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Who's testifying at controversial House hearing on radical Islam in US?

Radicalization in the American Muslim community is topic of a House hearing on Thursday, and witnesses are likely to offer competing views of the threat. Critics say it's unwise to single out Islam and the Muslim community.

By Staff writer / March 10, 2011

Protesters gather at the "Today, I Am A Muslim, Too" rally to protest against a planned congressional hearing on the role of Muslims in homegrown terrorism, March 6 in New York. The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., says affiliates of al-Qaeda are radicalizing some American Muslims and that he plans to hold hearings on the threat they pose to the U.S.

Henny Ray Abrams/AP

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Washington

Amid heightened security and expected protests, the House Committee on Homeland Security on Thursday launches the first in a series of hearings on the threat of radicalization in the American Muslim community.

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Witnesses are expected to present competing views of the extent of this threat. Families of radicalized or “brainwashed” young Muslim Americans will tell of their efforts to find out what happened to their sons – and of the failure of Muslim organizations to help. In contrast, a Los Angeles sheriff will describe the strong ties he has developed with the Muslim community and how its members helped avert terrorist attacks.

According to the witness list, no law enforcement officials have been called to support claims by chairman Peter King (R) of New York that US Muslim leaders overall have not cooperated with the police or Federal Bureau of Investigation and have encouraged others not to help. Neither Attorney General Eric Holder nor FBI Director Robert Mueller are scheduled to appear. Both have spoken recently about how cooperation from the Muslim community has exposed attack threats.

Citing the 2009 terrorist attacks at Fort Hood in Texas and 2010 attacks in Times Square in New York, Representative King says that home-grown Islamic radicalism is a rising threat and that the Muslim community by and large has not helped meet it. “Federal and local law enforcement officials throughout the country told me that they received little or – in most cases – no cooperation from Muslim leaders and imams,” he wrote in a Dec. 19 opinion essay in Newsday.

But a February report by the Triangle Center on Homeland Security at Duke University found that in 48 of 120 cases of Muslim American terrorist attacks, the Muslim American community provided information that helped avert an attack.

By singling out the Muslim community, critics say, the House panel’s hearings will harm prospects for future cooperation, increasing the likelihood of radicalization and the threat of violence.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D) of Minnesota, the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, challenged King for calling such a hearing at this time. As a result, the chairman asked him to appear as a witness.

“Chairman King is concerned about public safety, but he’s also putting out red meat to the [Republican Party] base,” Representative Ellison said in an interview on Wednesday. “It’s a misuse of the gavel and unfairly targets the Muslim community.”

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