“We must be fully aware that homegrown radicalization is part of al Qaeda’s strategy to continue attacking the United States,” said Rep. Peter King (D-NY) as he opened yesterday’s House Committee on Homeland Security hearing on The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response. “Al Qaeda is actively targeting the American Muslim Community for recruitment. Today’s hearing will address this dangerous trend.”
So what did we learn about the extent of radicalization in the American Muslim community and that community’s response? Not much. We got some very moving testimony from Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who effectively shamed King for what seemed a clear attempt to hold all American Muslims responsible for the actions of a tiny extremist faction. We heard from two fathers who told of their son’s and nephew’s process of radicalization, important stories to hear but still not telling us much about the extent of radicalization in the American Muslim community and that community’s response.
The only witness able to speak with any law enforcement experience or authority to the hearings’ stated subject, LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, actually offered evidence that refuted Rep. King’s past assertions that there hasn’t been “sufficient cooperation” from the American Muslim community with law enforcement agencies. “The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has long been a leader in the development of relationships with the various ethnic, cultural and religious communities that thrive in the Los Angeles area,” Baca said. “Nowhere is that relationship more positive than that which exists between my agency and the American Muslim Community.” Baca went on to note that “American Muslims helped foil seven of the last ten plots propagated by Al-Qaeda within the United States.”
Baca also directly criticized the framing of the hearing, saying that focusing “only on the extent of radicalization in the American Muslim Community may be viewed as singling out a particular section of our nation. This makes a false assumption that any particular religion or group is more prone to radicalization than others.”
As far as I could tell, the main point of the exercise was for Peter King to empower Muslim voices he likes, such as Dr. Zuhdi Jasser — narrator of the anti-Islam propaganda film The Third Jihad and recipient of an award from sharia conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney — and marginalize those that he doesn’t, such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), who were disparaged a number of times by King and other Republicans based on having been identified as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the 2007 Holy Land Foundation trial.
In the Washington Post’s Fact Checker column today, Glenn Kessler looks at those allegations, concluding that “repeated references to CAIR being an ‘unindicted co-conspirator’ is one of those true facts that ultimately gives a false impression.” JTA’s Ron Kampeas also had a good post back in November on this same issue.
It’s probably worth pointing out the hypocrisy of King making these sorts of allegations, given that he himself supported an actual terrorist organization, the Irish Republican Army, and continues to defend its terrorism as “legitimate force.” (How nice for him that none of his colleagues were gauche enough to bring this up.)
None of this is to say that the question of “who gets to speak for American Muslims?” isn’t an important one. It very much is. It’s just not one that really seems to me to fall under the purview of Congress.