Rep. King's intent seems clear: To cast suspicion upon all Muslim Americans and to stoke the fires of anti-Muslim prejudice and Islamophobia. By framing his hearings as an investigation of the American Muslim community, the implication is that we should be suspicious of our Muslim neighbors, co-workers or classmates solely on the basis of their religion.
This should be deeply troubling to Americans of all races and religions. An investigation specifically targeting a single religion implies, erroneously, a dangerous disloyalty, with one broad sweep of the discriminatory brush.
In building the pretext for the hearings, King has repeatedly said that American Muslim community leaders have failed to cooperate with law enforcement officials in the effort to disrupt terrorism plots - a claim that has been refuted by U.S. counter-terrorism experts and top law enforcement officials. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, for example, who works with a large Muslim American population, has countered King's allegation by asserting, unequivocally, that cooperation with the community is active and aggressive. (Incidentally, Rep. King will not be calling any law enforcement professionals to testify during his hearings.)
While protecting our homeland from acts of violence should be a top priority for policymakers, we must remember that no entire community can be held responsible for the acts of a few people. A "presumption of guilt" should never be applied collectively. We must aggressively investigate criminal behavior, watch for patterns that point to emerging threats, and stay constantly vigilant as citizens, but we must also not divide or target Americans simply on the basis of their faith or ancestry.
Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) serves as House Democratic senior whip, is a member of both House Budget and Appropriations committees, and is former chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.