Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rep. King's hearings on radical Islam are a great (or horrible) idea. Discuss.

Imagine a congressional hearing titled, "Christianity and GLBT Hate Crimes" or "Radical Christians and the Murder of Abortion Providers."  I'm guessing that many of us would feel more than a bit perplexed at the premise of those hearings, not because there has never been any relationship between Christian beliefs and those acts of violence, but because the government is heading down a very troubling road when they start to investigate -- and hold up for public shaming (?) -- the religious traditions that may provide the impetus for certain individuals to engage in the objectionable conduct.  So how should we as Christians respond to Rep. King's hearings on "Radicalization in the American Muslim community?"   Especially in today's climate, when anti-Muslim hysteria appears to be growing in some circles, I fear that these hearings will create more heat than light.  At the same time, I don't want the government to turn a blind eye to the power of any group, religious or otherwise, to form "true believers" who will engage in evil acts.  So as Catholics committed to both religious liberty and the common good, how should we advise Rep. King?


Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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I like Ruth Marcus's take:

Posted by: DFoley | Mar 9, 2011 11:40:17 AM

From the New York Times:
For Representative Peter T. King, as he seizes the national spotlight this week with a hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims, it is the most awkward of résumé entries. Long before he became an outspoken voice in Congress about the threat from terrorism, he was a fervent supporter of a terrorist group, the Irish Republican Army.

“We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry,” Mr. King told a pro-I.R.A. rally on Long Island, where he was serving as Nassau County comptroller, in 1982. Three years later he declared, “If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the I.R.A. for it.” . . .

Posted by: David Nickol | Mar 9, 2011 11:48:10 AM


I am always nervous about hearings of this nature. On one hand, I appreciate the questions of national security which are posed by the existence of individuals / groups which seek to attack the nation or its inhabitants and cause serious harm. On the other hand, are we at a point where a threat is coalesced enough to make hearings on the matter profitable? I would think that 9/11 is good evidence that there are individuals willing to take steps in the name of radical Islam. But then, why not law enforcement officials engaging in rooting out criminal behavior - why a Legislative focus on the matter, absent the need for lawmaking? (Of course, if the Executive refuses to do their job, then there may be cause for legislative concern, as noted by Ruth Marcus in her article.)

Much seems to come down to the question of when supposedly liberal societies should tolerate forces which seek the overthrow of the society or of its liberality....

Posted by: Jonathan | Mar 9, 2011 11:55:44 AM

On the other hand, headlines like this do give me pause:


Posted by: Jonathan | Mar 9, 2011 12:02:50 PM

Thank you, Professor Vischer, for shining a spotlight on these hearings. It is my belief that these hearings are meant to demonize the American Muslim community and that Catholics should stand strongly against them if that is what happens. And given Congressman King's record, that's probably what will happen. I hope the USCCB will also take this up, as well.

Posted by: Edward Dougherty | Mar 9, 2011 12:07:51 PM

They are a great idea if and only if the hearings inquire about the role the U.S. government played in arming and encouraging radical Islamic groups, like the Mahujadeen, et al.

I would expect see the same kind of hearings if the U.S. government played a role in arming and encouraging radical anti-Union groups like the Irish Republican Army. Better yet, there should probably be a hearing regarding Rep. King's involvement with the IRA.

Posted by: CK | Mar 9, 2011 12:55:17 PM

I agree with the above; it makes me a little nervous.

But, if the hearings stick to the real problem---and there does seem to be a problem, or at least a potential problem---I don't see the harm.

I guess that I would be worried about poorly conceived & executed hearings on this subject, but would not be worried about well-done hearings on the subject. So, as Catholics I think we should see what comes up, condemn what appears to be hysteria but tentatively support what appear to be good, hard fact.

Posted by: casual reader | Mar 9, 2011 4:35:00 PM

"stick to the real problem"

Good luck with that. Hearings are usually partially about politics and public relations. And, about the person who call them. On both fronts, this is troubling. The subject can be addressed in some fashion; the same is true as to abortion related violence. But, the means here doesn't make me optimistic. Even if it is of some value, it has enough loaded images and assumptions, that much of it will be lost, since the opponents will be so worried and distrustful. Anyway, it is but a hearing, so won't be the end of the world or anything.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 10, 2011 10:18:39 AM

Mr. King was an apologist for terror long before he was against it. It is rich he is the choice for this position.

Posted by: Dan | Mar 10, 2011 9:55:22 PM

Representative King is doing the right thing. How did an intelligent man like him get elected in New York? All of the 9/11 terrorists were Moslem extremists (not to mention other similar incidents). Would this lead a thinking person to possibly conclude that the issue of Moslem extremism should be investigated?
Some idiot on the news was complaining that the Klu Klux Klan was not being investigated in the same congressional hearing. That would make as much sense as including the Black Panthers. Instead, why not pursue the obvious – just like King is doing.
Let’s see, 5 banks have been robbed. The robber was identified each time as a 6 ft., 200 lb., white male. Does it make sense to look for a 6 ft., 200 lb. white male? Would that be unreasonable? Would looking for Moslem males make any sense?
The 9/11 Commission stated it was not a matter of “if” terrorists would set off a nuclear device in the United States – it was a matter of “when.” I, for one, am thankful for Congressman King’s investigation.

Posted by: David | Mar 10, 2011 10:05:03 PM

Given that we are at war with Islamic militants it seems wise to have hearings to determine if they are infiltrating and recruiting in the US. In fact they are doing so. It might be nice for Muslims countries to hold hearings about discrimination against Christians, but we know that won't happen.

Posted by: Fr. J | Mar 11, 2011 4:34:43 PM

King is- in this case- a racist rabble rouser. Aside from the bigotry of targeting a minority group the hearings are nothing more than self publicity for the deluded King, who has already cast himself as the hero in a series of God awful books he writes. Its a massive waste of money and resources designed to put fear into the lowbrows and get him some votes from rednecks and trailer trash.

Posted by: chris barfoot | Sep 14, 2011 2:44:21 PM