In the Arena

Those Domestic Terrorism Hearings

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I’m of two minds about the hearings on domestic terrorism that Rep. Peter King is holding today. I’ve been a staunch defender of Muslims–of their patriotic record as American citizens, of their right to build houses of worship anywhere they want, including near Ground Zero. But let’s face it: there have been a skein of attacks over the past year–starting with the Fort Hood massacre and running through the aborted Times Square bombing–that have been attempted by U.S. citizens who happen to be Muslims. This is something new and, I think, it is a phenomenon that needs to be (a) acknowledged and (b) investigated as calmly and fairly as possible.

I’m not sure that King, an excitable bloviator, is the right person to conduct the hearings–but we need to know whether there is a pattern here, whether there are specific mosques that have been incubators, and how much an influence the American-born terrorist Anwar Awlaki, who is now living somewhere in Yemen, has been. We should do this with the assumption that American muslim terrorists are about as common as American Christian anti-abortion terrorists. We should do it as sensitively as possible, with the strong assertion that Islamophobia is unacceptable in America. But we should do it.

On a related topic, former CIA director Michael Hayden and Attorney General Michael Mukasy argue against terminating some of the more intrusive provisions of the Patriot Act in the Washington Post today. I agree with them: we need to know everything we can about who Awlaki, his minions and others like him are contacting in the United States. The surest way to protect the rights of Muslim citizens in the long term is to act aggressively against those who would do violence against their fellow citizens now.

Update Via Andrew Sullivan: There have been 22 Congressional hearings about domestic terrorism in recent years. The real problem here is Peter King’s mouth.