A Further Perspective

Fixating on Rep. Peter King’s ‘Islamophobia’

The Religious Left does what it's always done.

By 3.28.11

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Leftist utopians have never wanted to admit serious threats to liberal democracy, whether from Soviet Communism during much of the 20th century, or the Nazi-Fascist-Japanese militarist alliance of 70 years ago, or in more recent years from jihadist Islam. The denial is odd, because the enemies whose good will the leftist utopians adamantly insist upon would, if empowered, almost certainly prioritize the suppression and eradication of these very same leftist utopians. 

A recent example as been the Religious Left groups enraged at New York Congressman Peter King's hearings on radical Islam in the U.S. According to these critics, the hearings are McCarthyite and echo the interment of West Coast Japanese Americans during World War II. Any suggestion that domestic radical Islam might pose a security risk is portrayed as an assault against all Muslim Americans.

Cleverly, when recently pressed by a Washington Post reporter about church groups criticizing him, Congressman King dismissed them as "School of the Americas" types who would "be against me anyway." True enough. His reference was to religious leftists who for decades have campaigned against U.S. Army training at Fort Benning, Georgia for Latin American military officers. Ostensibly, it is a "School of the Assassins" where the U.S. military teaches colleagues from the south in the ways of authoritarian repression. That campaign caught a second wind in the 1990s after the discovery of some dusty "torture" manuals at the school.

The booklets were mostly relics from the 1960s, available at the school for only several years, and possibly never used. Out of over one thousand pages, two dozen or so sentence fragments were deemed offensive, including one cryptic reference to procuring information "involuntarily." Hence they became "torture" manuals. The manuals were hastily sequestered, undoubtedly more frequently read by the school's zealous critics than ever by any students there. And the school even changed its name partly to mollify opponents. But the angry protests continue, even though Latin America's old rightist regimes are long gone. Many of the aging protesters, including the defrocked Maryknoll priest who leads them by literally living outside the gates of Fort Benning, are left-over fellow travelers of the Sandinistas and Salvadoran FMLN guerillas of the 1980s. They are still frustrated that Castro-style revolution never swept Latin America, for which they doubtless blame the school. Even Hugo Chavez's rants, and Daniel Ortega's return to power in Nicaragua, have not brought them happiness.

By citing the School of the Americas zealots, Congressman King aptly captured the myopic, fringe nature of his religious critics. One such critic, the Faith and Public Life Institute, denounced King for not realizing he is opposed by a "broader faith community" that is showing a "unified front on the issue of religious discrimination and bigotry." King was reminded that an "attack on one faith is an attack on all faiths," which has galvanized "diverse faith leaders" to implore him to "instead pursue investigations that protect American values and our national security interests." These "faith leaders" of course have not typically articulated what America's "national security interests" are, since many of them are pacifist. And most of them, as utopians, do not recognize significant national security threats. In their view, America's violent enemies are primarily victims of U.S. injustice understandably crying out for redress. Apologies, mediation, and billions in economic aid would salve their wounds.

The "broad" religious coalition against Congressman King (my assistant Eric LeMasters reported on their press conference here) is primarily the National Council of Churches and its affiliated Mainline Protestant groups, all of them declining, plus Evangelical Left fixture Jim Wallis and deposed National Association of Evangelicals lobbyist Richard Cizik, who later found a patron in George Soros. Almost none of the protesting groups, except Cizik years ago before he turned leftward, have for decades expressed significant interest in America's safety. Instead, nearly all have aggressively adopted an extreme multiculturalism refusing to admit even proudly self-described jihadist Islam as a threat. Any insinuations to the contrary evince "Islamophobia." Evidently, terrorists ardently animated by their brand of Islam are simply to be called extremists, without reference to their motivating religious impulse, no matter how many millions globally may follow it.

King's hearings have included U.S. Muslims who warned about radical Islam's threat to their own families, mosques and communities. One witness, from the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, lamented about jihadism: "We can close our eyes and pretend it doesn't exist, we can call anyone a bigot or Islamophobe for even talking about it." Of course, King's Religious Left critics prefer exactly this ostrich approach, emphasizing all Muslims as victims, and deriding all critics of radical Islam as bigots and xenophobes. Ironically, these self-proclaimed mostly Christian defenders of American Muslims, by portraying them chiefly as victims, while insisting that radical Islam poses no threat, are only making American Muslims more vulnerable to inroads by jihadists. "I know that I also was deeply moved by their testimony," the chief of the National Council of Churches grudgingly admitted about witnesses at King's hearings who testified of radical Islam's impact on their own families, including a father whose jihadist son shot up an Arkansas U.S. Army recruiting station. "I don't doubt the reality of their experience."

But Religious Left utopians would prefer to ignore that "experience" in favor of their own dreams of an imaginary world without conflict. 

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About the Author

Mark Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C. and author of Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth CenturyYou can follow him on Twitter @markdtooley.