The New York Civil Liberties Union Expresses Its Concerns About Representative Peter King's Offensive and Dangerous Remarks About Muslim Americans

February 16, 2004 Suffolk County, New York - On the February 11, 2004 episode of The Shawn Hannity Radio Show, Representative Peter King (R-NY3) made several disparaging and offensive remarks about Muslim Americans during an interview to promote his new book “Veil of Tears.” Although the NYCLU fully supports the right of free expression for all Americans, we disagree with the intent and content of Rep. King's statements. His comments not only make the ridiculous and offensive charge that millions of Americans are unwilling to defend their country due to their religion and heritage, but risk increasing an already concerning level of violence directed at Muslim Americans. Jared Feuer, Director of the NYCLU's Suffolk Chapter, stated, “Representative King's remarks could not come at a worse time, accusing millions of Americans as unwilling to protect their country is both erroneous and dangerous.” Representative King's February 11th interview includes the following statements:
  • "I would say, you could say that 80-85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists. Those who are in control. The average Muslim, no, they are loyal, but they don't work, they don't come forward, they don't tell the police [inaudible]."
  • "[Muslim's] won't turn in their own. They won't tell what's going on in the mosques. They won't come forward and cooperate with the police."
  • “No [American] Muslims are cooperating [with law enforcement officials]”
  • “This is an enemy living amongst us."
In response to these statements, the NYCLU has written a letter to Representative King, noting its concern about the harmful nature of his comments, their inaccuracy and their potential to create violence and disunity. In its letter, the NYCLU observes that Rep. King's remarks, “harken back to the era when Japanese Americans were declared to be an enemy within -- blindly following anti-American leaders in their community. The mass suspicion directed at Japanese Americans resulted in violence, internment camps, deep divisions in society, and remains one of the dark spots in our history.” The NYCLU letter directs Rep. King to seek open dialogue with Muslim Americans and observe the remarks of President Bush, who noted, “America rejects bigotry. We reject every act of hatred against people of Arab background of Muslim faith…Every faith is practiced and protected here, because we are one color.”