PETER KING KNOWS JUST HOW TO MAKE A SITUATION WORSE…. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the more shamelessly anti-Muslim members of Congress. This sentiment will manifest itself in a disturbing way in the next Congress.

The Republican who will head the House committee that oversees domestic security is planning to open a Congressional inquiry into what he calls “the radicalization” of the Muslim community when his party takes over the House next year.

Representative Peter T. King of New York, who will become the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he was responding to what he has described as frequent concerns raised by law enforcement officials that Muslim leaders have been uncooperative in terror investigations.

He cited the case of Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan man and a legal resident of the United States, who was arrested last year for plotting to bomb the New York subway system. Mr. King said that Ahmad Wais Afzali, an imam in Queens who had been a police informant, had warned Mr. Zazi before his arrest that he was the target of a terror investigation.

“When I meet with law enforcement, they are constantly telling me how little cooperation they get from Muslim leaders,” Mr. King said.

It’s hard to know where to start with so many layers of wrongness here, but let’s note from the outset that King’s premise is backwards. One of the reasons the United States has traditionally avoided the kind of religious strife seen in other countries is that America doesn’t have a “radicalized” Muslim population. On the contrary, thanks to the fact that we separate religion and government, prohibit discrimination on religious grounds, have civil rights laws, and embrace the principle of equal opportunity, the United States is generally a model of how to avoid the radicalization of minority faith communities.

Indeed, whether Pete King is able to appreciate this or not, one way to radicalize a group of people is for the government to single them out, treat them as a suspect class, and make reckless accusations while suggesting their civil rights are somehow negotiable.

Also note, King isn’t just random backbencher, prone to rhetorical excesses on Fox News — we’re talking about the man who’ll be chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee in a few weeks.

Abed A. Ayoub, the legal director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, reminded the NYT that King prefers to ignore the Muslim leaders around the country who’ve already worked closely with law enforcement officials, especially in the wake of 9/11.

“We are disturbed that this representative who is in a leadership position does not have the understanding and knowledge of what the realities are on the ground,” Ayoub said, adding that King’s proposal “has bigoted intentions.”

It does, indeed.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.