Monday, March 7, 2011

the perpetual tolerance challenge

On Thursday Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the House Chair of the Homeland Security Committee, will hold a hearing on the radicalization of Muslim communities in the U.S. He has told CNN (here) and other sources that he believes 80% of the mosques are controlled by extremists. This out-of-the-air claim has been debunked by the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University (read the study here) that discovered that when Muslims attend mosques and participate in Muslim community events, they are less likely to hold extremist opinions.

The antidote for extremism, then, is to get more Muslims to go to mosque.

It is not clear what Rep. King hopes his flimsy evidence will do for homeland security this Thursday when he holds his hearings. The WaPo faith blog reports that King will call only three witnesses---with zero expertise in Islam or terrorism.

In the meantime, France and Germany are also debating the role of Islam in their countries, as if pluralism were a brand new phenomenon in the West. The strength of democracy lies in the counterpoise between sameness and difference, and we've had bad experiences when we've let difference and the fear of difference create its own reality.


  1. Well-put. It seems as though what King wants to do is create a reaction of something like, "Well, at least there is someone doing something about them muslims!" a reaction that I wouldn't be surprised to hear from some neighbors and friends. As you say, anytime there is a debate about a certain group of people that does not belong in a nation-state, nothing but carnage and refuge camps result. But I have a feeling that this "hearing" is going to be actually heard by very few, and taken into account by fewer in which case he'll stop. Just a hunch. The NY Times picked this up and ran an editorial about it today, which wasn't the best editorial I'd ever read, which probably stoked the flames a bit. At any rate, he has joined the list of my "ignore" RSS feed with Fred Phelps, Glen Beck, and Brett Favre.

  2. Poor Favre! Linked with Fred Phelps? Geez. Are you merely suggesting that they both should retire for good and disappear from public view? Or is there something more sinister you're after?

    Here's hoping you're right about the short-term fortunes of the so-called hearings.

  3. I picked Brett Favre mainly because his name went well with the other monosyllabic names that have the soft "e" sound and repeated "b" and "f" consonants. Poetic choices probably are more sinister, though.