Congress must investigate al- Qaeda’s efforts to recruit U.S. Muslims and an alleged lack of cooperation by Islamic leaders in fighting terrorism rather than submit to a “craven surrender to political correctness,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King said.
“This committee cannot live in denial,” King, a New York Republican, said today at the opening of hearings on Muslim radicalization. “There are realities we cannot ignore” about U.S. Muslim militancy, he said. He accused “special-interest groups and the media” of engaging in “paroxysms of rage and hysteria.”
King ignited a firestorm with his plan to explore the causes of Islamic radicalization, prompting street protests in New York last week and denunciations by civil libertarians and Muslim groups. His critics said the hearings could backfire by giving extremists new recruiting talking points and alienating Muslims.
“I cannot help but wonder how propaganda about this hearing’s focus on the American Muslim community will be used by those who seek to inspire a new generation of suicide bombers,” said Representative Bennie Thompson, the Homeland Security panel’s senior Democrat.
Thompson, of Mississippi, also referred to King’s Irish roots. King, 66, has been criticized for his past support of the Irish Republican Army, which used terrorist tactics in its attempt to end British rule in Northern Ireland.
“As I understand it, the chairman’s background includes the history of a country divided by religion and torn by a prolonged and violent struggle,” Thompson said.
King has said that, unlike al-Qaeda, the IRA never attacked the U.S.
In a 1995 CNN interview, King said, “The moral standing of the IRA is equal to that of the British army.”
During Bill Clinton’s presidency, King was involved in the Northern Irish peace process, relying on his contacts with Sinn Fein, the IRA’s political wing. “There was a real opening here if the U.S. took advantage of it” to broker a peace accord, King told CNN yesterday.
Representative Keith Ellison, choked up in speaking about Mohammad Salman Hamdani, a Muslim who was a New York Police Department cadet who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“After the tragedy, some people tried to smear his character” because of his religion, said Ellison, who opposed the hearings’ focus on Muslim radicalization.
In a statement, U.S. religious leaders said today’s hearing should be broadened to avoid appearing to condemn one group.
“To assert that Muslims as a broad group are not deeply devoted to America’s safety and the peaceful interaction of its entire citizenry, that is false witness,” according to the statement.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Bliss in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org