Rep. Peter King's (R-N.Y.) hearing on "Muslim radicalization" yesterday was only the latest manifestation of discriminatory attitudes and prejudiced policies cropping up around the country that wrongly equate belief in Islam with terrorism. We've already watched in horror as local governments attempt to legislate against "sharia law" and unconstitutionally discriminate against people hoping to build mosques or Islamic centers in their communities. Rep. King's hearing serves to further divide Americans, instead of uniting us.
The hearing sought to treat an entire community as suspect, which is unwise, unfair, and unconstitutional. This misguided approach wrongly conflates First Amendment-protected religious beliefs and practices with involvement in terrorism, and will only lead to greater misunderstanding, injustice and discrimination. It is also an approach that has no factual basis. There is no empirical or scientific support for the theory that religious belief leads to terrorism. Furthermore, the hearing's other false premise — that the Muslim community and its leaders are uncooperative with law enforcement — risks undermining the crucial bonds between Muslim communities and the government and law enforcement.
Michael Macleod-Ball, Chief of Staff and First Amendment Counsel for the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, responded to the King hearings:
This hearing targeted the entire American Muslim community for special examination by government. That's inappropriate. Mr. King did this because he believes the American Muslim community has not done enough to help law enforcement fight terrorism. That's factually incorrect. The theory of radicalization that served as the basis for the hearing has been thoroughly discredited. Instead of holding more inappropriate hearings based on discredited theories and making inaccurate assertions, Mr. King should direct the Committee's attention to a fact-based examination of domestic terrorist incidents. If he does that, he will find that such violence knows no single ideology – whether religious or political – and that an impartial and unbiased investigation may reveal truths that would never be learned from a narrow and biased examination of one particular American faith community. Let's stop targeting the American Muslim community for special investigation – it's discriminatory, counterproductive, and bad law enforcement.
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