Today marks the beginning of US Representative Peter King's hearings about the radicalization of Muslims Americans, which have cast him into the middle of a controversy regarding the true nature and intentions of his hearings. Regardless of his intentions, however, valuable lessons can be learned by bringing light to this subject, as Muslims and non-Muslims alike are both growing tired of extremists espousing hate-filled messages and implementing acts against humanity.
We must recognize that Rep. King's reputation and his recent statements leave much to be desired from a congressional leader. Are the hearings meant to demonize Islam? Or are they meant to find out why a minuscule minority of Muslim Americans have become radicalized and want to kill?
Rep. King has been a staunch supporter of the terrorist group known as the Provisional IRA and does not see the moral equivalence between terrorist attacks committed on a military installation in Northern Ireland and the USS Cole. In 1985, he proudly declared, "If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the IRA for it." Three years prior to that, he pledged his support for this terrorist organization, all while the IRA was implementing a bloody terror campaign against the British army.
So Peter King's past certainly contradicts his claims that he now speaks against terrorism as opposed to Muslims. Is his true intention to demonize Muslims?
Just last month, a study released by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security found that 48 of 69 individuals who plotted against domestic targets were arrested at an early stage of their terror plot. The cooperation of Muslim Americans contributed to many of these arrests. After all, it was Muslim Americans who provided tips in 48 out of 120 terrorist cases in the United States.
As Muslim Americans, we certainly must cooperate with authorities to foil any and all terror plots because public security must be our number one concern. However, our job does not end there. We are also responsible for instilling the peaceful core teachings of Islam in our children and youth. That is why I am among those leading the effort within Muslim youth circles to instill this message through the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community's grassroots "Muslims for Peace" and "Muslims for Loyalty" outreach programs.
The Muslims for Peace initiative seeks to debunk the myth that Muslims do not stand up against terrorism or that Islam promotes violence instead of peace. Identifying the absence of a unified voice condemning violence, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community - the oldest Muslim organization in America - formally launched the "Muslims for Peace" grassroots campaign in July 2010.
In January of this year, we took this message a step forward with our Muslims for Loyalty message, which presents Islam's teachings that Muslims must be loyal and law-abiding citizens in the country in which they reside. This outreach is necessitated due to the undeniable fact that some Muslim Americans are being influenced by radical misinterpretations of Islam. Such individuals pose a significant threat to the safety of our country. As loyal citizens, it is our job to protect our country, while also protecting our Muslim youth from falling victim to this radical ideology that runs counter to the message of Islam.
The Quran - the holy scripture of Islam - declares in Chapter 4: "O ye who believe! Obey God, and obey His Messenger and those who are in authority among you." Prophet Muhammad supplemented this teaching by saying "Love of one's country of residence is part of faith." The Quran clearly forbids inciting rebellion or creating disorder in the land. All messages encouraging Muslim Americans to rebel against the US - or commit acts of violence or terrorism - are in defiance to the message of Islam.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community's youth association - the leading Muslim youth organization in America - has been working with thousands of Muslim youth across the country to instill this message.
So Rep. Peter King, if your Congressional hearing is meant to vilify or criticize all Muslim Americans, your hearing is misguided and hypocritical. Your hearing can only be productive if it pinpoints the root causes for why a tiny minority of Muslim Americans have grown radical or violent. It is in the interest of all moderate Muslims to help isolate individuals who have grown radical or violent and who otherwise bring disgrace to Islam.
Let honest dialogue and fair treatment reign.
Harris Zafar is National Spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA and National Director of Youth Outreach.
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