Since the November midterm elections, many political observers credit the Obama administration with moving towards the center as it prepares for Barack Obama's 2012 reelection campaign. One area where the administration has remained firm is in its steadfast refusal to establish a link between terrorism and Islam.
The approach was on display last week when a Kosovar Islamic militant (despite America's military and diplomatic efforts on behalf of Kosovo) murdered 2 American servicemen and injured others at Frankfurt international Airport in Germany with the cry of Allahu Akhbar on his lips. The president referred to the event as a tragedy, while State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley, when asked if it wasa terrorist incident, began comparing it to the shootings in Tucson, Arizona, meaning that the administration was not making a judgment until it was clear about the evidence and the motivation. The German police have since provided the evidence and source of motivation, but the administration has remained silent.
ThisThursday, the House Committee on Homeland Security, chaired by Representative Peter King of Long Island, will begin hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims to the point that Al Qaeda succeeds in "recruiting them to engage in jihad as attacks against innocent Americans." King also noted on the committee's website that members of Obama's cabinet, including Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder, had expressed their apprehension about radicalization and the rising terrorism threat level.The hearings are in response to such events as the Fort Hood shootings and the Times Square car bomb plot, carried out by American Moslems.
Muslim organizations have cried foul and claimed that the committee is targeting Muslims and reinforcing stereotypes. A demonstration to protest the committee hearings was held in Times Square on Sunday that was called by an interfaith committee ranging from 100 to 300 organizations depending on the newspaper account. Similarly, attendance at the demonstration varied according to the newspaper's political orientation. In the conservative New York Post there were 200 participants that grew to 500 in the New York Times and "several hundreds" in the British Guardian. Newspaper accounts sympathetic to the demonstration also noted that it was held under conditions of chilling and "sideways" rain, leaving the implication that under more clement conditions we would not have had the ratio of 1.5 demonstrators per sponsoring organization.
The Obama administration's contribution to the debate was to send the Deputy National Security Director Dennis McDonough to an interfaith forum in Sterling, Virginia. McDonough said "When it comes to preventing violent extremism and terrorism in the United States, Muslim Americans are not part of the problem; you're part of the solution." The speaker noted that the United States did not practice guilt by association and violence and extremism "are not unique to any one faith."
Representative King has been accused of Islamophobia and McCarthyism as well as for hypocrisy, since he once supported the IRA. Commentary magazine executive director. Jonathan S Tobin has reminded people that King was once a recipient of an award from a Westbury Long Island mosque for advocating US intervention on behalf of Bosnian Moslems. King broke with the mosque after 9/11 when its leaders claimed that no Muslims were involved and Israel was guilty of the crime.
King has defended the hearings, claiming that the Muslim community was where the problem lay, just as investigations of the Mafia had focused on the Italians and the Russian mafia threat involved an investigation of Russian-American communities in New York's Brighton Beach and Coney Island. Now the current threat is the radicalization within the Muslim community“It’s there and that’s where the threat is coming from at this time.’’ King also claims that the Muslim community has not provided unequivocal backing to the law enforcement agencies although he plans to call a Los Angeles Sheriff who claims the contrary as a witness at the hearings.
Another reason the Obama administration has appeared to signal its opposition to the King hearings, is that it does not see any political upside. A poll taken last month showed that while a majority (56%) of Americans believe the hearings on American Muslim extremism are appropriate those in favor tend to be Republicans (71%) fans of Fox News (76%) and white evangelicals (70%). Lower ratings are conferred by Democrats (46%) CNN viewers (45%) and liberal Protestant denominations (50%) Republicans and Fox viewers are considered a lost cause and therefore there is no reason to accommodate them on this issue.