Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Enemy Within

Peter King, a Congressman from Long Island, New York, has rekindled a controversial debate over the place of Islam in America. This debate was ongoing for much of 2010, especially in regard to the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque," and the extremist preacher (from Florida I think) who was threatening to burn copies of the Koran. The issues raised then are resurfacing now that King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has arranged a series of hearings to investigate the radicalization of mosques in the United States.

According to the NY Times, King has recently asserted that "85% of leaders of American mosques hold extremist views and that Muslims do not cooperate with law enforcement." Critics of King (myself included) find such statements alarming, not because we fear his claims are accurate (there is no evidence to suggest they are), but because such talk is likely to intensify already dangerous levels of Islamophobia in American culture. This "othering" of American Muslims attempts to undermine the very meaning of the phrase "American Muslim" and the identity of those who fall in that category by implying that to be a Muslim is to be peculiarly vulnerable to un-American sensibilities.

This week, my students in ENG 100 are turning in critical analysis essays in which they respond to and critique works of opinion journalism. I'd love to know what your thoughts are on the opinion pieces written about Congressman King's hearings. I'm sure there are a bunch out there, but here are a couple from mainstream American news sources: CNN and FoxNews.

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