In recent days, Rep. Peter King has been accused of starting a "witch hunt" by holding hearings, starting this Thursday, called "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community's Response." As an American Muslim woman who has lived in this country for 42 years, I firmly believe the hearings on Muslim radicalization are not a witch hunt and King is no Joe McCarthy, the senator who led hearings on communism in America. Our worst enemies in America, I would argue, are Muslim interest groups and leaders, who do more to deny the problem than defeat it, thus furthering frustrations with the Muslim community. We need to acknowledge that there is a problem.
We have seen the encroachment of extremist interpretations of Islam into our American Muslim community, and as a community we have largely sat on the fence about these very serious issues. I know because, for most of my life, I sat on the fence, calculating, like many in our community, that it was just easier to look the other way than confront difficult truths. Starting in the 1970s, I saw puritanical, intolerant ideologies creep into my community. I also watched as many moderate Muslims simply cowered or walked away, intimidated into thinking they were less pious or faithful—or concluding it wasn't worth the bother. I was among them. Social ostracism was one weapon in silencing dissent. Sept. 11, 2001, was my wakeup call.