Peter King's mis-advised mantle on holding religious hearings that question the faith of Islam and those who practice it has been picked up by New York state Sen. Greg Balls. In a hearing on what should ostensibly be about New York's emergency preparedness 10 years after 9/11, Ball will be discussing Sharia law.
I spoke with Udi Ofer, advocacy director for the New York Civil Liberties Union on Balls' hearing. Ofer points out that the first part of Balls' discussion is serious and on-target, focusing on the Indian Point nuclear plan miles from New York City.
"He’s going to spend 50 minutes on the Indian Point nuclear power plant and spend 30 minutes talking about Sharia law and the threat it poses to New Yorkers," Ofer told me. "Spending 50 on Indian Point nuclear plant and 30 on Sharia law, its going to conflate religious practice with terrorism. It's misguided and discriminatory and has no place here," he said.
Unfortunately, Balls is one of many politicians that conflate the practice of Islam with involvement in terrorism. There's already a rise in hate crimes toward Muslims across the country, and politicians using their bully pulpit to speak out against Islam gives a silent license to further harassment and violence, including the killing of two sikh men last month and violence toward a young Muslim girl in Staten Island last week. In addition, across the country, communities are protesting the building of mosques, denying Muslims the right to worship. In Oyster Bay, New York, a community in Long Island, public officials closed down a mosque on the claim of building-code violations on the eve of Ramadan.
We're better than this as a nation. If fear and prejudice continue to guide our leaders and eventually the public, then we're no better than what we claim to be standing against.