In his speech on April 19, President Obama cautioned Americans not to rush to judgement about the Boston Marathon bombers' motives for their attack — and he was right. Even now we have little evidence to decide one way or another why the Tsarnaev brothers did what they did. However, Representative Peter King (R-NY) has, rather foolishly, thrown any semblance of caution to the wind, holding that we should put all Muslims under surveillance following the attack. Unfortunately, King isn't alone in spreading arguably Islamophobic rhetoric, showing that not only is xenophobia here to stay in the U.S., but also is likely to be exploited by lawmakers to further strip Americans of their civil liberties.
Moreover, Islamophobia spurred by lawmakers is also likely to alienate and anger, rather than engage one of America's vital assets in the on-going war against Islamic radicalism — moderate, loyal Muslim Americans.
According to King, who chairs the House subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, Americans need to stop being "politically correct" and recognize that America mainly only faces major threats from radical Islamic militants. Because of this, he says, we should increase surveillance on all Muslim communities — suspicious, or not.
However, this is not the first time King has lumped the entire Muslim community into one jihadist-supporting-and-clearly-radical group. In fact, in a 2007 interview with Politico, King had said that there are "too many mosques in this country." And in an earlier interview, he had even said that 85% of all mosques in the U.S. are controlled by "extremist leadership" — showing that not only is he a fear-mongering and bigoted lawmaker, but also excellent at making up facts on the spot.
He repeated this falsehood — that American Muslims are unwilling to cooperate in combating terrorism — and even added that Muslim Americans aren't actually "American" when it comes to war.
He also, without very much evidence at all, and rather, more evidence pointing towards the contrary, held that the suspected Boston bombers "obviously were Islamic terrorists motivated by Islamist views.”
Unfortunately, King isn't the only Republican embracing bigotry and spewing out Islamophobic rhetoric this week, as, unsurprisingly, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also joined him.
Once again, with little proof to back these claims, Graham declared that the Tsarnaev brothers were clearly on a "jihad mission."
“Radical jihadists are trying to attack us here at home,” he said. “Every day we face threats from radical Islamists and they are coming through our back yard and trying to radicalize American citizens.”
What these lawmakers — and many others making similar false accusations — don't realize is that at the end of the day, Islamophonic comments such as these aren't conducive towards combating terrorism both at home and abroad.
American Muslims have taken numerous steps to educate their youth and condemn terrorism, however, all of their own counter-terrorism motives have been undermined by such bigoted and Islamophobic rhetoric. Rather than treating the American Muslim community, on the whole, as dangerous outsiders, it's time that they are treated as allies in combating extremism.