In a ridiculous, but sadly all too common, example of 2+2=5 logic, Republican Representative Mike Pompeo claimed on the House floor on Tuesday that because Muslim leaders have apparently not done enough to condemn terrorist attacks against the U.S., they are "potentially complicit in these attacks." Referring to the recent Boston Marathon bombing, Pompeo claimed that following the tragedy the "silence of Muslim leaders has been deafening," saying that this is not only sad but also dangerous. He then listed various attacks in the U.S. since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, saying that Muslim leaders have a "special obligation" to respond and denounce them.
The logic of Pompeo's argument is essentially that if Muslim leaders do not continuously come out and denounce terror attacks, then they must be either actively support the attacks or at least be terrorist sympathisers. Not only is Pompeo incorrect to say that there has been a "deafening silence," but the problem with his argument is that it simply perpetuates dangerous stereotypes about Muslims and Islam.
Pompeo claims that the "silence has made Islamist leaders potentially complicit in these attacks, and more importantly still, in those that may well follow." Yet there are two main issues with this claim.
Firstly, despite acknowledging that "not all Muslims support these actions," Pompeo still says that the silence from Muslim leaders in deafening. However, it has been anything but. As Hayes Brown of Think Progress points out, after the Boston bombings, Muslim leaders across the country, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), America's largest Muslim advocacy group, the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, and others, condemned the attacks. Furthermore, Brown points out that "in the years since 9/11, Muslim-American leaders have condemned terrorism — from the failed Christmas Day bombing of a plane landing in Detroit to the 2005 London bombings to the very idea of terrorism — unequivocally."
Secondly, the idea that Muslims have a "special obligation" to denounce terrorist attacks serves to further perpetuate the idea that all Muslims are potential terrorists or that Islam is uniquely violent. It is because of this kind reasoning, Tasbeeh Herwees wrote for Truth Dig after the Boston bombings, that "whether it's the color of our skin or the way we dress or the God we believe in, Arabs and Muslims will always have an air of suspiciousness."
What is dangerous is not the false silence that Pompeo tries to invent, but rather the fear-mongering he engages in, perpetuating dangerous, racist stereotypes about Muslims and Islam and the idea that all Muslims are worthy of suspicion until proven otherwise.