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July 27, 2011

NJDC to Rep. King: Stop Using Witch Hunts to Distract from GOP Economic Failings

Listed in: Other Domestic Policy, NJDC News, Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC—The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) today denounced the third installment of hearings by House Homeland Security Committee Chair Representative Peter King (R-NY) targeted at Muslims in America. As news reports indicate, the topic of King’s third hearing, entitled “Al Shabaab: Recruitment and Radicalization within the Muslim American Community and the Threat to the Homeland,” may warrant investigation. However with his record of grandstanding and fear mongering, this hearing is likely to accomplish little—just like the last two. Today’s hearing will serve as the Republican Party’s latest attempt to distract Americans from its broken promises on jobs and the economy.

David A. Harris, President and CEO of the NJDC, issued this statement:

“Peter King’s track record of spearheading past McCarthy-esque hearings strips away any legitimacy or potential constructive result that today’s hearing might possibly have had. Given the failure of his previous hearings to advance constructive policies, this one will surely become nothing more than King’s latest attempt to distract Americans from the Republican Party’s broken economic promises and continued blockage of any balanced debt ceiling deal. King’s first two hearings did nothing but waste time and, worst of all, breed prejudice against Muslims here and abroad. Worse, his Muslim-obsessed hearings have fed the ignorance of those who continue to believe that conservative hucksters like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the rest of the Fox News lineup—along with nearly every major GOP presidential candidate—understand the Islamic faith. King’s hearings are a reflection of the Republican Party’s bizarre fixation on Sharia law and the GOP’s disturbing record of using the Islamic faith as a straw man when politically convenient. As Herman Cain proved just last week, the GOP’s generalized, know-nothing attacks on Muslims and Islamic law can ultimately sweep up Judaism and other faiths in their path. King’s hearings have proven to be damaging and pitiful examples of how desperate the House GOP is to call attention away from the Republican failure to create jobs and govern responsibly.”

As The Washington Post’s Adam Serwer noted when King announced this hearing:

This is timely because Omer Abdi Mohamed, one of the al Shabaab recruiters, pleaded guilty in federal court to terrorism charges earlier this week. It’s relevant because, frankly, al Shabaab’s success in recruiting Americans is unprecedented, and is a topic worthy of congressional scrutiny….

The question is whether King can do so without smearing American Muslims as a whole, and his initial statement isn’t promising. Contrary to the sentiment expressed in King’s initial statement, cooperation with the Muslim community in Minnesota was key to subsequent prosecutions, and the FBI views the investigation as a model of community engagement to be repeated elsewhere….

Just because the topic is worthy of discussion doesn’t mean that the hearings will necessarily be constructive. It’s fair for Muslim groups in particular to worry about how King will conduct these hearings, given his previous pattern of expressing wild and unsubstantiated generalizations about American Muslims. [The Washington Post, July 20, 2011]

King has already used his position as committee chair to legitimize anti-Islamic sentiment, and cannot hide that the only purpose for these obscure hearings is to create political bogeymen. Further, King has actually acknowledged that he is comfortable being labeled a bigot because of his hearings. [ThinkProgress, December 20, 2010]

These hearings do a better job of reflecting the radicalization of Republican politicians than they do exposing the real threats that Americans face. 

As GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain proved just last week, generalized, know-nothing claims about Sharia law and the Islamic faith have the potential to sweep up Judaism and other faiths in their path and tear down the First Amendment. [NJDC Blog, July 18, 2011] All those who value the freedom of religion and the separation of church and state should be uniting against King’s hearings and the GOP’s appalling behavior of attacking Islam. Indeed King is but one representation of the Republican Party’s troubling behavioral pattern that continues to repel American Jews from supporting the GOP at the ballot box.

NJDC’s previous statements on King’s hearings include:

NJDC Denounces Second King Hearing Singling Out Muslims, June 15, 2011 

Jewish Dems: King Hearings are Detrimental to Religious Tolerance, March 9, 2011