Rep. Peter King Contradicts Himself While Muslim-Baiting

August 03, 2010 5:38 pm ET — Walid Zafar

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is one of a handful of elected conservative leaders to publicly come out against a proposed Islamic community center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero.  The project, led by the New York-based Cordoba Initiative and prominent Sufi leader Feisal Abdul Rauf, has been mischaracterized by opponents as an "Islamic supremacist mega-mosque." King, no stranger to controversy when it comes to the Muslim community, has predictably joined the Muslim-baiting campaign by calling for an investigation into the project.  Appearing on Fox this afternoon, King continued his assault:

King:  I have a number of concerns.  One is that many of my families lost relatives on 9/11.  This is such a sensitive issue.  This to me is such a wrong place to have a mosque such as this.  Then you have the fact that it's going to cost $100 million and they're refusing to say where the money is coming from.  And the imam himself, who poses as a moderate, yet he was saying after 9/11 that the U.S. may have brought on the attacks itself.  He also refuses to say whether Hamas is a terrorist organization.  So I think this more than any...this is a separate type...institution, than any other, because where it's located, because of the questions surrounding it.  And as a result of that, I believe there should be a full investigation of the funding and of the imam himself.

Opponents of the project, including King and disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, contend that once it is built, the building will serve as a beachhead for future terrorist attacks and send a message to terrorists that America has capitulated to their demands.  Such scare tactics, of course, ignore some very obvious facts.  First, a mosque already exists just a few blocks away from the proposed site.  Second, the project isn't a mosque but rather a community center whose board will be comprised from different faith traditions. 

Third, and most importantly, Rauf is the founder of the American Sufi Muslim Association, whose mission statement calls for "strengthening an authentic expression of Islam based on cultural and religious harmony through interfaith collaboration, youth and women's empowerment, and arts and cultural exchange."

King was asked later in the interview if he wanted the project moved elsewhere:

King: Well surely.  They have freedom to put the mosque anywhere they want.  I'm just saying it should not be near Ground Zero, in view of the sensitivity, in view of the history and the fact that it's looked upon almost sacrilegious by people who lost their friends, neighbors, relatives at Ground Zero and the murders of 9/11.

Here is where it gets a bit tricky.  Conservatives cloak their opposition to the project in national security language, argue that Rauf is an extremist (when, indeed, he is quite the opposite), and want to investigate the matter thoroughly.  But at the same time, they advise the group leading the effort to reconsider and move the project elsewhere.  Gingrich, for instance, has suggested Central Park or the area around Columbia University as more appropriate locations for the project. 

If Rauf is an extremist imam, as conservatives contend, why should he and his equally radical followers be exposed to children playing in the park or impressionable university students?  Why should he be allowed to preach anywhere? The truth is that none of the rhetoric employed towards this glorified form of hate is remotely true. And worse, Peter King is the last person we should take seriously on these sorts of issues.  His long and tawdry history of Muslim-baiting is well-documented.

In 2007, for instance, King told a Politico reporter that, "We have, unfortunately, too many mosques in this country."  He later complained that he was taken out of context.  But in 2004, he complained to Sean Hannity that "80-85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists" and added, "this is an enemy living amongst us."

It's a charge that Alejandro Beutel from the Muslim Public Affairs Council finds deeply troubling and offensive. "[Rep.] King's statement is as irresponsible as it is without any factual basis," Beutel notes, because "it perpetrates a dangerous myth that Muslim Americans are a fifth column for the sake of political gain."

In 2008, when a prominent Muslim-advocacy group sponsored an ad campaign on the MTA inviting riders to learn about Islam, King objected, saying, "I'm calling on the MTA not to have these ads, not to go forward with them, and I don't see this as a free speech issue at all."