Friday, 11 March 2011

IRA-supporting US congressman launches terrorism hearings

In order to not be considered a terrorist, Muslims in America don't just have to not participate in terrorist activities – they need to actively renounce terrorism and fight to end it. So says Republican Congressman Peter King, the new head of the Homeland Security Committee in the House of Representatives. King is leading hearings this week investigating the "radicalisation of the American Muslim community," calling Muslim religious and business leaders before congress to test their loyalty to the United States.

The hearings, which to many are reminiscent of the anti-communist hearings conducted in the 1950's by Senator Joseph McCarthy, are proving enormously controversial in the United States. Democratic Congressman Mike Honda, who was interned in Japanese internment camps in California during World War II as a little boy, wrote in an editorial this week that King's intent is, "to cast suspicion upon all Muslim Americans and to stoke the fires of anti-Muslim prejudice and Islamophobia."

Keith Ellison, who is on the homeland security committee and is one of two Muslims in congress, shed tears on the opening day of the hearings as he said the hearings may "increase suspicion of the Muslim American community, ultimately making us all a little less safe." But King has been outspoken in his defence of the hearings, saying they are completely necessary as more and more American Muslims become radicalised. He has asserted that the "vast majority" of mosques in the US are run by radicals.

So far the focus of the hearings seems to have little to do with exposing proven terrorist activities being planned within the Muslim community. The intent appears to be largely to expose "terrorist sympathies" within the Muslim community and to condemn Muslim leaders who are not forceful enough in denouncing terrorism. This expectation of Muslim leaders mirrors the debate last summer over the building of an Islamic cultural centre near ground zero. Right-wing cable station Fox News denounced the Imam behind the project as a terrorist sympathiser because after the September 11th attacks he had suggested that US foreign policy was the root cause of the increased Islamic terrorism. In fact the imam in question had been an outspoken advocate for peace and was even in charge of Islamic outreach in the George W. Bush administration.

Much of the controversy surrounding these hearings has centred around the terrorism connections of the very man leading them. Peter King has been a long champion of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a designated terrorist organisation that between 1969 and 2001 killed more than 2,000 people in terrorist attacks in the UK. Congressman King has long expressed vocal and unabashed support for the IRA, which waged the violence in order to wrench Northern Ireland from British rule and join it to the Republic of Ireland.Those vitcims are among the many being remembered today, the European Day for Victims of Terrorism - celebrated every year in the EU on the anniversary of the Madrid train bombing.

In 1982 King told a pro-IRA rally on Long Island, "We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry." A few years later he said, "If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the IRA for it." He was once kicked out of a Belfast courtroom during a murder trial after the judge called him an "obvious collaborator" with IRA terrorism. King has compared Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to George Washington, and has called declared, "the British government is a murder machine." In 1985 the Irish government boycotted New York City's annual St. Patrick's Day parade because King was its Grand Marshall, calling him an "avowed" supporter of a terrorist organisation.

King is certainly not the only Irish-American who has given support and funding to the IRA – it has always been alleged that a large part of the IRA's funding came from wealthy Irish-American sympathisers. But he is certainly the most high-ranking defender of IRA terrorism, which makes his leadership of these hearings so uncomfortably incongruous. King has insisted that there is no similarity between the IRA and Al-Qaeda. He told the New York Times this week, "the I.R.A. never attacked the United States. And my loyalty is to the United States." His argument appears to be that when terrorist attacks are justified, they are not "terrorism". But when they are unjustified, as all terrorist attacks against the United States are, then they qualify as terrorism.

Of course King is wrong in saying that the IRA never killed an American. In 1983 the IRA planted a car bomb outside London's Harrods department store during the Christmas shopping season, killing six shoppers including one US citizen. But apparently because it was for such a noble cause, King believes this killing was excusable.


Dagmawi Elehu said...

One of the most fascinating thing about these hearing is that apparently almost half (48) of the 120 Muslims arrested on suspicion of plotting violence since 9/11 were turned in by other Muslims, which invalidates the entire premise of the hearings, that Muslims are not doing anything to stop radicalization.

A self-proclaimed supporter of an organisation designated by his own country, the victim country of UK and the "originating" country of Ireland as a terrorist organisation, holding McCarthy-like hearings in Congress on terrorist sympathies! Whew :)

pmcaree said...

On behalf of decent rational Americans I would like to Apologize for the morons who voted this stupid man into congress. They have done America a huge disservice.

Chris said...

Irony and Americans... :o)
If I were called before his inquisition, I'd throw his comments right back at him.