On March 10th, New York Congressman Peter King will be holding hearings entitled “The Extent of Radicalization in the Muslim Community and That Community’s Response”.
I would expect the immediate reaction of most people to hearings with this title would be negative. When one then remembers that King is the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee they become more understandable, yet still don’t seem to sit right.
Hearing’s on the radicalization of the American muslim community seem to be appropriate, especially for the Homeland Security Committee. We have seen acts of terror from home-grown muslim extremists (Fort Hood, Arkansas Recruiting Center, Times Square bomber, etc.) and this must be addressed head on. It’s the second part of the title of these hearings that implies Representative King already has the answer, and that is that the muslim community’s response to radicalization has been insufficient. Perhaps it has, but it doesn’t need to be implied in the title of the hearings. This is a very delicate matter and it needs to be handled aggressively but the language that is used and the approach that is taken must take into account the power of language to offend and incite.
Having watched several interviews with Representative King I find he is doing an abysmal job in his communications approach with these hearings. I don’t think he’s a bigot, but he sounds too much like one when he speaks. Instead of simply defending himself and citing acts of homegrown terror, he should take a page from the Bush approach which is to always start the conversation by clearly stating that he is talking about a minority of muslims, that most muslims are peaceful and this is particularly true of most American muslims, and that what we are pursuing here is the radical fringe, not the mainstream of the muslim community. Unfortunately in the communications I’ve seen from the Congressman he has not done this, and one is left to believe that he is talking about the mainstream of the muslim community.
Let’s have the hearings, but let’s make sure that we do them in a manner that recognizes the vast majority of muslims that live here are solid American citizens. And while we are at it, let’s get Peter King a new public relations director.
Another aspect of Peter King’s poor communications is the way Democrats are reacting. They say that the hearings are bigoted and that they will incite more terrorism and broaden the divide between non-muslim and muslim in America. They say this under the false cover that they are concerned about the effects and risks to our society, which of course is not true. All they are doing is using this as a tool to hammer their Republican opponents to get more votes and win public favor for themselves. In fact, their very public and vocal response to the King hearings, and the exaggerated manner they use, actually create more of reaction from radicals than the hearings themselves. Thus if some of these Democrats were really concerned about security they wouldn’t schedule press conferences at prime time to declare Republicans anti-muslim bigots that want to destroy the muslim religion.