A Response to Rep. Peter King’s Claims About American Muslims
As reported by ThinkProgress yesterday, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) seems to be ignorant of the correct definition of the word “fact”:
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has a long history of demonizing American Muslims. So it’s no great surprise that his hearing earlier this week on the radicalization of Muslims fell under attack as both a waste of time — Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI) commented that his time would be better spent discussing how to protect water resources for his constituents — and yet another example of King congratulating himself for his previous hearings attacking Muslims. But appearing on Fox News yesterday, King continued his factually challenged attack on Muslim Americans:
What I am very concerned about is that while the overwhelming majority of Muslims are good people, the fact is even though Muslims are 1 percent of the population, almost 90 percent of the terrorist crimes are carried out by the Muslim community. And there are not enough people in the community willing to step forward and speak out against this and cooperate with law enforcement.
While the scope of King’s assertion is unclear, the reality is that a small percentage of terrorist attacks and plots in the U.S. are the result of Islamic extremism — 56 percent have been perpetrated by right-wing extremists, 30 percent by ecoterrorists and 12 percent by Islamic extremists:
Not only was Rep. King’s assertion not a fact, the number he did claim was slightly greater than the reverse of the actual numbers (12% Muslim, 88% Other). I can only assume that Mr. King is either so incompetent that he can’t be bothered to have an assistant look up the actual facts, or he knows the facts and is simply engaging in shameless demagoguery.
Or is he? Let’s look at what he said, but more carefully this time:
…the fact is even though Muslims are 1 percent of the population, almost 90 percent of the terrorist crimes are carried out by the Muslim community.
The first part is true. Depending on whose numbers you accept, the Muslim population in the U.S. is between 1-2 percent.
Now let’s look at the second part. The “Muslim community” doesn’t carry out anything as a whole—it’s not a monolith. Imagine the outcry if a congressman attributed the actions of a few to the entire “Catholic community” or “Jewish community”. Would anyone in their right mind say that mafia crimes were carried out by the “Italian community”? Perhaps next time Rep. King is back home in NY he can try it and see what sort of reaction he gets.
Let’s dig a little deeper. The murkiest part is where he says “terrorist crimes”. What exactly does that mean? What sort of crimes? Planned attacks? Actual attacks? Crimes involving money or other types support? What time frame is he referring to?
There were zero terrorist attacks perpetrated by Muslims resulting in injury or death in the U.S. in 2011. There were 20 indictments related to Islamic extremism in 2011, down from 26 in 2010 (with a total of 193 since 9/11). Non-violent support for terrorism—financing, false statements, etc.—was also down to 8 individuals in 2011 from 27 in 2010 (with a total of 462 since 9/11).1
Then there’s this (untrue):
King also claimed that ‘it’s so important that the NYPD focus on [the Muslim community]. That’s why it’s important that the NYPD and law enforcement not give into political correctness.’
As ThinkProgress pointed out, Special Agent Michael B. Ward, the FBI official in charge of Newark, complained back in March of this year that NYPD’s Muslim surveillance tactics have alienated Muslims, thereby hindering their terrorism investigations (and making me, you, and every other American less safe).
This one as well (also untrue):
And there are not enough people in the community willing to step forward and speak out against this and cooperate with law enforcement.
Over 1/3 of the initial tips (52 out of 140) alerting law-enforcement authorities to violent terrorist plots since 9/11 were provided by American Muslims.2
So what about the other 2/3? Well, if I had to make a wild guess, I’d say the people involved probably didn’t advertise what they were planning to do, therefore anyone not directly involved wouldn’t have known about it.
Of course, you could tell yourself that the other 88 plots were open knowledge within their respective communities, and everyone was either complicit or too cowed to speak up, in which case I’d ask you, “Has anyone in your community has ever committed a crime? Did you know about it in advance? If so, did you report it? If you didn’t know about it, then why didn’t you? Oh right, because you’re not a criminal and don’t associate with those sorts of people, so how could you possibly know?” See how that works?
Okay, but American Muslims don’t “step forward and speak out” against terrorism enough, right? Wrong. Here’s a list, Fatwas & Formal Statements by Muslim Scholars & Organizations. I haven’t done an exact count, but I’d say there are at least a few hundred statements there.
Worried about Muslims in the military? Here’s another collection of articles from the same site, Muslims and Arabs in the U.S. Military.
To summarize, it’s my opinion that Rep. King is a weaselly opportunist trying to make a name for himself at the expense of the American Muslim community. He’s also a rank hypocrite if you consider his previous support for the IRA. Here are some Google results on that, or you can just start off with an excellent article over at Mother Jones, Peter King’s Terrorism Problem.
Is homegrown terrorism/radicalism a serious threat? Of course it is. But I’ll keep repeating the same thing I’ve been saying for a while now: Making decisions based on emotion or “gut instinct” is not going to keep us safe, and being fearful (or angry) and uninformed (or misinformed) allows politicians and other demagogues with an agenda to yank our chains to meet their own ends. We need to be on the ball—clear-headed, rational, well-informed. We need to know who our enemies are, and just as importantly, who our enemies aren’t.