Is it ever okay to address the issue of radicalized Muslims and their presence in the American Muslim community?
This seems to be the defensive question U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., is asking as he battles the forces of evil (i.e. journalists). Yes, you can, should be the answer of a secure nation. Just not the way you’re doing it.
The media circus currently playing out in Congress, with Rep. King as ringleader, is truly nothing more than show. The current hearings seem to be a misplaced attempt at the national equivalent of an Islamic neighborhood block watch, with the intent of conveying the message, “You need to do a better job at policing your own people.” The effect, like many politically inspired witch hunts, has backfired.
The congressman and many of his peers are correct that radicalized American Muslims are a threat to our country’s security, and the discussion is arguably a necessary one to have. So what’s the problem?
In a word, context.
Politicians are merely vocalizing what intelligence analysts and law enforcement officials deal with on a daily basis. Local and national groups, like the Joint Terrorism Task Force, are acutely aware of communities that have a habit of sending their young men to foreign mosques known for turning out jihadists. Agents and cops in these units spend a large amount of their time tracking the movements of such individuals, especially when they turn up on battlefields in the Middle East, or back home in the U.S.
That is why it is so vital for government officials to keep an open and friendly dialogue with the law-abiding members of any group with a propensity for sloughing off individuals capable of terrorist activities. If recent events are any indicator, we need to include in our dialogue many other religious and secular organizations with a propensity for creating home-grown terrorists.
White supremacist groups, as seen by the recent arrest in Spokane’s bomb scare, require close watch. Anarchist groups, that seem to lie dormant until the opportunity arises for a riot, are a constant threat. Some so-called Christian churches are far more likely than others to spin off members eager to bomb abortion clinics or target physicians for death. Then there are the lone wolves, such as Maurice Clemmons or Jared Loughner, who hide in plain sight.
In this context, making bold statements berating American Muslims is all flash and no substance. Worse, it’s counterproductive.
If politicians want to have a national block watch on home-grown terror, they are welcome to attend any number of local meetings for examples of success. When they do they will find that the best results of such cooperation, mutual trust and communication, begin with an open and friendly dialogue.
That ingredient has long been missing in Washington, D.C.