On March 10, NY Rep. Peter King held the first in a series of hearings about the radicalization of the American Muslim community and what can be done about it. In his opening remarks, Mr. King said, "Congressional investigation of Muslim American radicalization is the logical response to the repeated and urgent warnings which the Obama Administration has been making in recent months." Despite the numerous voices decrying his singling out of the American Muslim community, he remains undeterred.
If I could have testified at his hearing, this is what I would say:
Honorable Chairman King, Distinguished Members of the Homeland Security Committee:
The security of the United States is of the utmost importance to the officials of the U.S. Government. It is, perhaps, the most important duty of the President, his Administration, and that of the Congress. I respect and fully support, Mr. Chairman, your effort – and the effort of this entire Committee – to keep America safe from all threats, domestic and foreign. I commend your relentless struggle – a noble "jihad," in fact – to find and eliminate all the threats to the security of our country. I thank you on behalf of myself, my family, and the rest of America for this struggle.
Mr. Chairman, the radicalization of some in the Muslim community disturbs me just as much as it disturbs you. Why any Muslim in this country would betray her good graces and seek to kill and injure innocent fellow Americans continues to baffle me to the core. Without an iota of doubt, the best place on earth to be a Muslim is here in America. To commit an act of terror against America is a betrayal of the highest order, and it is an affront to everything for which Islam stands. Not only are people like Faisal Shahzad traitors to America, they are traitors to Islam as well.
But, they are criminals, plain and simple. They do not represent the entire American Muslim community. According to a recent study from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, there were 161 Muslim terrorist plots (both foreign and domestic) since 9/11. That is to be compared with the approximately 15,000 murders that occurred each year in the United States since 9/11. In 2010, there were more than 30 domestic terrorist plots, and only 10 were committed by Muslims. Now, to me – and to everyone in this room, I am sure – that is ten too many. Nevertheless, out of a population that is, conservatively, over 3 million, it is an exceedingly small number. Yet, by focusing your hearings on the radicalization of only American Muslims, you seem to intimate that the problem of violent extremism is only in the Muslim community, and that is clearly not the case.
Mr. Chairman, you have claimed that the American Muslim community is not cooperating with law enforcement in trying to prevent attacks. That is simply not true. Again, according to the UNC Chapel Hill study, of 120 Muslim plots since 9/11, almost half – 48 to be exact – were disrupted by tips from the American Muslim community itself. This completely belies the assertion, albeit implicit, that American Muslims are complicit in the terror attacks directed against America.
Every single day, in fact, American Muslims are actively engaged in the effort to keep America safe. American Muslims are police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and first responders. They are mayors of cities, city council members, and school board members. They are doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, and other professionals. They participate in local PTAs, they coach Little League, softball teams, and soccer teams.
On a personal level, sir, there is not a day that goes by that I am not totally committed to the security of my country. I am a physician in the Chicago area. Every single day, I am dedicated to saving the lives of countless of my fellow Americans, the overwhelming majority of which are not Muslim. I don’t care, in fact, what religion my patients follow. All I care about is to help them feel better and become well. I counsel my patients about the dangers of cigarette smoking, and I try to help them improve their health every single day.
Since I practice frequently in the Intensive Care Unit, I am frequently faced with the death of my patients despite all my medical efforts to keep them alive. I am always trying to comfort often frightened and grieving family members when faced with the death of their loved ones. I draw upon my own personal 9/11 – the death of my daughter from cancer – to help counsel them at their darkest hour.
I speak at my daughter’s school to the youth – our future generation of Americans – about the dangers of cigarette smoking and other drug use. I want them to live long, healthy, and prosperous lives. I vote in every single election – big and small – and every April 15, I faithfully (albeit not necessarily happily) pay my taxes to the U.S. Government, and I have even preached from the pulpit that it is our religious duty as Muslims to do so.
And my experience is not unique. Countless American Muslims do the same – and even more – than me every single day. If I, or any other American Muslim, ever came across a plot to harm America or her people from within my community, know, Mr. Chairman, that we would rush and report it to the authorities in an instant. American Muslims are part of the fabric of this country, and to say that "There is a real threat to the country from the Muslim community" lumps us all together with the tiny number of criminals who commit violence and terrorism in our name.
Sir, the threat of homegrown terrorism is real. And as much as I hate to say it, part of that threat does come from individuals in the American Muslim community. Yet, there is also a real threat from other segments in our society. Your hearings must focus on the threat to America from all groups, including those that – most recently – planted a bomb along the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade route in Spokane, Washington. This bomb was quite sophisiticated, and had it detonated, it would have caused serious harm and loss of life.
Mr. Chairman, once again, I laud your dedication to the security of the United States. By your efforts, and the efforts of every member of this Committee, my family and I are able to sleep more soundly at night. We are able to walk the beautiful streets and sidewalks of our beautiful country in safety and security. We are able to go to the mall, or a basketball game, or my daughter’s softball game, without fear of being blown apart by a terrorist thug’s bomb. I thank you for that on behalf of every American family from the bottom of my heart.
But, we American Muslims are not the problem. It is, rather, the criminals who commit the crimes of terrorism, and they are a fraction of a fraction of the whole of the American Muslim community. By singling out the American Muslim community, you lump all American Muslims – who are loyal, patriotic Americans who love their county, with the criminals in their midst. This is not right, sir.
All of us are together in this fight against violent extremism, whether it comes from Muslims or not. We are all on the same team, sir. Please remember, we are all on the same team.