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Archbishop Dolan, Please Call Rep. Peter King

January 6, 2011, 3:59 pm | Posted by John Gehring

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan has not been shy about weighing in on controversial issues, taking to his blog recently and defending Catholicism’s Culture Warrior in Chief Bill Donohue and blasting the New York Times for its coverage of the clergy sex abuse scandal. The new president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops now has another opportunity to address a hot-button issue emerging from his own backyard. Rep. Peter King, a Catholic who represents heavily Catholic Long Island, has announced that as the new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee he will hold hearings next month on the “radicalization” of the American Muslim community.

This hearing will likely be typical political theater, full of furrowed brows and heavy doses of demagoguery. This could all be easily dismissed if not for the rising tide of Islamophobia that brands Muslims as sinister outsiders hostile to American values. Sound familiar, Catholics? It wasn’t that long ago, historically speaking, when Catholic immigrants were demonized as threats to democracy. Irish Catholics were caricatured with vile stereotypes, Catholic Churches were burned and political cartoons savaged the bishops’ allegiance to Rome. It’s easy to forget that ugly history today when influential Catholics serve in the highest echelons of government and media.

We can find smart solutions to stop terrorism and other threats to national security (whether they come from Muslims, Christians or non-religious extremists) in ways that also preserve our values. Eboo Patel suggests in a recent Washington Post “On Faith” column that along with learning more about why a small percentage of Muslims become terrorists, Rep. King should also help educate the American people about a lesser known fact:

Peter King can shine a light on the role that the mainstream Muslim community has played in these attacks. By and large, it has been to help prevent them. Mainstream American Muslims have been vigilant against extremists in their communities – confronting their views, flushing them out and if need be reporting them to law enforcement. A Muslim Public Affairs Council study found that American Muslim communities had played a central role in helping law enforcement prevent seven of the last ten Al Qaeda related plots. How did the FBI get turned on to Mohamed Osman Mohamud, the young man who planned to attack the Christmas Tree Lighting in Portland? His Muslim father reported him.

Archbishop Dolan, who serves in one of the world’s most diverse and vibrant cities, occupies a powerful pulpit. When he speaks, both privately and publicly, his words are taken seriously. When the archbishop calls politicians and other city leaders, you can bet he is not put on hold. The archbishop is by all accounts an affable guy, a consensus builder who prides himself on his ability to defuse tensions. A meeting with Rep. King should be on his schedule.

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