Opinion: Congressman King’s focus on Muslim community is unwise

Congressman Peter King

Congressman Peter King

Congressman Peter King (R-NY) would have the FBI concentrate its attention on the Muslim community in the wake of the Boston marathon bombings, but as history and Congressman King himself demonstrate, this approach would turn a blind eye to other threats and ultimately won’t work.

Congressman Peter King, a Republican member of the US House of Representatives, has told the FBI to focus on threats from within the Muslim community in order to head off future terrorist attacks.

“Ninety-nine per cent of Muslims are outstanding Americans, but the fact is, that’s where the threat came from,” King said in an interview on Fox News Sunday. “If you know that a threat is coming from a certain community, that’s where you look.”

And yet, should we take advice from Congressman Peter King, a man whose views on terrorism have been shown to be misguided, bigoted and extreme?

During the 1980s and 90s, King actively supported terrorism by helping to raise funds for Sinn Fein and the IRA through an American political organisation called NORAID, money which was used to buy Semtex from Libya to make bombs.

Bombing was a regular feature of life in Northern Ireland and England between 1969 and 1998, killing hundreds of men, women and children – and maiming many more. According to the CAIN research project at the University of Ulster, the Provisional IRA killed 1824 people including 621 civilians during the three decades of the Troubles.

King has withdrawn his support from Sinn Fein but has never shown any regret for supporting the Provisional IRA. In an appearance before the Home Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament in 2011, King 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.”

And yet after the al-Qaeda attacks of 2001, King, whose constituency is near New York city, suddenly turned hot on the issue of terrorism and turned his back on Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA.

What turned his mind? Was it mere political expediency or did the particular horror of 9/11 hit too close to home, moving terrorism from the realms of the theoretical to the real? The man who could turn a blind eye to bombs, as long as they exploded on the other side of the Atlantic, was then confronted by the true horror of terrorism on his doorstep.

A decade later, with a fresh set of horrors in Boston (the focus of NORAID fundraising efforts), King is now promoting the idea that Muslims are the enemy within, completely ignoring America’s domestic terrorism problem.

The irony is that the British, the country King loved to hate, made the same mistake while fighting Irish terrorism, painting all Catholics as potential terrorists, leading to miscarriages of justice such as the case of the Birmingham Six.

Racial profiling is the policy – whether it’s written down or not – of using a race, ethnicity or religion as primary criteria in identifying suspects. It is not only morally wrong, it also doesn’t work: If all Muslims are terrorists and Timothy McVeigh is not a Muslim then you run a big risk that Timothy McVeigh will be discounted as a possible terrorist – until it’s too late.

The other problem with racial profiling is it alienates the very people who might help you. There are 2.6 million Muslims in America and King’s fantasies aside, it would be inadvisable, not to mention impossible, for the FBI to worm its way into every facet of the Muslim community. Far better to work with communities of every stripe to encourage open lines of communication with the police and the FBI.

I don’t know King but I suspect he’s 99 per cent well meaning. It’s the other one per cent that worries me.

When a former IRA fundraiser tells the FBI to focus on the Muslim community to head off future terrorist attacks, we should seriously question those instructions on the basis that it took King more than two decades to cut his ties to the Provisional IRA terrorists while expressing no regret for his role in supporting their murderous campaign.

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