Peter King, the New York Republican who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, has been a good friend to those of us who work to protect American national security. In launching an investigation into the ideology that fuels the Islamist threat against the United States, he has had the courage to go where Congress has been too intimidated to go before. Still, with the second round of his committee’s hearings on “radicalization” having been completed, it is necessary to question his approach.
The committee has kept on the sidelines the peerless analysts Steven Emerson and Robert Spencer, who were sounding the alarm before most people in this country knew there was an Islamist threat — very much including most people in our government. King holds the work of these experts in high regard. Yet, he has decided the public’s understanding is better served by calling as his main witnesses (a) Muslims, who can give a firsthand account of what goes on in their communities, and (b) law-enforcement officials, current and former, who’ve designed and carried out what passes for the counterterrorism strategy followed by police agencies throughout the country — basically, terrorism investigations and Muslim outreach.
There are serious problems with this approach. Hearing from Muslims is obviously important, but to limit the committee to their input on what’s happening inside the Islamic community is to fall for the fallacy that you have to be a member of the group to grasp and explain the group’s dynamics. If that were true, why would anyone care what King’s analysis is? Congress is not a Muslim body, so why would its insights be any more valuable than those of experts like Emerson and Spencer?
Moreover, while the Muslim community in the United States includes many patriotic Americans, it also includes Islamists who seek to undermine our country. The latter adhere to taqqiya, a principle that endorses misrepresentation when necessary to advance the Islamist cause. This principle’s operation is not mitigated by putting these people under oath at hearings, because their fidelity is to sharia, not American law — if they think it will help to lie, they will lie.
Recall the testimony of King’s very first witness back in March, CAIR’s favorite congressman, Keith Ellison (at least, I think that’s the name he’s going by these days — he’s used several in his checkered past, well documented by Powerline’s Scott Johnson). As Matt Shaffer recounted on the Corner, Ellison — a hard-Left Minnesota Democrat and the first Muslim elected to the House of Representatives — gave the committee a weepy account of American bigotry against a Muslim American who died heroically trying to save lives on 9/11. Not surprisingly, Ellison’s story was riddled with falsehoods. To be sure, there is value in watching some of these characters dodge, dissemble, and demagogue. But they are a big part of the challenge we face, so it’s foolish to make them our window into the Muslim community.
As for law enforcement, it is seized by political correctness (as I discussed at length in Willful Blindness). Again, there is value in hearing from those who have investigated cases involving jihadist terror and who formulate strategies for gathering the intelligence needed to prevent terrorist attacks. Many of these officials, however, are wedded to the premise that Islam is not the problem; in fact, they say it is the solution to the problem. Even if they privately believe otherwise, they wouldn’t dare say so publicly — not if they want to continue their upwardly mobile careers.
Which is to say that these officials resolutely avoid acknowledging the very thing that King is trying to probe. Moreover, their perspective — observing the Muslim community from without — is obviously no more valuable than that of non-police experts such as Emerson and Spencer, who have been at it for a lot longer, tend to know more about the subject, and are less afraid that making trenchant criticisms sure to get them smeared as “Islamophobic” would be career suicide.