Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, will hold hearings next month on what he said are “a wide range of issues, including radicalization of the American Muslim community and homegrown terrorism.” In December 19, 2010 op-ed in Newsday, the congressman stated that he wanted to “break down the wall of political correctness and drive the public debate on Islamic radicalization.”
The website POLITICO is reporting that King’s intentions are being met with dismay by many leaders in the Muslim-American community. Khaled Abou El Fadl, an expert on Islam and Islamic law at the University of California, Los Angeles, told POLITICO, “You can definitely say overall the hearings are seen with great apprehension, suspicion and distaste — even sorrow. These hearings have a history of stigmatizing whole groups of people.”
Among those expected to appear before King’s committee is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Dutch critic of Islam. Hirsi Ali spoke in an interview with Reason magazine, in 2007:
“There is no moderate Islam. There are Muslims who are passive, who don’t all follow the rules of Islam, but there’s really only one Islam, defined as submission to the will of God. There’s nothing moderate about it.”
King has also reportedly invited M. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the Arizona-based American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD). The AIFD describes itself as the “leading American Muslim voice taking back Islam from the demagoguery of the Islamo-fascists.”
Also likely to be a witness is Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim to serve in the House. Ellison has been a critic of the hearings. On December 20, Ellison said on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show, “I’m willing to engage with Congressman King and say, look, you want to talk about these things let’s do it responsibly. Let’s investigate these things the right way. Let’s talk about how we’re going to make America safer…I want to be talking to you, because I don’t want you to take this awesome power you have to, basically, make a community feel more isolated, more alone, and perhaps basically suppress elements.”
Not invited to testify is the group Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR, which itself has been the subject of controversy, regularly speaks out on issues of importance to American Muslims. “We’re obviously troubled that the hearings have the potential to disturb Muslim and American relations,” Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for CAIR, told glowbass.com on Wednesday. “We’re waiting to see the complete witness list before we can be sure, but given the representative’s history of anti-Muslim bigotry, we’re obviously concerned.”
Oregon’s Rep. Earl Blumenauer has been a supporter of American Islamic relations. In September of last year, when a Florida pastor threatened to burn a Quran, Rep. Blumenauer wrote an op-ed for the Oregonian. He said at the time, “More than anything, Muslim Americans want to engage us in a meaningful dialogue that moves away from the image planted by violent extremist who would kill in the name of a peaceful religion.”
In his op-ed, King called such policies as enhanced interrogations, wiretapping, and the prison at Guantanamo “necessary and effective,” and he pointed specifically to the Portland’s alleged attempted bomber as an example of “homegrown terrorists.” Citing research by the Pew Center, he added: “15 percent of Muslim Americans between 18 and 29 say suicide bombing is justified.” That figure, however, corresponds with that of young Muslims worldwide, according to the report. The report concludes that, among the overall Muslim population in the U.S., fewer than 1 percent of agree that suicide bombings are often justified against civilian targets in defense of Islam. Nearly 7 in 10 said they had an unfavorable view of al Qaida.
N.B. This article has been updated since first publication to reflect that the organization, CAIR, is the subject of some controversy.