On March 10, 2011, the House Committee on Homeland Security led by Chairman Rep. Peter King (R-NY) will hold a hearing about the so-called “radicalization of the American Muslim community.” This hearing is the latest manifestation of discriminatory attitudes and prejudiced policies cropping up around the country that wrongly equate belief in Islam with terrorism.
This misguided approach wrongly conflates First Amendment-protected beliefs and practices with involvement in terrorism. Treating an entire community as suspect because of the bad acts or intolerant statements of a few is unwise and unfair, and will only lead to greater misunderstanding, injustice and discrimination. 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.
Fear and misunderstanding should not drive our government policies. Instead, Congress should adopt a fact-based approach enhanced with scientifically rigorous analysis in order to provide a clear picture of the threats we face and the appropriate methods we need to employ to address them without violating the constitutional rights of innocent Americans.