Ocon: Islamophobia becoming the new McCarthyism

In the '50s, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, under the leadership of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., waged war on suspected communists in America. In his zeal to uncover those "commies" who allegedly subverted quintessential American ideals, McCarthy destroyed the lives and careers of thousands of federal employees.

To this day, McCarthy is closely associated with demagogic, reckless and unsubstantiated accusations against individuals or attacks on the character and patriotism of political opponents.

Fast-forward to 2011 and we see history repeating itself with a new captain at the helm. On Wednesday, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the Congressional Homeland Security Committee, started the first of a series of controversial hearings on the topic of "Muslim radicalization" in the U.S. These hearings on the "homegrown radicalization" of Islam have stirred the pot and divided the country. Contrary to what "patriotic" Americans will tell you, King is the new McCarthy and these hearings are Islamophobia draped in the American flag.

King has a pretty negative history with American Muslims over the years. He is a firm supporter of the USA PATRIOT Act and a staunch opponent of eliminating torture as an interrogation tactic for terror suspects. He has made unsubstantiated remarks about Islamic fundamentalism in America – about how American Muslims are "uncooperative with authorities" and that we're moments away from a homegrown terrorist attack. Never mind that 48 of the 120 thwarted terrorist plots between 2002 and 2009 were stopped with the help of American Muslims. Never mind that there are between 4,000 and 15,000 Muslims serving in our armed forces, fighting for our freedoms. Never mind that King was an ardent supporter of a terrorist group – the Irish Republican Army – back in the '80s. None of this, apparently, is relevant.

Fifty-one interfaith, Muslim and civil rights leaders wrote to Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, asking King to make the hearings inclusive of "all extremists" and not just Muslims. King rejected the suggestion, calling the idea "political correctness at its worst." This, on top of calling solely upon anti-Muslim witnesses for his hearings, can only signal that these hearings will devolve into a McCarthy-like assault on patriotic Americans.

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., a Muslim, put it best: "If you put every single American Muslim in jail, it wouldn't have stopped Jared Loughner." It wouldn't have stopped Seung-Hui Cho or Timothy McVeigh, either. I will agree that America faces a threat from homegrown extremists of all types, but King would rather cast suspicion on all American Muslims and stoke the fires of Muslim prejudice and Islamophobia than make an effort to solve the problem.

Muslims are the new communists, or the new African-Americans or the new Japanese. We are meant to learn from the mistakes of history, and if this McCarthyism continues, we are subverting what makes this country great. Such hate is not what this country was founded on and I will be the first to say that the only un-American ones in these hearings are King himself and the supporters of this insidious witch-hunt.