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Americans Fear Radicals, Not Islam…But We Should Fear the Government
In lieu of Representative Peter King’s (R.) hearings on the radicalization of Islam, there’s been a large outcry from Americans who feel the hearings discriminate against Muslim Americans. Others say that Islamic radicalization must be addressed, and some applaud the hearings as a step against political “correctiveness”. But what is being ignored during these protests and disagreements is what is really being discriminated against. Though these hearings focus solely on Islam, it is not the only religion being targeted, and amid the controversy we are distracted from the true threat: perceived “radicals” are having their freedom of religion abridged.
Critics of the hearings say they unfairly target Islam as the only religion that breeds radicals and terrorists. Others feel that this creates a stigma around Muslims.
"I share the chairman's concerns (about home-grown terror)," testified Minnesota Democratic Representative Keith Ellison, the only Muslim in Congress, according to CNN. "It's true that specific individuals, including some who are Muslim, are violent extremists. However, these are individuals, not communities. When you assign (individuals' actions) to the entire community, you assign blame to the whole group.”
Terrorists pose an immense threat to society. Some terrorists are Muslim, as are some violent radicals, but not all Muslims are violent, and these hearings help label them as such. Perhaps what these hearings really show is that we as Americans fear “radicals”. We fear extremists who strongly preach their beliefs, and though these hearings focus only on Muslim radicals, it might not be long before such hearings spread to other religions. And that is what’s really scary.
One opinion that has been stated by many is that such hearings can occur, granted they target all religious extremists: Christians, Jews, Hindus, etc.
"If the committee wants to investigate violent extremism please do so," said Reverend Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, according to CNN. "But don't imply that it's associated with one part of the American mosaic."
But holding such hearings across all religions would be an inherit irony; though examining all religions might be “politically correct” and some would argue create “equality”, they ultimately would be the first step toward universal persecution of religion and a limitation of personal rights. These hearings aren’t an example of discrimination, they are an erosion of one of the founding principles of our nation: freedom of religion. For as these hearings continue, we slowly progress along a slippery slope in which freedom of religion does not apply to these so called “radicals”.
What is a “radical”, anyway? Is it someone who uses derogatory terms instead of those that are “politically correct”? Is it someone whose religion incites violence? Or is it an American citizen who is using their constitutional right to possess their own beliefs and strongly rejects the beliefs of others? The last time I checked, we still had freedom of religion, regardless if you only go to church once every few months or follow Islam intensely, but such hearings create a basis to prevent Americans from following their beliefs. They are reminiscent of the Red Scare led by Joseph McCarthy in the nineteen-fifties.
For example, I believe in creationism, but if future hearings on Christianity determine that creationism breeds radical ideas, then there’s a premise upon which to outlaw creationism. Such a decision would also create the foundation to find a Christian such as myself guilty of crime, pursuing freedom of religion. And where does this stop?
Though the argument that radicalization poses a threat to American safety does have some evidence in certain facets, this does not constitute a complete government intervention into the social and religious lives of Americans. I think we can all agree that religious arguments stem off the initial belief in a God, gods, or lack thereof. Wouldn’t outlawing the belief of God prevent violence? Now there’s a “radical” idea, but perhaps one that we inch closer to with such hearings. Instead of supporting more government investigation and more limitations on our religious beliefs, we must look to uphold the rights of radicals and prevent further hearings.