By Michael Warren
Illinois senator Dick Durbin will convene a hearing tomorrow on anti-Muslim bigotry, which he says will renew our nation's commitment to civil rights for Muslims. Today, New York congressman Peter King, who was roundly criticized for focusing on American Muslims at his recent hearing on homegrown radicalization, criticized Durbin for holding the hearing.
"What I find troubling is the double standard," King tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD, refering to the pressure that he fell under for holding his hearings on radicalization. "Dick Durbin is focusing on the civil rights of only one group of people, Muslims. What about civil rights for Catholics? What about civil rights for Jews?"
Critics of the House hearing on radicalization say the chairman of the committee on Homeland Security unfairly singled out one group--Muslims--for political purposes, while many dangerous radical elements in American society needed to be addressed. A spokesman for Durbin told USA Today that tomorrow's hearing is not in response to King, though last week's announcement from Durbin came just two weeks after the highly-publicized House hearing. King calls the idea that American Muslims face widespread discrimination a "myth" and worries the discussion distracts the government from more important security issues.
"It obscures the fact that there's a threat to the country from within the Muslim community," King says. "It reinforces the false premise that Muslims are having their civil rights violated."
King, a Republican who represents parts of Long Island, figures he may have lost as many or more constituents than any other on 9/11. "I went to so many wakes and funerals [in the days after 9/11]," he says. "I never heard one anti-Muslim comment. Not in the back of the funeral parlor, not down the street, nowhere."
King conceeds that there is probably now (after 9/11) more anti-Muslim bigotry, but he doesn't think there's enough to warrant a congressional hearing. And while King was criticized for holding hearings that could be used to incite Muslim outrage throughout the world, he wonders if Durbin's hearing hurts America's image abroad. "We're establishing to the world that Muslims are having their civil rights violated," King says.