Yesterday, a coalition of over 50 faith groups and human rights organizations released a letter to Congressional Rep. Peter King asking him to broaden the scope of his hearings on Muslim “radicalization” to include extremist threats from all backgrounds. (Read the full letter here).
King has stated he’s focusing on Muslims because “that’s where the radicalizing threat is coming from.” As we showed earlier this week though, it’s actually non-Muslims who have been involved in the most incidents of violent extremism in the past ten years.
In response to the letter, King put out a statement justifying the hearings with a different argument: that homegrown terrorists are the fastest-growing threat to the United States.
But a new report from the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security (a consortium of Duke University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and researchers RTI International) shows that this claim is false as well.
Rather than increasing, the number of Muslims accused of terror attacks actually fell significantly in the last year, going from 47 in 2009 to just 20 in 2010. AP religion writer Rachel Zoll interviewed one of the authors of the report to put this number into context:
Charles Kurzman, a sociologist who wrote the study that was released Wednesday, said that given the widespread terrorist recruitment on the Internet and elsewhere, he considered the number of domestic terror cases relatively small. More than 2 million Muslims live in the U.S.
“Terrorism is a significant problem and Muslim-Americans are more susceptible to terrorist recruitment than other Americans. Fortunately, their level of recruitment is extremely low,” said Kurzman, who teaches at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Ultimately, the report reinforces the argument we highlighted earlier that there is no blueprint for a terrorist:
“There is no single profile or a common warning sign that signifies a “homegrown terrorist.” The diversity of the demographics, ethnicities, and life experiences makes the problem of detecting the homegrown terrorist an extremely difficult one for law enforcement.” (Page 14)
Actions like Rep. King’s hearings that single out any one group only distract us from this important challenge and ultimately make us less safe.
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Media Matters pointed out today that the anti-abortion group Live Action has released a heavily edited videotape in which a Planned Parenthood clinic worker is depicted providing aid to people engaged in sex trafficking of young immigrant women (the full video is available here, but I couldn’t get it to load). In the edited version, Live Action operatives pose as a pimp and a prostitute inquiring about obtaining medical checkups and abortions for young women they are trafficking.
The video is extremely disturbing, but it omits a very important fact: Planned Parenthood reported this alleged sex-trafficking activity to the FBI last week — and alerted the media — after Live Action operatives tried to pull off this same stunt at a dozen Planned Parenthood-affiliated facilities across the country.
Kyle at Right Wing Watch points out that religious right leaders have pounced on this video while failing to acknowledge that Planned Parenthood alerted federal investigators about the scheme. A few excerpts:
“Planned Parenthood has again proven that they are nothing more than a money-grabbing and highly corrupt abortion organization that will conceal a crime as disgusting as child prostitution — and ensure that it quietly continues.” [emphasis added]
Wendy Wright – CEO, Concerned Women for America
“Sex traffickers will take their victims to abortionists to end pregnancies or test for sexually transmitted diseases in order to keep their victims usable for sale. Planned Parenthood has apparently realized this, and that they could make not only one sale, but repeat sales. Medical professionals are on the front lines to detect a sex trafficking victim and are duty-bound to rescue the victims. Imagine the crushing despair of a trafficking victim, taken outside the shadows to a ‘respectable’ government-funded health care provider, only to learn that they are partnering with the trafficker to assist his illegal abuse. This latest tape confirms that Planned Parenthood continues to partner with abusing men against the women and girls they claim to serve.” [emphasis added]
Planned Parenthood is investigating the conduct of the employee in the video, so clearly there’s concern about her actions as they’re depicted on the edited tape. However, the bigger picture bears repeating: It is a matter of public record that Planned Parenthood reported the trafficking to the FBI over a week ago. There was even an AP story about it. I would wager a fair amount of money that FRC and CWA closely monitor media coverage of Planned Parenthood. It’s highly, unlikely that they did not see this story. But once again, we see that the facts don’t always get in the way of a good sound bite.
UPDATE: Planned Parenthood has fired the employee depicted in the video.
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Last week I broke down one of Rep. King’s favorite pieces of evidence for why his hearings on “Muslim radicalization” are necessary, showing how his claim that 80% of mosques are controlled by radicals isn’t backed up by evidence.
But made-up numbers about mosques aren’t the only statistics Rep. King and anti-Islam activists employ. They have also taken to selectively citing poll results to cast the Muslim community as uniquely affected by extremism. King’s op-ed in Newsday last month used a Pew forum poll showing 15% of Muslim-Americans between 18 and 29 (though only 8% of all Muslim-Americans) thought suicide bombing could be justified sometimes or often.
We addressed this claim before when Glenn Beck used these surveys to exaggerate the number of Muslim terrorists. But while an overwhelming majority of those 8% will never actually commit a terrorist act, any support for violence as a political solution is too much.
No one is more concerned about this problem than Muslims themselves, who have watched extremists distort and abuse the tenets of their faith, unfairly casting suspicion on the entire community. Their unequivocal condemnations of terror and strong efforts to root out radicalism are too often ignored in our current political debate.
But more importantly, looking exclusively at examples of Muslim support for violence dangerously distracts us from the reality that extremism comes in all forms. In fact, a recent CBS poll found that 16% of all Americans believe that taking violent action against the government is sometimes justified.
Furthermore, a recent study by the Muslim Public Affairs Council–using data from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the conservative Heritage Foundation–compared the incidents of violent extremism amongst Muslims and non-Muslims since 2001. The report’s findings are telling:
While MPAC’s Database recorded at least 43…incidents/plots by Muslim violent extremists, it also recorded 75 incidents/plots by non-Muslim violent extremists.
The reality is that there is no blueprint for a terrorist. They come from all socio-economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Singling out Muslim-Americans–as Rep. King’s hearings intend to do–not only foments fear and distrust when we need unity and courage, it distracts us from the real threats we face from all forms of extremism and thus makes us less safe.
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The murder of David Kato, a leading advocate for LGBT equality in Uganda, must serve as an urgent wakeup call to the international community and, more specifically, certain conservative Christian leaders whose demonization of gays creates a toxic climate that can lead to violence. Kato’s death has renewed a difficult and essential debate about the role some US evangelicals have played in fomenting anti-gay bigotry in a country where homophobia is deeply engrained.
At Religion Dispatches, Candace Chellew-Hodge has compiled several strong reactions from LGBT advocates that call out US religious right figures such as Scott Lively, the former head of the California affiliate of the American Family Association. Lively and others, including Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, have led conferences and workshops in Uganda denouncing homosexuality as evil. These aggressive campaigns helped lay the foundation, or at the very least helped legitimize, draconian legislation introduced two years ago in the Ugandan legislature that would require a minimum life sentence for anyone convicted of having gay sex, and a mandatory death penalty if they were HIV-positive. The proposal, commonly referred to as the “Kill the Gays” bill, would also ban the “promotion of homosexuality,” making it a crime to advocate on behalf of gay rights. David Kato and his group, Sexual Minorities Uganda, campaigned against the bill, which is still pending.
Faith in Public Life and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good organized a statement in 2009 signed by prominent Catholic, evangelical and mainline Protestant leaders — including a former U.S. Ambassador to Uganda and the Vatican – that condemned the proposed legislation. Their words are worth reflecting on as we mourn the loss of David Kato and recommit ourselves as people of faith to standing shoulder to shoulder with Ugandans living in fear because of who they are.
As Americans, some may wonder why we are raising our voices to oppose a measure proposed in a nation so far away from home. We do so to bear witness to our Christian values, and to express our condemnation of an injustice in which groups and leaders within the American Christian community are being implicated. We appeal to all Christian leaders in our own country to speak out against this unjust legislation. In our efforts to imitate the Good Samaritan, we stand in solidarity with those Ugandans beaten and left abandoned by the side of the road because of hatred, bigotry and fear….Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, in our churches, communities and families, we seek to embrace our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as God’s children worthy of respect and love. Yet we are painfully aware that in our country gays and lesbians still face hostility and violence. We recognize that such treatment degrades the human family, threatens the common good and defies the teachings of our Lord — wherever it occurs.
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It’s disappointing to see Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, pull the plug on the SBC’s support for a new interfaith coalition defending the rights of Muslims to build mosques. Here is his rationale, as explained to the Associated Press:
…the head of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission…said he heard from many Southern Baptists who felt the work of the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques crossed the line from defending religious freedom to promoting Islam. “I don’t agree with that perception but it’s widespread and I have to respect it…My constituents, many felt, ‘Yes. We certainly believe in religious freedom. People ought to have a place of worship. But it’s a bridge too far not only to advocate for that, but to file suit,’” he said.
Interestingly, the coalition was not the brainchild of Muslim or progressive Christian leaders. It was launched by the Anti-Defamation League – a prominent Jewish group devoted to fighting anti-Semitism and “all forms of bigotry.” The ADL faced widespread criticism for opposing the construction of Park51, an Islamic community center near Ground Zero in Manhattan. The ADL claimed that the project was disrespectful to the family of victims killed in the Word Trade Center attacks. But the organization has since become a leading defender of disputed mosque projects across the country, including those in Murfreesboro, Tenn. and Temecula, Calif.
As Justin Elliott writes over at Salon, even as the ADL rankles many with it’s unwavering support of Israel, friendly attitude toward Glenn Beck and opposition to a group of imams visiting Auschwitz, the organization deserves credit for sticking their necks out for a cause that is surely unpopular with some conservative Jewish supporters of the group.
Contrast this commendable leadership with Land, who in the face of grumblings from Southern Baptists chose to walk away from a fight that is at the heart of his office’s commitment to religious freedom. Southern Baptist critics who argue that the coalition crossed the line from defending religious freedom to “promoting Islam,” as Land says, offer a transparently weak argument.
No one expects the Southern Baptist Convention to become cheerleaders for Islam or launch a massive public relations campaign on behalf of Muslims. This interfaith coalition does neither. It simply, and essentially, protects a fundamental principle of our democracy: freedom to worship in peace.
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