In the 1970s the Irish in Britain faced a harrowing time. They were victimised and demonised because of the IRA campaign. The Irish became the victims of discrimination and ostracism, while officially sanctioned coercive discrimination saw innocent men and women sent down for lengthy stretches in prison. Peter King would have been aware of this given his close relationship with both the IRA and Sinn Fein. His current witch hunt against US Muslims has led long time friend Niall O Dowd to say:
Alas, he finds himself on the bully pulpit espousing a very different take on Muslim Americans. It is a very strange situation for a great advocate of democracy in Ireland … He has now become the biggest hardliner in Congress against Muslim Americans.
King seems obsessed with Islam, seeing Muslims under every bed where Reds supposedly used to hide out. One of those he relies on to give testimony accuses Islam of being an insidiously supremacist religion. Although as Seema Jilani has rightly retorted ‘as if every other faith does not.’ Islam is hardly different from other religions in that regard. Religion by its nature can’t keep its nose out of other people’s business and forever wants to control the lives of those around it and dictate moral standards which clerics are all too wont to ignore themselves. Look no further than the child rapists of Catholicism as a salutary reminder of that.
There are indeed people of the Islamic faith who are advocates of theocracy. They long to secure widespread acquiescence in their theology of domination. Their goal is to subjugate women, gay people and those who have no religious belief. They also want to impose a regime of censorship on artists and writers. But there are Christians and Jews of like mind. They never seem to get the same degree of manufactured opprobrium that is thrown the way of Islam.
There is no justification for Peter King to pursue the stance against Muslims that we are currently witnessing. A New York Times Editorial made a compelling case against him which highlighted the bluster, bigotry and prejudice that guides his actions.
he is focusing on one group that appears to have obsessed him since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, resulting in slanders and misstatements that might have earned him a rebuke from his colleagues had they been about any other group. More than 80 percent of the mosques in America are run by extremists, he has said, never citing real evidence. Too many American Muslims are sympathetic to radical Islam, he said. Most pernicious, he has claimed that American Muslims have generally refused to cooperate with law enforcement agencies on terrorism cases. He has cited no evidence for this, either, but a study issued last month by Duke University and the University of North Carolina found just the opposite. The American Muslim community has been the single largest source of tips that have brought terror suspects to the attention of authorities, the study found. (It also found that the number of American Muslims found or suspected to be part of terror operations dropped substantially in 2010.)
These hearings are not about rooting out Islamic fascism. They are designed to feed into the amplification spiral of anti-Muslim discourse and drown out in the cacophony other discourses that challenge. The first of his hearings produced nothing. As Joe Conason pointed out, ‘this particular show turned out to be almost fact-free and laden with emotion.’ The type of things that could see a Muslim lynched by the Christians of the Ku Klux Klan.
Witnesses called were those who would tell King what he wanted to hear while those such as New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly whose attitudes and actions in the view of Conason ‘contrast starkly with King's’ were conveniently ignored.
It is not Salem in 1692 but Washington of 2011. Perhaps the religious right in America could justifiably point to this as evidence that there has been no evolution. Certainly nothing has moved on in terms of finding witches to hunt down and persecute.
The Irish Government must be in possession of a full database of incidents of the Irish in Britain being targeted for no reason other than their nationality. It must be uniquely placed to bring pressure to bear in opposition to prejudice. So far the tune has been The Sound of Silence.