On June 11, 2017, the Senate Committee on National Security held an extraordinary hearing. It was a roomful of Republicans discussing the safety of our nation, but the only thing discussed was what they like to term radical Islamic terrorism. Titled “Ideology and Terror: Understanding the Tool, Tactics, and Techniques of Violent Extremism”, the hearing aimed “to enhance the economic and national security of America.”
The group then proceeded to talk about terrorism only through the lens of Muslims in the United States and abroad and finally invited Islamophobic “experts” like Ayan Ali Hirsi to spew hateful rhetoric.
Here are five reasons why such meetings not only miss the point but actually do great harm to our country in terms of safety and security.
Discussions like these lead to further otherizing of the Muslim community and an increase in Islamophobic sentiments. Research shows a tremendous increase in hate crimes against Muslims in the last couple of years, with numbers reaching post 9/11 levels in 2015.
Resource allocation for national security must be equal among all groups. If the various law enforcement agencies continue to fund anti-terrorism efforts towards the Muslim communities alone, there will be serious repercussions. Firstly, Muslims will continue to bear the brunt of political and community hatred. Secondly, and more importantly, the real causes of extremism will not be identified or rooted out if law enforcement fails to see other non-Muslim groups as part of the problem.
Experts on this issue of Islamic radicals must be unbiased. Islamophobes like Ayan Ali Hirsi who term Islam in the most negative of terms and make millions in the Islamophobia industry should not be allowed to sway opinions by peddling hatred and inaccuracy. For those unfamiliar with the Islamophobia industry, resources like this and this are important reminders of how religious intolerance is a big money maker.
Muslims can do much to fight extremism in their communities if they have the trust of their communities. Although the repeated question of “what are moderate Muslims doing to combat terrorism?” echoes after every terrorist attack, the fact is that Muslims are already doing a lot. In London, Manchester and Paris terrorists had already been reported by their mosque imams or family members to the police, with little attention. And many Muslim imams are now working hard to increase youth participation, discuss the problems within their congregations and otherwise help reduce radicalization.
So the Senate Committee on National Security should take notice. Improving relationships between various groups, halting distrust against any one group, and understanding the true threats to our nation’s security are all crucial.