Representative Peter King (R-NY), soon to accede to a leadership role with the Homeland Security Committee in the Republican controlled House of Representatives (God help us), pens the following describing his plans to use the House’s investigatory powers:
The great majority of Muslims in our country are hardworking, dedicated Americans. Yet a Pew Poll showed that 15 percent of Muslim Americans between 18 and 29 say suicide bombing is justified. I also know of imams instructing members of their mosques not to cooperate with law enforcement officials investigating the recruiting of young men in their mosques as suicide bombers. We need to find the reasons for this alienation.
There’s a disconnect between outstanding Muslims who contribute so much to the future of our country and those leaders who – for whatever reason – acquiesce in terror or ignore the threat. It is this disconnect that threatens the security of us all.
As chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, I will do all I can to break down the wall of political correctness and drive the public debate on Islamic radicalization. These hearings will be a step in that direction. It’s what democracy is all about.
In brief, King will hold hearings to address the question of why and how Islamic radicalization occurs. This is, actually, a proper subject of government inquiry. However, the inquest will occur in the wrong forum.
Public hearings have their place, but in every case, and from all perspectives, the goal of a hearing is publicity. Politicians hold hearings to appear to (or actually) solicit citizen input and put their solutions to important questions on display. Interest group members attend hearings to have their opinions heard, whether by the press, or by representatives. Hearings are not policymaking fora; they’re conduits to facilitate the dialogue between citizens and the government. Hearings do not result in decisions. They result in the presentation of wide swaths of evidence, much of it irrelevant, or hopelessly slanted towards identified partisan positions, from which legislative staff try to glean useful information.
Staging a hearing to perform an initial look into the causes of, and solutions to, Islamic radicalization therefore rebuts the seriousness with which King, or any policymaker, must approach the subject. Whenever government approaches the subject of counterterrorism, or a perceived ideological problem in its populace, the analysis must be conducted delicately, with academic rigor, evidence, and an absolute minimum of generalizations, or risk devolving into a witch hunt. A carefully curated witness list would make a hearing on the subject inoffensive, but useless; but given his last appearance on the interfaith stage, we can’t expect King to take even those cautionary steps. Without this care, the forum, should it come to pass, will almost certainly devolve into a creative demonization of modern Islam, and its place in the United States.
Which, incidentally, is a root cause for radicalization. I guess from a certain level of abstraction, the hearings will be a success.