Representative Peter King of New York is conducting hearings on “Muslim Radicalization in America”. While I wish the name for these hearings would have been something like, “Muslims Americans Speak Out Against Extremism and for Moderate Islam”, I think these hearings are important and will lead to good things. I hope they expose Americans to Muslims who care about the United States and want to fight terrorism and extremism, and I hope they allow the Muslim community to take some responsibility for the acts of terror that were done on their behalf.
As an Orthodox Jew, I take responsibility for immoral things done on behalf of Judaism and Torah, and I sign petitions against those acts and statements – I am vocal and active in opposing them. Rav Ahron Soloveichik said that Orthodox Jews had to accept some culpability for the actions of Yigal Amir who assassinated Prime Minister Rabin. I am grateful that some . Muslims are holding preachers in mosques accountable, and I am thrilled that an early speaker in these hearings was Rep. Keith Ellison who told the story of a Muslim-American police cadet and hero – an American hero – who died trying to save lives in the World Trade Towers on 9/11.
Yes, Muslims are singled out because Islam – a popular and influential type of Islam – was used to justify killing American lives at the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, then again, tragically, in Yemen in 2006 with the attack on the USS Cole, then on 9/11, then at Fort Hood, etc. There is a pattern here, and there is a pattern of denial as well, most notably in the promotions and retention of the Fort Hood murderer, Major Hasan. It is sad that Islam is singled out, but it is singled out not by Mr. King, but by all these acts of terror carried out in the name of Islam, inspired by Islam and perpetrated by Muslims – granted, radical Muslims.
Nevertheless, these hearings should not be seen as an opportunity for Islamobashing. Rather, they should be an opportunity for good people from all religions and backgrounds, Muslim and otherwise, to come together and figure out how to keep our country safe. From Rep. Ellison we learn how committed so many American Muslims are to this country, and from Rep. King I hope we learn of Muslims who are committed to taking responsibility to fight extremism that is a sad and dangerous reality in Islam today. Yes, Jews, Christians and even Hindus all have their extremists, but our war is now focused, and must be focused, on extremist Islam, and my hope and prayer is that the Muslim community will have the opportunity to demonstrate how committed they are to that war.
Rabbi Asher Lopatin