2011-03-11 WikiLeaks and Muslims: Two of Peter King's Most Favorite Targets

ImageRep. Peter King of New York, who held the first in a series of hearings on radicalization in the American Muslim community on March 10, has a well-known position on WikiLeaks: It’s terrorism. He urged the Treasury Department in January 2011 “to add WikiLeaks and its founder Jullian Assange to the Specially Designated National and Blocked Persons List (SDN List).”

His letter to the Treasury Department explains his opinion, “The U.S. government simply cannot continue its ineffective piecemeal approach of responding in the aftermath of Wikileaks’ damage. The Administration must act to disrupt the Wikileaks enterprise. The U.S. government should be making every effort to strangle the viability of Assange’s organization.”

Presumably, King would like to see WikiLeaks “strangled” in the way that the Committee on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR) is being cracked down on by the FBI. King explicitly called for Muslim-Americans to reject CAIR, which he said “was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the terrorist financing case involving the Holyland Foundation.”

In the leadup to this hearing I found it shocking and sad that the mainstream media accepted CAIR’s accusations as if it were a legitimate organization. Thankfully, FBI Director Mueller has ordered the FBI to cease all dealings and contact with CAIR. I would hope that all law enforcement officials would follow the lead of the FBI Director.

But, CAIR is a “legitimate” organization, especially in the eyes of the Muslim community in America. Brad Knickerbocker writes for the Christian Science Monitor, “CAIR is a nonprofit organization with 33 chapters in the United States and Canada. The organization’s stated mission is ‘to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.’”

It has been directly involved in issues such as the proposed Islamic center near 9/11’s “ground zero” in New York and the related instances and threats of Koran burning. It has taken legal action on behalf of Muslims – the right to wear head scarves in work places, for example. It has repeatedly condemned terrorism, worked with law enforcement agencies, and promoted a peaceful view of Islam.

It should be noted that thus far there is no indication in any of the released US State Cables on terrorism financing (which the US government tracks extensively) that the organization CAIR is actively promoting the radicalization of Muslims in America for the express purpose of mounting attacks on the United States from within or that it is establishing connections with groups outside the US for the purpose of terror financing.

Knickerbocker makes clear no person from CAIR was invited to speak at the hearing. They submitted written testimony.

King’s opening statement cited Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama Denis McDonough, who said on March 6, 2011, at ADAMS Center, one of the largest mosques in America, “Al Qaeda and its adherents have increasingly turned to another troubling tactic: attempting to recruit and radicalize people to terrorism here in the United States.”

McDonough also asserted al Qaeda makes videos, creates Internet forums, publishes online magazines all for the “expressed purpose of trying to convince Muslim Americans to reject their country and attack their fellow Americans.”

It is this fear that any Muslim with America’s borders is capable of attacking America if he or she has come in contact with extremist and violent Islamic ideology that King wished to make explicitly clear at the hearing. And, this is the same phobia that motivated King to oppose the Park51 project—or what opponents termed the “Ground Zero Mosque”—last year. As with WikiLeaks, he called for an investigation into developer Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s finances to find out where he was getting his money for the project (e.g. al Qaeda).

Rauf reacted to the hearing yesterday, “The fear I have is the banner headline in the Muslim world ... that Muslims are under attack which radicalizes people even further.” He continued, "Our common enemy is extremism and the radicalism that fuels extremism. Whether it's a pastor in Florida who threatens to burn Korans ... whether it's people who attack an embassy and kill people ... all that has no place in civil society today.”

King should take seriously Rauf if he truly is interested in curbing what he considers to be radicalization. A Muslim American Public Opinion Survey (MAPOS), the “largest study of Muslim Americans ever done,” recently found “increased religiosity increases civic engagement and support for American democratic values.”

The report affirmed, “Mosques are institutions that should be encouraged to function as centers of social and political integration in America.” Undermining the anti-Islam industry that has sprung up to unearth so-called “creeping Sharia” in America, it found, “95% of those who are most religious feel Islam is compatible with American politics.”

As indicated by a cable on “Engagement of Muslim Communities in the UK,” opposing mosques is not part of any US counter-radicalization plan. In fact, the policy of the State Department is to fund “engagement activities” with Muslims if possible so that they can prevent them from turning against “US foreign policy interests.”

The Counter-radicalization Strategic Plan complements and in most cases includes PD [Public Diplomacy] programs, outreach, and broad base of Muslim contacts. We use the full range of PD tools at our disposal to influence UK Muslim perceptions of the U.S., to counter violence and ideological extremism, and to empower credible Muslim voices. Our programs focus on Muslim youth and women and potential multipliers such as youth leaders, youth program directors, mosques, and schools. Through interfaith dialogue, the arts, exchanges, and Muslim media, we have a broad base of Muslim contacts who view the Embassy as a reliable and supportive partner. Outreach beyond London is a priority. Areas of emphasis include interfaith dialogue the arts, and exchanges and outreach.

The sheer magnitude of King's ignorance becomes evident when reading this cable, "The Netherlands: Combating Extremism Through Engagement And Outreach." Under the section, "Shared Citizenship within Democratic Rule of Law," the cable details how "contracts and covenants between local authorities, schools, Islamic organizations and mosques on moral frameworks and code of conduct" are being used by the Netherlands government to combat radicalization.

It mentions how NGOs are being engaged and "quasi-governmental organizations" are working to develop "anti-radicalization strategies."

In September, three Dutch mosques in Amsterdam drafted a code of conduct in cooperation with local authorities to help fight radicalism, promote democratic values and encourage imams to speak Dutch in return for stronger action on discrimination against Muslims. Also, a private Dutch foundation that provides consulting advice to small businesses has recently implemented a project to provide such marketing, financial, and legal services to immigrant entrepreneurs in ethnic communities.

But, rather than engage CAIR and Imam Rauf, King and other anti-Islam Americans seem to be more interested in alienating those who would be most capable of fighting radicalization.

King refused to address the idea that US foreign policy is fueling the radicalization of Muslims.

Another cable from The Netherlands mentioning radical Islam:

The attraction of radical Islam for Dutch Muslim youth has grown since the 2004 murder of Theo van Gogh. The report stresses, however, that most radicalized youth adhere to non-violent forms of political Islam; only as small minority join violent Jihad groups. Receptiveness to radicalization and readiness to engage in violent action, which the AIVD terms "jihadization," results from a combination of youths' fixation on "pure" Islam as described in extremist websites and chat rooms, and dissatisfaction with local and international political and social circumstances, such as perceived discrimination against Islam in the West and the war in Iraq.

This cable suggests King’s hearings might pose a risk to national security as they increase the perception among youth fixated on “pure” Islam that there exists discrimination against Islam in the West. It outright notes that the war in Iraq is likely fueling radicalization. So, shouldn’t King be concerned about getting all troops permanently stationed in Iraq out immediately?

What about Afghanistan? Should there be concern for what that is doing to radicalize Muslims?

Not to Peter King. For him, it was far more important for King to have Zuhdi Jasser, founder and president of American Islamic Forum for Democracy, instead make this claim: “To ever be an ally with a Muslim country based on Sharia would be impossible.” That, of course, grossly overlooks Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Egypt.

In fact, as Jeremy Scahill of The Nation points out, individuals with links to the Department of Defense like Joseph Schmitz have suggested Sharia law be applied in Afghanistan to prevent prosecution of Blackwater contractors.

The focus on radicalization by US leaders like King all stems from an understanding that many in the world are becoming disgruntled with American superpower. They are seeking outlets for taking action. Islamic followers have used their religion to empower themselves to strike at America and this has often involved turning to violence.

But, in watching this hearing, it is clear. Leaders have no interest in ending occupations or wars, halting human rights abuses or closing bases that are seen as intrusive to Muslims. They would rather promote fear and intimidate Muslims into submitting to the American empire instead.

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