Are there too many Mosques/Muslims in America?
By Dr. Aref Assaf
"We have too many churches and synagogues in the United States." Imagine what a national outrage would ensue if such a statement was uttered by an American official. Yet one ponders the conspicuous silence when Congressman Peter King (R-NY) warned us that "we have too many mosques in this country."
In a recent interview with The Politico, Rep. King said, "Unfortunately, we have too many mosques in this country. There are too many people who are sympathetic to radical Islam. We should be looking at them more carefully. We should be finding out how we can infiltrate. [...] King added, "I think there's been a lack of full cooperation from too many people in the Muslim community. And it's a real threat here in this country."
King's Islamophobia represents a persistent pattern involving unrelenting attacks by self-appointed Arab or Muslim experts permeating the airwaves, media, and schools. In 2004, King claimed the vast majority of American Muslim community leaders are "an enemy living amongst us" and that "no (American) Muslims" cooperate in the war on terror. King serves on the Select Committee on Homeland Security and the International Relations Committee. King made that claim February 9th on Sean Hannity's nationally-syndicated radio program. While promoting his novel "Veil of Tears," King complained that "no (American) Muslims are cooperating" with law enforcement officials to combat terrorism. He added: "I would say, you could say that 80-85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists. Those who are in control. The average Muslim, no, they are loyal, but they don't work, they don't come forward, they don't tell the police [inaudible]."
When questioned by Hannity whether he was really claiming that 85 percent of mosques in America are "ruled by the extremists," King said: "Yes. And I can get you the documentation on that from experts in the field. Talk to a Steve Emerson, talk to a (Daniel) Pipes, talk to any of those. They will tell you. It's a real issue. I'll stand by that number of 85 percent. This is an enemy living amongst us."
Contrary to King's assertions, Muslim leaders have worked diligently with law enforcement. In New Jersey our leaders have collaborated in most productive ways with local and state entities-- disseminating information unto and from our besieged community. Statements by New Jersey elected officials reputedly affirm the cooperative relative between Muslim leaders and law enforcement agencies. Whether it is Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) or even our Governor, all have attested to the valuablecontributions of American Muslims to the vibrancy, safety and progress of our great State. Officials from the FBI and Department of Justice regularly interact with our community leaders and, unlike Mr. King, visit our mosques and learn firsthand what is taking place.
It is pure hate speech and defamatory rhetoric when an elected official speaks so suspiciously of America's Muslim leaders and ordinary Muslims, including those in his own district. Furthermore, the media silence about such virulent rhetoric filters, or better, refracts through the prejudice of bigots in the media audience, who seek to turn the war against terror into a war against all of Islam and thus against all American Muslims. This hatemongering is most evident in the unprecedented public outrage against plans to convent a vacant warehouse in Rockaway, NJ into a mosque. Aref Assaf, PhD, is President of the American Arab Forum. He is a frequent commentator on Arab-American and Islamic affairs. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rejection was disguised by concerns about traffic and loss of tax ratable. But, and has been fully documented in recent public hearings, more than one person unabashedly told the Board that they simply don't want Muslims to have a place of worship in Rockaway. The hall, filled with close to 200 opponents, erupted in approving applause. Others, while claiming tolerance, recommended Muslims build the mosque in an area 'away from the rest of us."
Sadly, we now have Rudy Giuliani, a Republican presidential candidate who has hired bigots such as King and Daniel Pipes as national security advisors. Mr. Giuliani has clearly demarked his political allegiance to Israel. Both advisors support racial profiling of Muslims and Arabs. Pipes has made a career of attacking Arab and Muslim Americans. He has even promoted the idea calling for the internment of American citizens of Arab origin. Arab and Muslim voters will have to decide if Giuliani is fit to be President of the United States or a lobbyist for Israel.
We call upon President Bush, the Republican National Committee, and indeed all people of conscience to repudiate these baseless accusations and reject the growing manipulation of legitimate fears of terrorism to marginalize and stigmatize an entire community. We call upon Rep. King to immediately and unequivocally apologize to the American Muslim community and to seek information from unbiased sources. Further, we ask that Mr. King meets with Muslim leaders to learn more about Muslims in America. Ignorance can no longer justify hate speech and bigotry should never so avariciously enrich a hateful Congressman.
Dr. Aref Assaf (PhD, Political Science and International Law) is president and founder of American Arab Forum, AAF, a non partisan think-tank specializing in advocating positive image of the American Arab community. Dr. Assaf was also a founding (more...)