the useful inequalities of terrorism

March 10, 2011

When will Homeland Security look into the hate groups in the U.S. who promote terrorism? Here’s the text from an email from the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Earlier today, the FBI arrested a suspect in the attempted terrorist bombing of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Spokane, Wash. Authorities say the sophisticated bomb – left in a backpack on a bench along the parade route – was a powerful device packed with shrapnel dipped in rat poison.

Our independent investigation has confirmed that the suspect was a member of the National Alliance, for years one of the most dangerous neo-Nazi hate groups in America and one of the groups tracked by our Intelligence Project.

National Alliance founder William Pierce was the author of The Turner Diaries, the race war novel that inspired the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 men, women and children.

The bombing attempt in Spokane demonstrates that the threat of domestic terrorism from elements of the radical right is very real. And the threat may be growing. Just last month, we released a report showing that hate groups now number more than 1,000 for the first time.

In yesterday’s New York Times, Scott Shane’s article, “For Lawmaker Examining Terror, a Pro-I.R.A. Past,” quotes Niall O’Dowd in “describing Mr. King’s ‘strange journey from Irish radical to Muslim inquisitor.'” Shane says of O’Dowd: “Seeing his old friend similarly ‘demonize’ Muslims has shocked him, he said.”

Fight McCarthyism 2.0

March 4, 2011

Human Rights First sent out a warning about the New McCarthyism. I’m copying and pasting below:

I’m writing to tell you that I strongly object to the hearings on violent extremism recently announced by the Chair of the Committee on Homeland Security, Congressman Peter King. I urge you to stand up against these hearings by signing onto the attached letter to Congressman King to express your concern about the hearings. This letter, sponsored by Congressmen Pete Stark and John Dingell, makes clear to Congressman King that focusing a set of hearings on American Muslims is misguided and contrary to American values.

Chairman King has characterized the hearings, scheduled to begin on March 10, 2011, as focusing exclusively on the “radicalization of the American Muslim community and homegrown terrorism.”

If Chairman King proceeds with these hearings, please sign onto this letter to urge him to address all forms of violence motivated by extremist beliefs and to do so in a full, fair, and objective way.

These hearings harken back to hearings held in the 1950s by then-U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy. That dark chapter in our history taught us that Congress has a solemn duty to wield its investigatory power responsibly.

In the course of justifying the focus of the hearings, Chairman King has made broad and unsubstantiated assertions about the American Muslim community. For example, he continues to perpetuate the myth that 80% of mosques in America are run by extremists, implying that they are hotbeds of extremism. To the contrary, experts have concluded that mosque attendance is a significant factor in preventing violence.

In addition, during a recent interview, Chairman King made a statement insinuating that American Muslims are not American:

“When a war begins, we’re all Americans. But in this case, this is not the situation. And whether it’s pressure, whether it’s cultural tradition, whatever, the fact is the Muslim community does not cooperate anywhere near to the extent that
it should. The irony is that we’re living in two different worlds.”

If Chairman King is suggesting that American Muslims are somehow less American – simply by virtue of their faith – then that is an affront to all Americans.

Providing a public, government-sanctioned platform for these erroneous and offensive views has consequences. The American public takes cues from government officials. These hearings will almost certainly increase widespread suspicion and mistrust of the American Muslim community and stoke anti-Muslim sentiment.

During 2010, we saw an increase in anti-Muslim hatred in public discourse, as well as hate crimes and violence targeting American Muslims, and those perceived to be Muslim, including vandalism and arson of mosques, physical attacks, bullying of children in schools, and attempted murder.

No American should live in fear for his or her safety, and Congress should not help create a climate where it is acceptable to target a particular faith community for discrimination, harassment, and violence.

Furthermore, a hearing that demonizes the American Muslim community will not go unnoticed by Muslims around the world and will contribute to perceptions of how the U.S. government treats Muslims.

The Committee on Homeland Security should focus on keeping us safe, rather than engaging in fearmongering and divisive rhetoric that only weakens the fabric of our nation and distracts us from actual threats.

We strongly urge you to object to the hearings in their current form by signing onto the attached letter to Congressman King, which makes clear that his proposed hearings are misguided.

Thank you for your attention on this matter, and I look forward to
hearing from you.

Oppose the Stereotyping and Alienation of Muslim Americans

From: The Honorable Fortney Pete Stark
Sent By:
Date: 3/1/2011

Dear Colleague:

Next week, Chairman Peter King and the Homeland Security Committee will begin a series of troubling hearings that single out Muslim Americans as the source of “homegrown terrorism” and focus exclusively on the radicalization of Muslim Americans. Rather than examining all forms of violence motivated by extremist beliefs, these hearings unfairly stigmatize and alienate one religious group.

We represent diverse communities where Muslim Americans make vital contributions every day. They teach our children, work in hospitals, and protect the public safety as police officers and firefighters. They love this country just as we do and should not be placed under suspicion of terrorism because of their religious beliefs or ethnic background. Unfortunately, Chairman King’s hearings would do just that.

We urge you to join us in sending the attached letter to Chairman King asking that he reconsider holding these profoundly unfair hearings.

To sign the letter, please contact Michele Scarbrough in Rep. Stark’s office by email at or by phone at 5-5065, or Erica Fein in Rep. Dingell’s office by email at or by phone at 5-4071.


Pete Stark John Dingell
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Dear Chairman King:

We are writing regarding the Homeland Security Committee’s upcoming hearings, which you have stated will focus exclusively on radicalization among Muslim Americans and homegrown terrorism. We agree that Congress and all levels of government have a duty to protect America from terrorism, whether from abroad or homegrown. We are, however, deeply concerned that the stated narrow scope and underlying premises of these hearings unfairly stigmatizes and alienates Muslim Americans. We ask that you reconsider the scope of these hearings and instead examine all forms of violence motivated by extremist beliefs, rather than unfairly focusing on just one religious group.

We believe that the tone and focus of these hearings runs contrary to our nation’s values. Muslim Americans contribute to our nation’s wellbeing in many professions including as doctors, engineers, lawyers, firefighters, business entrepreneurs, teachers, police officers and Members of Congress. Their hard work helps to make our country exceptional.

Furthermore, casting a negative light on an entire community — rather than focusing on actual dangerous fringes will only strain community relationships and trust that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have worked hard to develop. Muslim Americans are an integral part of our larger American society and should be treated as such, not viewed with suspicion.

The choice between our values of inclusiveness and pluralism and our security is a false one.

If you wish to examine violent extremism, we ask that you do so by examining violence motivated by extremist beliefs in all its forms. Singling out one religious group and blaming the actions of individuals on an entire community is not only unfair, it is unwise– and it will not make our country any safer.


Pete Stark John Dingell
Member of Congress Member of Congress

CC: Ranking Member Bennie Thompson

“Shut up, Obama”

February 12, 2011

This is the title to a blog posting on Lenin’s Tomb, and I’ll reprint the post here:

Obama is speechifying in his classically elevated, sonorous fashion. He should shut up. He has nothing to say. He spent weeks first backing Mubarak, then the torturer Suleiman. He thought his man, Suleiman, had been put in charge last night. It never once crossed his mind that he would stop aid to the regime, even stop sending the bullets and tear gas that have been used against protesters. The US has been handed its arse by the Egyptian people, the vanguard of global democracy, and should at this point be feigning humility.

OK, just so ya know…I voted for Obama (even though I was deeply troubled about his take on Palestine). I believed in Obama. I had the highest hopes for Obama. But this posting on Lenin’s Tomb speaks my mind. “Feigning humility” … wouldn’t it be lovely if we could all attain humility and listen carefully to those millions of voices in Egypt.

la Tunisie – sustaining revolution?

January 16, 2011

The fleeing-ouster of Tunisia’s former president for 23 years, Ben Ali, can be called a popular revolution, as some journalists are reporting it. For insightful reporting, read Brian Whitaker’s blog, al-Bab. Whitaker (editor for The Guardian) has gathered his pieces on the demonstrations under a section called Tunisia: The fall of President Ben Ali. Some reporting credits WikiLeaks as helping fuel the demonstrations because of documents that indicate the U.S.’s acknowledgment of Ben Ali’s corruption. Two deaths in particular have motivated protests: an impoverished graduate student arrested for selling fruits and vegetables without a license set himself on fire and another unemployed Tunisian electrocuted himself. Other protestors have been shot.

the seduction of anti-Arab rhetoric

October 21, 2008

I just read an article in The New York Review of Books authored by a group of regular contributors. This article, “A Fateful Election,” includes a segment by Joan Didion in which she discusses how the presidential campaign has distracted us from “the same intractable questions.” Didion argues that it’s easier to live in the fantasy world of the campaign than it is to confront our realities:

We could forget the 70 percent of American eighth graders who do not now and never will read at eighth-grade levels, meaning they will never qualify to hold one of those jobs we no longer have. We could forget that we ourselves induced the coma, by indulging the government in its fantasy of absolute power, wielded absolutely. So general is this fantasy by now that we approach this election with no clear idea where bottom is: what damage has been done, what alliances have been formed and broken, what concealed reefs lie ahead. Whoever we elect president is about to find some of that out.

Just so — it’s so much easier to target an enemy beyond than the enemy within. Enter the Arab. Kinda like the African. Lots of different countries, languages, cultures — but in the U.S.’s studied ignorance of the world (Global Studies Lite?), all we need is one composite terrorist Arab, and we’re good to go.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has warned that targeting of Arabs and Arab Americans tends to increase as politicians cavalierly accept ethnocentric perspectives, such as McCain’s — when a rally participant accused Obama of being an Arab and McCain responded that, oh no — Obama is a decent family man — the only logical connection is that Arabs therefore cannot be decent or family men. Hmmm. The ADC has alerted folks to a recent attempt to stir up anti-Arab sentiment, which is the mass stuffing of newspapers (over 28 million) with the free DVD called Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West. I’ve got a copy and don’t really want to watch it — but I will.