Few clichés are more mischievous or responsible for more deaths than the one that is the unfortunate set-up for your editorial: One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter (“A Question of Loyalty,” March 18). Repudiating that cliché has been a centerpiece of Jewish communal activism for more than 40 years.
As the United States confronts the problem of homegrown Islamic extremist terrorism, a development you acknowledge is worrisome, it behooves Congress to investigate that development and not to obscure it with other problems. Wannabe terrorists say they act with Islamic motivations. As a nation, we need to take those claims seriously and to learn why they do so and whether the phenomenon threatens to develop into a larger one.
Hearings like those held by Rep. Peter King’s Homeland Security Committee can deteriorate into a vehicle for prejudice. Certainly, most Muslims in America and around the world are not terrorists and do not sanction, participate in or cover for terrorism. We are also fully aware that there are those who would, counter-factually, label all of Islam as fatally infected with violence and hostility to the West and would declare war on it. That, too, is unacceptable.
It behooves King’s committee to keep these risks in mind in its rhetoric, its questioning, its selection of witnesses and in defining its investigation. If the committee proposes legislation to address problems it identifies, that legislation must be applicable to all. But the committee should not be deterred from investigating a real threat to national security by those who, in a paroxysm of politically correct excess, cannot see the urgent and legitimate basis for these hearings.
Marc D. Stern
Associate General Counsel
American Jewish Committee Yehudit Barsky
Division on Middle East and International Terrorism
American Jewish Committee
New York, N.Y.