Anti Muslim Bigotry,  Stateside

Congressman Peter King: from IRA apologist to anti-Muslim witchhunter

Republican Congressman Peter King of New York, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has scheduled hearings on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response” for this week.

Among other things, King has claimed that the American Muslim leaders are “not cooperating” with law enforcement agencies. In fact The New York Times reports:

Some law enforcement experts have challenged Mr. King’s portrayal of widespread noncooperation… Sheriff Leroy Baca of Los Angeles County said he had cultivated extensive relationships with Muslim leaders throughout his county. He said that as a member of the Major City Chiefs Association, the Major County Sheriffs Association and the National Sheriffs Association, he had not heard complaints about noncooperation from Muslims.

…Peter Bergen, director of the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation, and Roger Cressey, former director for transnational threats at the National Security Council, said the really sophisticated terrorists stop traveling and stop communicating in order to avoid detection. When that happens, they said, law enforcement must rely almost entirely on tips from the Muslim community to catch them.

A report issued last week by an independent research group on national security found that 48 of the 120 Muslims suspected of plotting domestic terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, were turned in by fellow Muslims, including parents, mosque members and even a Facebook friend. The report was issued by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, which is affiliated with Duke and the University of North Carolina.

The report said, “In some communities, Muslim-Americans have been so concerned about extremists in their midst that they have turned in people who turned out to be undercover informants.”

While King claims that law enforcement officials have told him repeatedly about alleged noncooperation, he does not plan to call any of these officials as witnesses to his hearings.

King has also said there are “too many mosques” in America and that 80 percent of US mosques are “controlled by extremists”– based on a 10-year-old unsubstantiated claim by Shaykh Hisham Kabbani.

What removes King from the realm of run-of-the-mill Muslim bashers, and makes him deserving of special scrutiny, is that in the 1980s, before he was elected to Congress, he was one of the leading American supporters of the Irish Republican Army.

King, then a local politician on Long Island, was one of the most zealous American defenders of the militant IRA and its campaign to drive the British out of Northern Ireland. He argued that IRA violence was an inevitable response to British repression and that the organization had to be understood in the context of a centuries-long struggle for independence.

“The British government is a murder machine,” King said. He described the IRA, which mastered the car bomb as an instrument of urban terror, as a “legitimate force.” And he compared Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, the IRA’s political wing, to George Washington.
King sees no parallel between the IRA and violent Islamist extremism, which he describes as a foreign enemy or a foreign-directed enemy. His preferred comparison for the IRA is with the African National Congress led by Nelson Mandela; the IRA, no less than the ANC’s military wing, was fighting for community rights and freedom, he says.

“I [wanted] a peace agreement, a working agreement, where the nationalist community would feel their rights would be respected,” King said in an interview at his Capitol Hill office. “I felt that the IRA, in the context of Irish history, and Sinn Fein were a legitimate force that had to be recognized and you wouldn’t have peace without them.

Although King, who is of Irish descent, later supported the Northern Ireland peace process and won praise for his role from Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, it doesn’t change some stark facts about the IRA violence for which he was an apologist:

The IRA was responsible for half of the more than 3,500 people killed in the ensuing 30-year conflict; of those killed by the IRA, about 600 were civilians, according to statistics compiled by researchers in Northern Ireland.

The group mortared the prime minister’s official residence at 10 Downing Street, bombed Harrods department store in London, and blew up a boat carrying the 79-year-old Lord Mountbatten, cousin of the queen and a daring World War II commander. The blast killed Mountbatten, two teenage boys and an 83-year-old woman.

King first visited Northern Ireland in 1980 when he accompanied fellow Republican Al D’Amato, who had just been elected to the Senate, on a fact-finding mission. King became a frequent visitor over the next decade.

He often stayed at the home of a senior IRA militant who ran operations in Belfast and was a welcome guest at the Felons Club, a heavily fortified drinking establishment for former IRA prisoners in West Belfast, according to Ed Moloney, author of “The Secret History of the IRA,” and a review of Irish and Irish-American press accounts of King’s trips.

As I recall, and perhaps fortunately for King, nobody ever suggested holding Congressional hearings about “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Irish Community and that Community’s Response.”

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