Muslims in Long Island still remember when their congressman, Peter King, visited their mosque, weddings, and even cut the ribbon at the opening of their new prayer hall. But all that changed on 9/11. And now, what began as a broken relationship between King and Long Island Muslims has festered and grown into what some perceive as a nationwide Congressional investigation into the Muslim American community slated for late February. And as trepidation spreads, Long Island Muslims say they feel a mixture of shame, regret and frustration that the bitterness between them and King could soon pose a threat to the relationship of U.S. Muslims as a whole with their fellow Americans.
Created by washingtonpost on Jan 14, 2011
Last updated: 03/03/11 at 02:44 PM
The Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, NY -- which many of King's Muslim constituents attend -- held a meeting to strategize on how to combat Islamaphobia and protest King’s hearings.
King announced plans to hold hearings on the "radicalization" of Muslim Americans.
At a speech before more than 300 Muslim leaders, U.S. Attorney General Holder praised the help since 9/11 from Muslim Americans, especially during the past year. While he acknowledged tensions between law enforcement and Muslim Americans, he emphasized, "The cooperation of Muslim and Arab-American communities has been absolutely essential in identifying, and preventing, terrorist threats. We must never lose sight of this."
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Muslim leaders said they have repeatedly invited King to their mosques and have tried to meet with him. A Bangladeshi Muslim on Long Island, Mohammed Saleh, is one of the only Muslims who have been able to cultivate a friendship with King. Last year, Saleh even held small fundraisers for him. In May, Saleh arranged an event for King to meet other Muslims in his district. His hope is that through this new friendship he can help King see the positive side of the Muslim-American community.
In an interview with Politico, King said in that there are "too many mosques" in America and called for a more aggressive law enforcement approach toward reining them in. He later said his remarks were taken out of context.
While promoting his terrorism-fiction novel "Vale of Tears," King told Sean Hannity in an interview that "no American Muslim leaders are cooperating in the war on terror," and that "80-85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists.... This is an enemy living amongst us." This is a claim he’s often repeated, especially in recent months as justification for his hearings.
King published a fictional novel which he called “half-truth, half fiction” about a congressman who confronts a plot among Muslim terrorists in Long Island working with Al Qaeda to attack the transit system of New York.
King never again set foot in the Islamic Center of Long Island, even after its leaders issued condemnations of Osama bin Laden and tried to retract what they had said.
The terrorist attacks marked a turning point for the entire country, including the Muslim community. In the month that followed, denial and conspiracy theories swirled among American Muslims. In October, at the Islamic Center in Westbury, NY, some leaders were quoted in a Newsday article saying perhaps the Israelis were behind 9/11. King saw this and was furious at what he saw as unpatriotic and extremist comments denying that Muslims were behind the attacks.
In 1993 during his first term in Congress, King traveled to the Balkans to support that region's Muslims in the face of aggression by Serbian Orthodox Christians. As proof of his open-mindedness about Muslims, he points out that he was one of the few Republicans who supported President Clinton's military offensives in Bosnia in 1995 and Kosovo in 1998.
The Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, NY, was finally able to build its new mosque building after years of planning and fundraising. King was invited as the main guest of honor to cut the ribbon. This launched a period of close friendship between King an the Muslims in his district. He attended the wedding of the mosque chairman’s son. He ate dinner at the homes of Muslims.
An Irish-American National Guard veteran, King moved up the ranks from town council in 1977 to the U.S. Congress in 1993.