A Question of Loyalty

Editorial

Published March 09, 2011, issue of March 18, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

One person’s terrorist may be another person’s freedom fighter.

Surely, Peter King knows that. The Long Island congressman essentially uses that argument as a defense when confronted by his own past support of the Irish Republican Army as it was bombing and terrorizing in the name of Irish freedom. His justification — “the I.R.A. never attacked the United States. And my loyalty is to the United States” — is entirely disingenuous. The IRA claimed responsibility in 1984 for nearly assassinating the democratically elected prime minister of Britain, America’s closest ally. If that isn’t an attack on American values, what is?

King should know that the lines between believing in a legitimate nationalist cause and supporting terrorism can become blurry for some, as they did for those who aided the African National Congress’s violent attempts to end apartheid, and the Irgun’s bloody campaign to force Britain out of Palestine. And, it seems, as they do for a small minority of Muslims in the U.S.

An extensive 2007 survey by the Pew Research Center found that while 80% of all American Muslims reject the notion that suicide bombings can be justified to defend Islam, about one-quarter of those aged 18 to 30 believe to some extent that they can be justified. So the threat is real, and the prospect that recruitment of domestic jihadists will grow is bolstered by several well-known terrorist attacks or near-misses.

What isn’t at all clear is whether the kind of congressional hearings that King is chairing on domestic Islamic radicalization will help illuminate this trend to better combat it, or whether the hearings will further demonize and alienate the vast majority of American Muslims who want nothing to do with those who commit violence in the name of their religion.

We hope for the first outcome, and fear the latter.

As a religious and ethnic minority, Jews have a special stake in ensuring that these hearings do not provide a platform to those who would challenge an American’s loyalty because of where he prays or how she connects to causes overseas. King’s own statements are confusing enough to warrant deep concern. While he has repeatedly stated what we know to be true — that the vast majority of Muslims here are loyal and peaceful — he also has asserted, incorrectly, that most mosques in America are run by extremists and, again incorrectly, that Muslims here don’t generally cooperate with law enforcement authorities.

His public prejudices imply another, dangerous sort of “disloyalty” that any religious minority — especially Jews, with an abiding interest in the State of Israel — can only greet with dismay. Generations of Americans have had to prove their fealty and overcome the nasty stereotype that they care more about the pope in Rome or the prime minister in Israel, or perhaps the republican cause in Ireland, than they do about this country and its values. To subject Muslims to this prejudice now is to repeat sins of the past better consigned to history than to congressional hearings.

One can acknowledge the pull of religious and nationalist causes without using it as an excuse to support terrorism. Of all people, Peter King should recognize that, shouldn’t he?


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.