Posted by on December 07, 2011 in Blog

By Emily Manna

As Representative Peter King, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, continued his crusade against “homegrown terrorism” among American Muslims, his opposition grew more vocal. King’s December 7th hearing, which focused on radicalization among Muslim American soldiers, was the fourth in a series that also included reports on general Islamic extremism in America, radicalization in prisons, and the Somali terrorist group, Al-Shabaab.

With King’s attention turned to the United States military, however, several American spiritual leaders and retired military chaplains called on Congress to “take violent extremism seriously by rejecting the assertion that there is support for terrorism among American soldiers.” Former U.S. service members Reverend Stephen Boyd, Captain George Clifford, Herman Kaizer and James Yee wrote a letter to Congressional leaders as part of the Shoulder to Shoulder campaign, condemning the hearings as an attack on Muslim American soldiers that can only serve to divide and weaken the U.S. military.

In the report King released, entitled “Homegrown Terrorism: The Threat to Military Communities inside the United States,” he claims that the “top threat” faced by American servicemen and women at home is that of “violent Islamic extremism.” King points out that “more than five terror plots have been disrupted involving U.S. military insiders in the past decade,” in addition to several supposed plans to harm U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The retired chaplains and the Shoulder to Shoulder campaign responded by denouncing the report’s hostility toward Muslim American soldiers, many of whom have been killed or wounded in their military service. Shoulder to Shoulder is an interfaith organization working to promote American values in an attempt to counter the growing Islamophobic sentiment in the military. Their letter also points to the specific linguistic and cultural contributions of many Muslim service members, which have been crucial in American military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The campaign organizers argue that focusing solely on religious beliefs distracts from other important factors in incidents such as the 2009 Fort Hood attack, factors that include mental illness and personality disorders, substance abuse, environmental factors and social and political motivations.

King has proclaimed that he “cannot back down to political correctness,” but groups such as Shoulder to Shoulder are fighting back, and insisting that “silence is not an option” in the face of anti-Muslim rhetoric. 

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