Opinion Focus with Eugene Robinson

Mar 08, 2011

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson discusses his recent columns and the latest news.

Hello, everyone. Welcome to our weekly discussion. Let's get started.

Could you please cite some examples in one of your columns where Muslims have condemmed sharia law? Also, where Muslims have spoken out against the need to kill the non-believers or those who have left the religion? I expect you to be silient on those issues.

My column today was highly critical of Rep. Peter King's planned hearings on Muslim radicalization in the United States, including his claim that the Muslim community has been less than forthcoming in working with authorities. I also ridiculed all the talk about sharia law, which is as much a threat to the United States as, say, Godzilla. 

This question is irrelevant. Should we demand that people denounce Godzilla? Come out against killer asteroids? Come on.

Gene, Interesting column. I wonder if King is interested in investigating other brands of homegrown terrorism -- like that committed by "Christians" who blow up abortion clinics and shoot physicians who provide women's health services. No, probably not.

The answer is: Not really. The thing is, King was one of the few Republicans after the Tucson shootings to take a semi-reasonable position on gun control -- at least, assault weapons. And in the past, he  has cultivated relationships with Muslims in his district. Now, however, he has (in my opinion) gone over the edge.

After seeing you on MSNBC this morning it is very clear to me that you are absolutely correct in your position. Unfortunately, Rep King did not recognize that he agreed with you when he repeatedly mentioned that AG Holder "could not sleep because of the level of domestic terrorism.". To your point, the issue is domestic terrorism, not just Islamic terrorism. If his hearings bore this title and this focus, maybe we could kill two (or more) birds with one.

Exactly right. I remember when the Oklahoma City bombing happened and the first speculation was that it had to be related to Islamic terrorism. Turned out to be Timothy McVeigh. If Rep. King thinks he knows with certainty where the next terrorist attack will come from, he's wrong.

Do you not see a conflict between a segment of our population which holds to the opinion that destroying human life is a necessary end to a means regarding "cleansing" and honor to Allah and bigotry, as opposed to honest and earnest discussion regarding a violent segment of a particular religion? How does one combat this menace without words? Love denotes responsibility from both the lover and the recipient. Radical Islam is not a mere religion, it is a religion which encompasses both the peaceful and the murderer in it's ranks, without open censure of the last mentioned.

The Ku Klux Klan claimed to be acting in the name of Christianity. The Irgun committed bombings in the name of Judaism. Should we, then, decide that there's something inherently violent and unacceptable about Christianity and Judaism?

Eugene, what do you think it would take to eliminate the bias against Islam from the overwhelming majority of the American public? If this sort of thing was being proposed against Mormons or Jews, there would be a huge outcry, but because of 9/11 I believe the public has a high tolerance for this sort of behavior and even encourage it against Muslims.

Good question, and I don't have a good answer. There are more than a billion Muslims in the world, yet some people are ready to paint them all with the same brush.


Could this first poster site some examples where Christians have spoken out against the biblical requirement to smite non-believers?

You're right, there's a whole lot of smiting in the Bible. I guess we should be suspicious of any Christians and Jews who don't denounce those violent roots of their religions.

Hi Gene. Don't you find it ironic that Mr. King thought the IRA was an acceptable organization but seems to see Islamic terrorist lurking in America's mosques? I guess Catholics can't be terrorists!

In the column, I didn't have space to get into Rep. King's history with the IRA. He actually played a constructive role in helping to reach a settlement of the Troubles. But he was palsy-walsy with leaders of Sinn Fein, the IRA's political arm, at a time when the IRA was still committing acts of terrorism. Perhaps Congress should have launched a full investigation of the Irish-American community, which supplied the IRA with a lot of money and arms.

Is it irrational to fear the irrational and deadly acts of radical Muslims? Do you deny that there are radical Muslims in the United States who wish to do harm to the United States and its citizens? Just look at the record. Some day you will write something that I agree with. It's not happened so far. But I have hope. Jesse Jackson did once and so did Pat Buchanan. Donald W. Bales

Hope springs eternal. I do not doubt that somewhere in this vast nation there are would-be terrorists who believe in a warped version of Islam. No one is more horrified by this prospect -- or more effective in bringing such miscreants to the attention of the authorities -- than the large, diverse community of American Muslims. What I object to, and you should also condemn, is Rep. King's attempt to indict that whole community. Is any Muslim, in his view, a suspect? If so, this is the kind of thinking that led to the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II.

To the first poster: why should anyone have to denounce the actions of crazy people? Maybe I should ask white people to denounce the Klan. Every white person I meet now needs to denounce the Klan to my face or I'll assume they're secretly racist. That wouldn't make any dang sense, but it's the same basic logic, isn't it?

Yes, it's the same logic. Or illogic.

I think a lot of (especially older) Americans are freaking out because the world and the US are changing in ways they don't like and that scare them. Not everybody is a Christian anymore. Not everybody abroad likes the US. There are gays now. And to top it off, the President doesn't look like presidents are supposed to, and is young, urban, well-educated, and international. In summary, I think there is a lot of fear of being somehow left behind. Do you think this is a reasonable analysis?

Yes, I do believe the fact that the face of the nation is literally changing unnerves some people.

Mr. Robinson, this is a Christian based country, much like Saudi Arabia or others are Muslim-based countries. Do they welcome Christians into their countries with open arms? I think Americans think like Teddy Rossevelt who insisted that you be Americans first then whatever else you are-Muslim or otherwise. How the hearings are handled- properly or improperly- should be the main concern. Your thoughts?

The Constitution makes clear that there is no official or established religion in the United States. So this is not a "Christian based country." Americans who are Muslim are Americans first, just as Christians who are Americans are Christians first.

That is true, but please note that there are many "white americans" that are not scared about this and instead embrace it. Young and old. I think sometimes the ignorant invididuals get the ink and the people who accept others equally are ignored.

That's very true. Thanks for reminding us.

How about we concentrate on the here and now and the fact that radical Muslims, hiding within and concealed by the moderate Muslim community, are a danger to us? The violent roots of Christianity and the Old Testament, as well as the Irgun and the IRA are anachronistic and irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that non-radical Muslims have not stepped up to the plate to denounce and deny the radicals in their midst.

That is a lie. It is simply not true. Muslims have been as vocal in denouncing terrorism as non-Muslims. My colleague Richard Cohen has an excellent column today citing specifics of how Muslim Americans have aided authorities in thwarting terrorism. Perhaps you forget -- perhaps you didn't know -- that hundreds of Muslims were killed in the 9/11 atttacks, along with Christians, Jews, atheists... This slanderous allegation that the Muslim-American community somehow harbors terrorists is appalling.

I think that this is an issue that won't go away anytime soon. Folks like Rep. King ask for investigations, and part of the stated reasons for it is that there isn't a nationally known Muslim leader here in the U.S. who can 'speak' to these issues. When the IRA set off bombs, there were church leaders (of various denominations) and Irish politicians who denounced the attacks. Opponents couldn't then say that all the Irish, or all Catholics, supported the attack. In part because of the non-hierarchical nature of Islam, there isn't a recognized individual who can come out and say 'Of course all Muslims don't agree with that' and end the debate early on. Until someone like that appears (and whether that person is a religious leader, or a Muslim who holds public office or other public position), the arguments of 'name one Muslim who has denounced this!" will continue.

One prominent Muslim who has loudly and consistently denounced terrorism is Imam Rauf, the man who plans the community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan. I have to conclude that for some people, it doesn't matter what Muslims say -- or, for that matter, what they do. 


And that's all I have to say for today, folks. Thanks for participating, and see you again next week.

In This Chat
Eugene Robinson
Eugene Robinson is an Associate Editor and twice-weekly columnist for The Washington Post. His column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. In a 25-year career at The Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper's award-winning Style section. In 2005, he started writing a column for the Op-Ed page. He is the author of "Coal to Cream: A Black Man's Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race" (1999) and "Last Dance in Havana" (2004). Robinson is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and has received numerous journalism awards.
Archive of Eugene Robinson's columns
Recent Chats
  • Next: