Republican Congressman Chairing Hearings on Islamic Radicalization once Staunchly Supported Irish “Terror”
When the Irish government boycotted the 1985 St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City, it did so because that year’s Grand Marshal was a man Dublin said was an “avowed” supporter of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which both the Reagan administration and the British government considered to be a terrorist organization. Before the start of the ’85 parade, the Grand Marshal convened a press conference in which he offered strong words of support for the IRA: “As we march up the avenue and share all the joy, let us never forget the men and women who are suffering and, most of all, the men and women who are fighting.” The IRA killed around 600 civilians in attacks that any objective observer would call terrorism during its struggle to free Northern Ireland from British rule, but that didn’t matter to the Grand Marshal. “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,” he explained. He called the British government a “murder machine” and the IRA a “legitimate force.” He compared Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Féin (the political wing of the IRA), to George Washington, much as President Reagan had called the Contra terrorists in Nicaragua “the moral equivalent of the founding fathers.”
The Grand Marshal for the 1985 New York St. Patrick’s Day parade was none other than Peter King, who as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee has scheduled hearings to determine the extent of the radicalization of Muslims in the United States. The Republican congressman’s hypocrisy is staggering. He claims his support for the IRA needed to be understood in the wider context of the Irish people’s centuries-long struggle for independence from British rule while completely ignoring the fact that Islamic terrorism springs from centuries of unjust treatment by Western powers, most recently the United States. At no time does King acknowledge the role that American invasions, occupations, support for brutal dictators or unwavering backing of Israel play in the rise of Islamic terrorism. Like most Americans, King ridiculously views the events of September 11, 2001 as an unprovoked attack against America by evil forces who hate us for our freedoms. Nothing could be further from the truth. But I digress.
King’s hypocrisy has not gone unnoticed, and it has generated some stinging criticism. “It’s ironic that someone who offered such vocal support for the IRA is involved in this kind of witch hunt against Muslims in America,” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told the Washington Post. “My problem with him is the hypocrisy,” Tom Parker, a counter-terrorism specialist at Amnesty International who was injured by an IRA bomb, told the same paper. “If you say that terrorist violence is acceptable in one setting because you happen to agree with the cause, then you lose the authority to condemn it in another setting.”
Just to be clear, Moral Low Ground does not necessarily consider the IRA to have been a terrorist organization. While it certainly did engage in acts of terrorism, it did so only after peaceful attempts to redress grave grievances were violently suppressed by loyalist authorities and the British military, which resorted to every dirty trick in the book– including torture– in dealing with the IRA. Armed resistance became the only viable option for Irish Catholics who were denied equality in employment, housing education in mainly Protestant Northern Ireland. But while we are hesitant to paint the IRA with the sweeping label of terrorist organization, whether it is or not is somewhat irrelevant to the point of this conversation because it was considered a terrorist group by the US government and its major ally in London. That means that King was supporting a terrorist organization at the time, a curious position for someone who is now on a crusade against Islamic extremism.
What’s more likely is that King is an Islamophobe on a witch hunt. This isn’t unfounded speculation. In 2004 he went on Fox News and opined that “80 to 85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists… this is an enemy living amongst us.” In a 2007 interview with the blog Politico.com, King asserted that “there are too many mosques in this country.” Therein lies King’s true feelings towards Islam. Imagine the reaction if an elected official declared that there were too many churches in this country?
King’s Islamic witch hunt ought to be condemned as the discriminatory “show trial” that it most certainly will be. Since the attacks of 9/11, an average of three people per year have been killed in the US by Islamic terror. Many more people have died from bee stings in the same period, yet you don’t see congressional hearings probing bees. But instead of condemning King’s witch hunt, millions of Americans enthusiastically support it. The reactionary right is right– America does have a Muslim problem. But it’s not the problem they say it is; our Muslim problem has almost nothing to do with terrorism and almost everything to do with the way we treat members of our nation’s fastest-growing religious group.
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