OPED Perry: Setting the record straight
A recent article (Perry criticized for meeting with alleged hate group leader) suggests that I associate with a group that “spreads hate and misconceptions about the Muslim religion” because of a recent meeting I had with Ms. Brigitte Gabriel, founder of Act for America. I need to set the record straight about some of the contentions made in this article. I meet with anyone who wants to meet with me, regardless of political or religious views, and encourage robust debate in policy matters. I’m truly grateful to be in a position that affords me the opportunity to meet with individuals and organizations from across the ideological spectrum, including Muslims, and I will not apologize for doing so.
The article cites the Southern Poverty Law Center as an arbiter for determining “hate groups.” The SPLC has a history of recklessly labeling conservative organizations as "hate groups." Where once SPLC’s hate list was reserved for groups like the Aryan Nation and the KKK, in 2010 SPLC started citing Christian groups such as the Family Research Council as hate groups simply for opposing same-sex marriage. Is same-sex marriage a contentious topic — of course; but both sides have heartfelt beliefs that should be allowed the opportunity for debate.
Unfortunately, this type of intimidation through mischaracterization has become par for the course in our contemporary political climate. The extremist SPLC and other leftist groups in recent years have taken the radical approach of attempting to silence political opposition rather than debating in the arena of ideas. In the United States and other open societies, citizens are supposed to welcome full-throated debate in policy and political matters, and the most persuasive side wins. What does not comport with traditional ideas of fair play is an attempt to win the debate by stigmatizing one side as “haters,” questioning the legitimacy of their opinions and/or trying to force them into silence.
As an active member of the House Homeland Security Committee, it’s only reasonable that I would meet with ACT for America, the largest grassroots, national security advocacy, non-profit in the Nation, made up of over 400,000 Americans fighting for a safer America. Act for America rightly identified radical Islamist terror as a serious threat to our nation’s security, for which they've been labeled as hateful, or “Islamophobic.” Do I agree with everything that ACT for America or Brigitte Gabriel has said? Of course not. But they, like all my constituents, have every right to be heard.
ACT for America consistently has allied with a variety of Muslim scholars to combat their true adversary — radical Islamist terrorism. In fact, at its most recent national conference, to which I was invited in Washington D.C, ACT for America hosted Muslim scholar Raheel Raza who, like so many other Muslims, is fighting against the violently radical interpretation of her faith. In the past, ACT for America honored Miriam Ibrahim and Ayan Hersi Ali for their outspoken activism regarding the intolerance of Islamic-inspired Sharia culture. No reasonable individual could believe that ACT for America, by forming alliances with moderate Muslims, and repeatedly stating their opposition to the specifically radical interpretation of Islam, accurately could be labeled a “hate group.”
Our nation clearly is at war with an enemy — radical Islamist terror — that will stop at nothing to destroy every aspect of our civilization. Hatred in any form has no place in American politics, nor do deceitful bullying tactics that serve no purpose other than to silence those with whom one disagrees but cannot refute based on facts.
— Scott Perry is a Republican representing Pennsylvania's 4th Congressional District.