Dick Durbin's Muslim mess
By ALANA GOODMAN
New York Post
March 31, 2011
If the point of Sen. Dick Durbin's Tuesday hearing on anti-Muslim discrimination was to undermine Rep. Peter King's hearings on Muslim radicalization, it ended up achieving the opposite -- and highlighting exactly why King's investigation is so necessary.
For the last few years, a few small but vocal groups claiming to represent American Muslims have stoked fears that hate crimes against Muslims are a growing epidemic, despite the fact that FBI statistics show nothing of the sort. In fact, anti-Muslim hate crimes have actually dropped since their height right after 9/11.
Claims of rising Islamophobia allow certain Muslim "spokesmen" to avoid addressing the problem of radicalization. But they've also created obstacles for law-enforcement officials, who are viewed suspiciously by some of the same advocacy groups.
In fact, the star witness at Durbin's hearing -- Farhana Khera, the executive director of Muslim Advocates -- has a message prominently on her Web site urging Muslims not to talk with law-enforcement officials without an attorney present.
At the hearing, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) questioned Khera about the warning. She noted that "encouraging community members to seek legal advice as they interact with law enforcement is something every American has a right to do."
Sure, it's legal. But most Americans aren't living in such fear of the authorities that they'd immediately rush to call their attorney before talking to a police officer.
Zhudi Jasser, a genuinely moderate Muslim, summed this point up well at King's hearing earlier this month: "When I walk up to a police officer or the FBI, I teach my children that they are your friends, that you can talk to them. If they ask you things, they're not going to be attacking you."
Jasser also noted that the host of warnings about the police "creates a narrative that this government's against you, and it creates a narrative that it's anti-Islam and anti-Muslim."
So what purpose do some Muslim leaders have in creating this narrative of fear? Is it actually out of concern and respect for religious tolerance?
Khera certainly didn't make a great argument for that. She spoke at length about the alleged "growing menace" of Islamophobia, but came off as less eager to condemn Muslim threats toward other religious groups. When Kyl pressed her on that point, she obfuscated for some time, then finally allowed that "those who would threaten to kill somebody because of their political views, religious views -- that's inappropriate."
So why is anti-Muslim sentiment a "menace," while threatening to kill someone because of their religious is simply "inappropriate"? Maybe because, by focusing on their supposed victimhood, Islamic activists are able to dodge the introspection that's necessary to address the problems in their community.
King was right to wonder why some Muslim leaders are so active in encouraging this narrative -- and after Durbin's hearing, the answer to this is even more pertinent.