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King’s Hearing on Radical Islam Draws Ire, Praise

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, in this Feb. 16, 2011 file photo. A coalition of over 100 interfaith, nonprofit and governmental organizations plans to rally in New York City Sunday March 6, 2011 against a planned congressional hearing scheduled by U.S. Rep. Peter J. King of New York on Muslims' role in homegrown terrorism. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Rep. Peter King’s hearing on the “Radicalization of Muslim-Americans,” which begins Thursday, has been discussed high and low. Critics have called the hearing a witch-hunt, while his supporters have called the Long Island Republican an “American hero” for sounding the alarm.

King (R-Seaford) has not only gained national recognition, but his upcoming hearing has been discussed around the world. He recently went on CNN to defend his upcoming hearing from charges that he’s villifying the Muslim community. He said Muslims are part of the “American Mosaic” in this country.


“I want them to realize the extent to which al-Qaida is attempting to radicalize within the American-Muslim community,” said King, who chairs the House’s Homeland Security Committee.

“I want to determine the extent to which radicalization is taking place; the extent to which Muslim leaders are cooperating and trying stop that radicalization,” he said. “I also want to encourage people in the Muslim community to be more aggressive in choosing their leaders.”

His critics say the hearing is an attack on Muslims, but the Congressman called Muslims “proud people.” He said on CNN that he would never question anybody’s religious beliefs.

He has promised to run a fair hearing although he has drawn criticism that the people he is bringing in to testify all support his efforts. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota), one of two Muslims in Congress, is also the only lawmaker testifying against King at the hearing.

Democrats on the committee have invited Leroy Baca, the Los Angeles city sheriff, to testify. He’s said that Muslim Americans have been cooperating with law enforcement investigations.

The Daily News said in an editorial on Wednesday that if King and his fellow lawmakers stick to the facts and refrain from innuendo during the hearing, they will do a “service to the country.” By contrast, the editorial criticized King for commenting in 2004 that “80-85% of mosques are controlled by Islamic fundamentalist” without offering any proof.

The News supported King’s rationale for holding the hearings by mentioning recent attacks on American soil such as the Fort Hood shooting in Texas when Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 people in 2009, Najibullah Zazi and his plan to bomb New York City subways in 2010 and Faisal Shahzad’s attempted Times Square bombing in 2010.

The paper of record had a different opinion about the Congressman’s hearings. The New York Times said in an editorial on March 7 that King’s “refusal to tone down the provocation despite widespread opposition suggests that he is far more interested in exploiting ethnic misunderstanding than in trying to heal it.”

The Times also cited King’s statement about the high number of mosques controlled by radicals, never citing real evidence. They cited a study done by the University of North Carolina sociology professor Charles Kurzman that found that the American Muslim community is very active in combating radicalism in their communities, and that the number of terror-related deaths in the United States was very small compared to the overall murder rate.

“While it is the constitutional right of any individual to espouse far-fetched sweeping generalizations about Muslims or any other group, Congress should be held to a higher standard,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, daughter of the late Congressman Tom Lantos, who was the founder of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. She’s the president of the Lantos Foundation, which issued a statement Wednesday on the eve of the hearings.

“At a time when intolerance toward Muslims is already cause for concern, our leaders should not take actions that reinforce such intolerance,” said Swett. “We urge Chairman King, a member of the Congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, to conduct these hearings in a manner that will not lead to the demonization of millions of Americans based on their religious faith.”

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