Republican Rep. Peter King's House Homeland Security Committee opened controversial hearings today on "Islamic radicalization" and the threat
of terrorism. Up to and during the hearings, a war of words escalated between King and those who accuse him of starting a McCarthy-style witch hunt against American Muslims.
"These hearings must go forward," Rep. King said at the opening of the hearings. "And they will. To back down would be a craven surrender to political correctness and an abdication of what I believe to be the main responsibility of this committee - to protect America from a terrorist attack. Despite what passes for conventional wisdom in certain circles, there is nothing radical or un-American in holding these hearings."
As King went on to accuse some of his detractors of suffering "paroxysms of rage and hysteria," countless organizations, Muslim and non-Muslim, put their dissent on record.
In emotional testimony, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to Congress, told King and other Republicans on the committee, speaking of the Sept. 11 terrorists, "When you assign their violent actions to the entire community, you assign collective blame. Ascribing evil acts of a few individuals to an entire community is wrong."
Ellison cited terrorist attacks carried out by the KKK, the Oklahoma City bombing, the shooting at the Holocaust Museum and bombings at Planned Parenthood clinics. He said, "Did Congress focus on the ethic group of these agents of violence as a matter of public policy? The answer is no." (See video of Rep. Ellison's remarks below.)
The NAACP, in a statement by Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy Hilary Shelton, said the hearings are harmful for the country.
Shelton said the NAACP is "no stranger" to homegrown terrorism. Noting the countless murders of civil rights activists, lynchings and other forms of violence against African Americans, Shelton wrote, "The United States today clearly faces a wide variety of dangers, from both foreign and domestic sources, and to focus on one group presents not only a disservice to that group, but also to our nation."
The Muslim Public Affairs Council, which has been working for more than two decades to combat religious extremism, called the hearings a "political circus."
"[The] most recent data indicates there have been 80 total plots by U.S.-originated non-Muslim perpetrators against the United States since 9/11," MPAC noted. "In comparison, there have been 45 total plots by U.S. and foreign-originated Muslim perpetrators since 9/11."
Rep. King argued that the hearings were necessary, claiming that "90 percent" of mosques in America were controlled by extremists and that Muslims do not cooperate with law enforcement agencies.
Ironically, although the claimed purpose of the hearings was to focus on criminal activities and what causes them, only one law enforcement official was invited: Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. And he contradicted King's argument.
"I can deliver very good news. The Muslim community in Los Angeles is an active participant in the securing of our homeland," Baca said. "Whether as new immigrants or multi-generational citizens, the vast majority of Muslim community members within my jurisdiction is fiercely proud of their American identity and display their patriotism on a daily basis."
Others have noted that of the three foiled terrorist plots since 9/11, one of them was foiled with the help of a Muslim. Of the 10 most recent terror plots, seven were stopped with help from Islamic people or organizations.
Also criticizing the hearings was Rabbis for Human Rights.
"Rep. King's hearings," the Jewish group said in a statement, "merely add fuel to the fire, spreading the misguided notion that our Muslim neighbors and colleagues - who work hard, support our communities, and are proudly American - undermine our collective safety."
"These hearings will only serve to strengthen those who hold hatred against Muslims in the heart," the rabbis' statement continued. "Extremism - and violence - it is found in every religion and in every community. It is un-American to single out one minority group for scrutiny."