There were good reasons to be skeptical of the reasons behind Senator Dick Durbin's decision to hold hearings today that were supposedly intended to reinforce our right to freedom of religion. The proceedings were clearly intended as an answer to the House hearings conducted by Representative Peter King about the threat from Muslim extremism. The idea that there was something illegitimate about a probe that sought to examine the ideological foundations of the largest source of international and domestic terrorism was absurd. For as much as all Congressional hearings tend to be excuses for politicians to grandstand and rarely lead to anything productive, this was surely a topic that deserved attention.
But, as many of us feared, the rationale behind the criticism of King was not to do with his threatening anyone's right of free expression or religion. He did nothing of the kind. Rather, it was that focusing on the real threat from Islamists and their fellow travelers distracts attention from another narrative that radical groups purporting to represent American Muslims have gone all out to sell to Americans: the myth that there has been a post 9/11 backlash against followers of Islam.