Witnesses at “Mini-King Hearings” Debunk Rep. Myrick’s Muslim Rhetoric
When it comes to anti-Islam extremist group ACT! for America’s Congressional allies, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) tops the list. The recipient of ACT!’s 2009 Patriot Award, Myrick has attended the organization’s national conference, appeared on their TV show, and formerly employed their communications and marketing director as her chief of staff.
So when the Congresswoman — who chairs the Subcommittee on Terrorism, HUMINT, Analysis, and Counterintelligence of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence — held her own “King hearing” last Thursday on preventing violent extremism in the U.S. — many of us braced for the worst. To her credit though, Myrick’s two invited witnesses were respected experts in the field and spoke with a nuanced understanding of the issues.
Similar to what happened at Peter King’s hearing earlier in the day, the witnesses’ testimonies did more to debunk Myrick’s assumptions than confirm them. Instead of finding evidence to support theories of “creeping sharia” or “stealth jihad,” the committee heard a direct rebuttal of groups like ACT! for America.
Here’s Peter Neumann, Director of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence at King’s College answering a question posed by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) about anti-Islam statements by political leaders:
NEUMANN: I’ve always thought that this idea of a “stealth jihad” and of a campaign to introduce sharia law in the United States of America was quite contrived. The people who argue that case believe that this conspiracy has been operating since 1962. Now, if there is a conspiracy — and I don’t believe there is one — if there is a conspiracy it must be one of the least effective conspiracies modern history. 99% of the US population are not Muslim, of the remaining .8% the vast majority are totally committed to the U.S. Constitution. So the chance, the odds, of the remaining…6 people to overthrow the Constitution are, I believe, quite low. There is a threat from homegrown terrorism as we’ve seen in the data. I believe that is the threat we should be concentrating on rather than stamping an entire community as potential terrorists.
Mr. Neumann also spoke about how counter-radicalization efforts should focus on empowering groups that can help build a counter-narrative to that of terrorists:
NEUMANN: In the context of the United States the most important narrative that counter-radicalization policy should be promoting is the idea that it is perfectly compatible to be a good American citizen and a good Muslim at the same time.Because Al-Qaeda’s messaging is trying precisely to counter that sort of message. It says to young people “you have to choose, you cannot be a good American and a good Muslim at the same time.” So when I am a local official on the ground and I’m finding a group that presents itself to me but seems to be promoting exactly that message that comes from Al Qaeda–you cannot be a good American and a good Muslim at the same time–that clearly is a group that should not be empowered because it is acting against the interests of the policy.
While he’s nominally speaking about groups partnering with local authorities to do community outreach, his warning is also pertinent to anti-Islam extremist groups like ACT! for America that actively promote this false narrative that Islam is incompatible with American ideals and Muslims should be subject to suspicion and special investigation because of it.
When elected officials promote these harmful narratives by partnering with fearmongering groups like ACT! for America or holding hearings that communicate these sentiments, they only make it harder for the law enforcement professionals and community groups working to keep us safe.