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Published: Wednesday, 3/9/2011 - Updated: 4 years ago

Tarring Muslims

In his capacity as House Homeland Security Committee chairman, U.S. Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) will conduct hearings beginning today on the "extent of radicalization in the American Muslim community and that community's response."

Fair-minded Americans have reason to be concerned. Mr. King isn't known for either tact or tolerance. The pugnacious Long Island congressman has used inflammatory language to tar the American Muslim community as a whole since 9/11.

Mr. King contends that the American Muslim community has not cooperated sufficiently with law enforcement. The congressman maintains that an element sympathetic to al-Qaeda operates with impunity within the American Muslim community, which has not self-policed as aggressively as he would like.

The congressman asserts, but has presented no compelling evidence, that American Muslims as a group have turned a blind eye to radicals in their mosques. Despite the fact that dozens of suspicious characters have been reported to authorities by Muslim clerics and community members over the years, Mr. King suspects a conspiracy of silence is afoot.

It has not occurred to Mr. King or those who suspect the worst of American Muslims that no one has a bigger incentive to root out troublemakers than members of that community.

If the hearings are to be anything other than a platform for Islamophobia, Mr. King will have to show more rhetorical restraint than he's demonstrated in the past.

Mr. King should listen carefully to what representatives from the Islamic community have to say about the alienated people in their midst. He will have to give heavier weight to rigorous analysis than to prejudicial anecdotes. Respect for the Constitution should permeate every moment of the hearings, not fear-mongering.

America is only six decades removed from the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. The politicians of that era believed that they were acting reasonably by disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of Americans of their constitutional rights.

We've seen this movie before, Mr. King. It doesn't end well.

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