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Civil Rights, Muslim Groups Say King’s Hearing Is Attack

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March 9 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King is unfairly branding all of Islam with his plans to hold a hearing on Muslim radicalization, a coalition of religious and civil rights groups said.

Muslims “are natural enemies of those who promote violent extremism,” said Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, at a press conference today in Washington on the eve of King’s hearing.

Since he announced the hearing in December, King, a New York Republican, has been accused by civil liberties and Islamic groups of vilifying the U.S. Muslim community. On March 6, Muslims and their supporters gathered in Times Square to protest the hearing.

King, 66, also has been criticized over his past support of the Irish Republican Army, which used terrorist tactics in opposing British rule in Northern Ireland. In response, King said that, unlike al-Qaeda, “The fact is, the IRA never attacked the United States. And my loyalty is to the United States,” the New York Times reported today.

King also has said that groups such as the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations aren’t providing the leadership to encourage Muslims to be more cooperative in terrorist investigations.

Not Cooperating

“There are people in the community who are not fully cooperating,” King said today on CNN. “The victims of that are not just the American community at large, but also Muslim-Americans in particular.”

Attorney General Eric Holder, at a news conference to announce indictments related to killings by drug gang members in Mexico, disagreed with King.

“Leaders of the Muslim community have contributed” to Justice Department investigations into terrorism, Holder said in response to a question. “We don’t want to stigmatize entire communities.”

Awad also said that King’s accusation is false. “CAIR has always maintained that it is both a civic and religious duty to immediately report criminal activity,” he said.

King said that most Muslim-Americans are loyal to the U.S.

“The overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding patriots,” he said on CNN. “There’s a very small percentage who have allied themselves with al-Qaeda.”

Shane Wolfe, a King spokesman, didn’t respond immediately to an e-mail and phone call requesting further comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Bliss in Washington at jbliss@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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