Panel on perception of Muslims in the United States covers hearings
A panel of experts on the American perception of Islam spoke in Frist Campus Center on Thursday afternoon to address the congressional hearings currently being run by Rep. Peter King concerning the threat of radicalization within the American Muslim community.
Speaking to an audience of about 100 people, all four panel members said they denounced the King hearings because of their effect on the perpetuation of Islamaphobia and Muslim stereotypes in America. The panel was sponsored by the Muslim Students Association and the Wilson School.
The first panelist to speak was Amaney Jamal, a professor in the politics department who specializes in democracy in the Middle East. Jamal addressed the “unprecedented anxiety and hysteria against Muslims” and noted that there was not enough evidence to support the threat of American Muslim radicalization.
Elizabeth Hurd, a professor in the Wilson School, examined the topic from an international relations perspective.
Hurd said that the King hearings represent securitization, which she defined as making the issue of the American Muslim community a matter of national security without just cause.
She added that she believed the King hearings are “part of an effort to legitimize the War on Terror” in a time when revolutions in the Middle East show young Muslims fighting for democracy and freedom. The Middle East democracy movements “undermine the attempt to associate Muslims with deviance or danger,” she explained.
Next to speak was Ambassador Robert Finn GS ’78, a lecturer in the Wilson School and the first U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, who elaborated on Hurd’s international perspective.
Citing multiple articles on the King hearings from international newspapers, Finn noted that the hearings did not get much attention from the American press because the timing coincided with the Libya bombings and the Japanese tsunami.
However, he said, the United States should expand upon the debate because “being silent is giving in.”
Imam Sohaib Sultan, coordinator for Muslim Life in the Office of the Dean of Religious Life, agreed that “this is not a Muslim issue. It is an American issue.”
Sultan also said that “these hearings are contributing to the marginalization of the Muslim community in America, especially young Muslims.”
In reference to the current stereotypes against young Muslims, Sultan discussed the work of the Muslim Students Association on campus.
In particular, he noted the effort of the MSA to launch a petition to either end the King hearings or radically change their nature.
Almost 1,000 signatures have been gathered on this petition, he said.
“We have seen what happened to the Japanese Americans during World War II in the country ... and we do not want that to happen here,” Sultan noted.
Finn also compared the King hearings to the McCarthy anti-Communist hearings in the 1950s.
However, he said, America’s experience with prejudice against certain religious and ethnic communities proves that “we have been through similar reactions in our history.”
“We got through them,” Finn added. “We will get through this one too.”
Ruwa Alhayek ’14, who attended the event, said she enjoyed the panel and especially appreciated that Imam Sultan’s remarks offered a perspective on the work of Princeton students.
She noted that she particularly valued “the more personal level that Imam Sultan brought.”