Despite criticism, Peter King, new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, remains undeterred in his crusade against alleged radicalization of American Muslims and next months begins hearings in which he will call Muslim and Arab witnesses, including Muslim Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, to discuss the alleged threat American Muslims pose to the nation.
“I believe it will have more of an impact on the American people if they see people who are of the Muslim faith and Arab descent testifying,” said King of his hearings, which critics claim will alienate and ostracize the nation’s Muslim communities.
A host of organizations, including Muslim Advocates, Amnesty International and the Japanese American Citizens League sent House Speaker John Boehner a letter last week insisting, “Singling out a group of Americans for government scrutiny based on their faith is divisive and wrong.”
And Ellison himself objected to King’s Muslim-centric witch hunt, rightly pointing out that white people have also been guilty of heinous, anti-American crimes.
“If you put every single Muslim in the U.S. in jail, it wouldn’t have stopped Jared Loughner,” said Ellison. “It wouldn’t have stopped the young man who killed his classmates at Virginia Tech. It wouldn’t have stopped the bombing in Oklahoma City or the man who killed a guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington.”
But King’s hearings not only undercut the nation’s rich history of religious plurality. They also put the GOP’s future electoral success in jeopardy.
A recent report from the Pew Research Center shows that people of mixed race are a fast-growing population—one in seven marriages are between races—and another report, from Pew’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, suggests the Muslim population here in the States will double by the year 2030: “U.S. Muslims will go from a tiny minority now, less than 1% of the nation, to 1.7%. That’s a jump from 2.6 million people in 2010 to 6.2 million,” the report said, before noting that the number of Muslims born here, rather than abroad, is also on the rise.
If King and his peers continue their political assaults on Muslim, immigrants and other marginalized groups, the Republicans will end up looking like the party of the past, not a party ready to embrace the nation’s changing face.
King won’t call off his hearings, no, but he and his colleagues shouldn’t be surprised when people of color, Muslims and their allies start turning their back on the GOP. If I were the Republican leadership, I would be concocting ways to bridge racial and religious divides, rather than inflaming tensions that threaten to undermine the party’s potential to build a bigger electoral tent.