Importantly, a good 10 percent were undecided, and that represents a large number of people.

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