Friday, March 11, 2011

The Problem with the King Hearing on Muslim Radicalization

I got a chance to listen to about half of the hearing on Muslim radicalization that Rep. King held, and found it disappointing to say the least.

It's not a bad idea at all to have a hearing to investigate Muslim radicalism. It could have been productive to have law enforcement personnel, and perhaps members of the Muslim community involved in combating radicalization come in and review the status, and activities of radical groups here, and perhaps in comparable communities abroad (such as UK, where I gather this is more of a problem). It would have been nice for law enforcement to brief the House on the run-up to the various terrorist attacks (Ft. Hood shooter, Times Square bomber, etc.), and other incidents. It would have been nice for law enforcement to testify on different protocols that are in place to deal with domestic radicalism if it were to strike. Any of this would have made for a very productive hearing on Muslim radicalization.

That wasn't what happened. The whole discussion was a discussion of whether it's appropriate to talk about radical Islam. What a waste of time! The conclusion was Muslim Americans are good Americans, radical Muslims don't represent American Muslims, and Muslims should cooperate with law enforcement. Rep. King and his fellow Republicans protested repeatedly that they were not anti-Muslim, and Democrats continued to be frustrated with the fact that the hearing was even going on. I don't know if King is anti-Muslim, but I can understand the frustration of the Democrats. Rep. King may not be anti-Muslim but he certainly shows no interest in actually addressing real questions of radical Islam. It seems reasonable to conclude, then, that he just wants to talk about the idea of talking about radical Islam. That discussion has a higher political payoff for him than actually doing something productive - something that presumably both parties would actively participate in. Far better for Rep. King's election prospects to have a bombastic title and then spend the whole time talking about whether we can talk about something. Can you blame a few of the Democrats for being frustrated? King may not be anti-Muslim, but he sure is cynical and apparently unconcerned with addressing real threats.


  1. Er, why would there be a need for a Muslim to be "radicalized" in order to become a terrorist threat?

    What I mean is that serial killers, murderers, or gun-rampagers have often included people with no strong political background or religious background. So a Muslim could still be moderate or even secular, and do a Fort Hood style attack.

    Let's look at the people who did 9/11. Some don't fit the profile of "true believers". The Lebanese man Ziad Jarrah was from a secular irreligious family, although he arguably had strong feelings about the West and Israel. Mohammed Atta, a perpetually depressed Egyptian youth, showed no sign of interest in Islam as a young man, until perhaps he met an imam at Hamburg, who himself is not very radical as it is.

    And then we see the Fort Hood killer. He was raised in a very American background and an American life. His...regression into some religious martyr was sudden and immediate, with no clear explanation. Much like the VirginiaTech killer or the Columbine shooters.

  2. Sure - I think the Islam we're dealing with is definitely a cultural/national/political identity as much as it is a religious identity. It's very much the same as with fundamentalist Christians who see their identity as being tied up with their culture and with a specific political imperative. No doubt about it. This is precisely why I think it makes more sense to actually talk about security threats than to gab on and on about a particular religious group.

    "Radicalization" is almost coterminous with these acts, is it not? Assuming it's not brain chemistry/psychopathy driving it and it is actually a purposeful act, I think the point is that anyone that does this sort of thing is "radical". Is it always strictly religious. Perhaps not. But I don't think there's wide confusion on this. People remark that Islamists co-opt Islam for political ends a lot.

  3. One of the most confusing things about the Colonel who went on a shooting spree in Fort Hood was...he was well trained and very effective.

    Nidal Malik Hasan shot 45 rounds to kill or injure 43 people with a very unforgivingly difficult gun. To make it more problematic, he was moving and attacking. And to make it even more so, both his hands were occupied with weapons, so he could not have held one gun with both hands.

    But even so, some army professionals claim that he had to reload at least once. If he was not overpowered while reloading, he was also really good and fast at that too.

    That leaves us to admit that he was...not out of his mind. He was very much in his element. And as a person who could think or reason, he made this CHOICE. (Some cynics suggest that a materialistic, consumerist western society can easily drive a son of Muslim immigrants far back into radical Islam or worse. I don't know.)

    But if he was out of his mind and doing this in a mad fit of rage...and if he was just killing people in uncontrollable passion (that could interfere with his skills), then we have to ask about those he killed. Why did it take too long to subdue him, even with the difficult firing environment he was in? Could it be that the soon-to-be-deployed soldiers in Fort Hood were...





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