Washington, D.C.-Rep. Peter KingRep. Peter King is set to begin congressional hearings tomorrow to, as The Washington Times put it, “investigate the inroads radical Muslims have made in America.”
The stated goal of Rep. KingRep. King is to explore radicalization of Muslims in America. Thursday’s hearing will include testimony from relatives of radicalized American Muslims who have engaged in terrorism, as well as Rep. Keith EllisonRep. Keith Ellison, the only Muslim in Congress.
Religious and civil rights groups, along with Democrats, say Homeland Security Committee Chairman King is singling out Muslims, which could provoke a backlash against Muslims nationally, as well as aid in recruiting for radical Muslims.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the vitriol against Rep. King is unjustified, and that the hearing’s purpose is simply to “assess how we can better work with the Muslim community in America to stop the spread of radical Islam.”
Rep. Cantor said, “It is pretty obvious where the problems have been in terms of terrorist activity,” citing the connection between the Fort Hood shootings and radical Islam. Said Cantor, “There is no question that it has been encouraged by the radicalization of folks coming out of Central Asia and the Middle East and [they] have used this as a reason to perpetrate terrorist acts. It is a fairly well accepted notion at this point and that’s where Chairman King is going.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he is “deeply concerned about these hearings, which demonize law-abiding American Muslims who make important contributions to our society, as I would be about congressional hearings to investigate Catholics, Jews or people of any other faith based solely on their religion.”
However, Peter GadielGadiel, president of the 9/11 Families for a Secure America, said, “I think the difference is so far as anybody is aware, Jews and Catholics are not encouraging organized terrorism…to the contrary, we know there is something called violent jihad…that is connected with Muslims.”
Some critics have likened Rep. King’s hearings with the efforts of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s efforts to root out communists in the 1950’s. In response, though, Mr. King said his opponents are “tied up in political correctness” and that he will do whatever he can to prevent another terrorist attack.
Chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, Jay Sekulow, said that “Without question, there’s a troubling factual pattern of American Muslims becoming radicalized and focusing on creating havoc here on U.S. soil. This hearing is designed to get to the bottom of what’s taking place in our nation — how al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are recruiting and manipulating American Muslims to attack the U.S. This hearing isn’t about profiling — it’s about protecting our homeland.”
J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, however, said that the hearing “will send a further message that Muslims present a greater threat of terrorism than other religions.”
“It would imply that the potential for terrorism from outside of Islam is not significant enough to merit a hearing,” Mr. Walker said.