Lame Hearings on Islam Will Do Nothing

Diana West

1/20/2011 3:02:16 PM - Diana West

Politico featured a story this week headlined "Muslim groups nervous about King hearings." It went on to discuss Muslim apprehension regarding upcoming congressional hearings led by Rep. Peter King, R-NY, "on the threat posed by radical Islam in America."

That phrase -- "radical Islam" -- is truly a marvel: a 14-karat, bulletproof, titanium shield for Islam itself, which, sorry guys and gals, is the source of all things we deem "radical" in Islam. "Islam is Islam and that's it," as Turkey's Erdogan so memorably put it. But since we don't want Islam to be "it," we pretend and operate and make policy and even war based on some mythic radicalism of "twisted" or "hijacked" or "perverted" Islam.

If these King hearings turn out to be about the threat posed by "radical Islam" -- and not about the threat posed by what is radical about Islam -- "nervous" Muslim groups have nothing to worry about, and anti-jihad, anti-Shariah citizens have nothing to gain.

Hope I'm wrong, but it looks like any rational analysis of jihad or of Shariah is already off the table. Politico writes: "In a move that will come as a relief to Muslim leaders, King told Politico that he's not planning to call as witnesses such Muslim community critics as the Investigative Project on Terrorism's Steve Emerson and Jihad Watch's Robert Spencer, who have large followings among conservatives but are viewed as antagonists by many Muslims." Let's break this revelation down. It may be smoothly packaged, but it is utterly mind-boggling.

Point One: King says he won't be calling a certain genre of witness to the hearings. Politico's term for this genre of witness is "Muslim community critics," and it includes Islamic terrorism expert Steve Emerson and Islamic doctrine expert Robert Spencer.

Let's start with Politico's terminology: "Muslim community critics."

"Community" is another shield word -- a warm and fuzzy term of misdirection that conjures up something communal and open -- something cooperative, maybe even picnicky and family-oriented. How mean of Steve Emerson and Robert Spencer to be "Muslim community critics"!

But imagine if Politico were less a prisoner of adversarial convention and more freewheeling in its mode of expression. Emerson would be better ID'd as a Muslim terrorism critic -- or, better still, a Muslim jihad critic. Spencer would be more accurately labeled as a Muslim law or Shariah critic.

Then the news would be that Peter King is planning to hold hearings on "radical Islam" without calling two of the leading jihad terrorism and Shariah critics as witnesses. And the world (if the world were paying attention) would wonder: What's up with that? Even hearings focused on the mere myth of "radical Islam" would benefit from jihad and Shariah critics, given that jihad and Shariah are about as "radical" as expressions of Islam get.

So what's really going on here?

Point Two: Politico prefaces King's white flag over the witness list by calling it "a move that will come as a relief to Muslim leaders."

That's interesting, particularly after we've unpacked Emerson and Spencer's specialties a little. Why would Muslim leaders be "relieved" that experts on jihad and Shariah aren't going to testify in open hearings before the American people? I think the answer is they don't want to see the doctrinal and historical and cultural links that bind jihad and Shariah to mainstream Islam exposed. Think of it: We've come almost a decade since 9/11 without even lame hearings (like King's unfortunately promise to be) on the links between Islam and jihad. Indeed, both government and media, beginning on 9/12, have increasingly self-censored themselves into decoupling Islam from jihad altogether. Here, all of a sudden, appears the possibility of a bona fide national discussion.

But no. Can't have that. And won't have that. King has banned the experts from the bench. Which makes you wonder what his game is really all about?