We all know the stor
y about Rep. Peter King and the hearings he has put together on the radicalization of members of the Muslim community in the United States.
King states, "The chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security -- New York GOP Rep. Peter King -- has said Thursday's hearing is necessary to explore, among other things, the extent to which al Qaeda is trying to influence and indoctrinate U.S. Muslims."
From a conflict resolution professional point of view (yes, I consider myself a professional!), if the goal is to 'explore' and ultimately establish where and when there are disconnects between the government and the Muslim community, how is it that a Congressional hearing would be the best forum to do this?
This design seems very similar to the one held for JP Morgan to be scolded by Congress members. How could a hearing, designed to extremely one sided as it is a group questioning a person (with all the press to take pictures and film) build a collaborative partnership?
If there are people conspiring against us, yes they should be dealt with. That is what we have law enforcement investigations for (Police, FBI, CIA, etc.) where as I see this whole process (the hearings), again and being done in public and in front of the media circus, a superficial gesture whose impact will be equally superficial not offering any options on how to move forward that builds trust and safety (yes, the two go hand and hand).
I find it hard to believe I am the only one who thinks the Congressional Hearing approach, and it's lead up of press releases and comments are combative and further creating people to dig their heals into the sand which is positional based.
Finally, as not wanting to be one of those people who whinge and do not offer an alternative, here is what I think could be more productive:
Hold a facilitative group meeting.
Set a goal and agenda of the meeting.
Set a timetable.
Include representatives from all the stakeholders- King/Congress, Muslim community leaders, and law enforcement. Each side not only gets to explain their side and their issues/complaints, but also they get to the other side's as well. This is crucial as it can show there are joint goals.
Design it to be in a private setting- not in front of 'the world'. Design it to be a collaborative set-up and not a chair/table facing your interrogators/questioners. We all act differently in front of cameras. A private setting came be more open- more open to speaking more freely and also express concerns.
Have a neutral (as much as possible) moderator/facilitator. No not president Obama but rather a qualified person who understands who to facilitate a meeting who will not give their own input but rather guide the process. There are many well qualified people out their that possess the skills needed- experience in government, interfaith, and facilitation.
Work towards moving forward. In order to move forward, past experiences must be voiced. The main component of the meeting should be how can all the stakeholders work together, collaboratively in order to make America safer (remember- setting the goal).
This neutral can even release a report afterwards detailing the situation, according to each perspective and measures for moving forward.
Privacy/confidentiality. Adding to meeting privately to reduce temptation to grandstand for the cameras, all parties should agree to not release comments to the media until the meeting(s) are complete. Throughout, and at its completion, a joint statement should be used. If they are working towards a collaborative partnership, then a releasing joint statements should not me too far fetched of an idea.
What will come of these hearings? My thoughts are further polarizing of sides, people becoming more skeptical and resentful (one one side with the government, and the other side against a religion). I still think it is possible for all groups involved to work together, in a positive collaborative manner. One that builds understanding and trust. This will create a safer America.
Do I think I think it can work. Sure, and I am not the only one who thinks so. Read the suggestions in the open letter sent by a coalition of over 80 local interfaith leaders in the New York area:
A more constructive approach to strengthening the bonds of trust that bolster our security and protect our values would be convening a dialogue among faith leaders, law enforcement and elected officials such as yourself. It is with a spirit of goodwill and sincere hope that we propose beginning such an initiative with you.
The full letter can be read [here].
Finally, as trying to be open-minded, what are the thoughts and comments of my fellow mediators and conflict specialists? How those not in our field- Is there a benefit of these hearings that I have missed?
You can read more on this from CNN: Analysis: King risks alienating ally in fight against homegrown terror
These views are my own and do not represent the views of any organization I am affiliated with or work with and for.