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.
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King isn’t the first to hold hearings on the threat of Muslim radicals in the United States. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs held hearings on the “homegrown terrorist threat inspired by violent Islamist ideology” under the leadership of Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine in 2006, with little objection. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I) of Connecticut continued the investigation as chairman of the panel in the next Congress. House and Senate intelligence committees, in open and closed sessions, also considered the threat.Skip to next paragraph
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But critics say King’s prior statements about the US Muslim community have been unusually provocative. The timing of the hearings – coming after threats of Quran burnings, restrictions on headscarves, protests over a proposed Islamic center near the 9/11 site in New York, and GOP efforts in some dozen states to ban Islamic religious law (sharia) – has also heightened tensions.
“Tomorrow's provocative ‘show trial’ hearing cannot help but cause alarm and deep alienation among American Muslim youth. As such, King himself risks becoming a source of radicalization,” said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, in a statement.
The Capitol Police are stepping up security for Thursday’s hearings, following threats. In an interview with the Hill newspaper, King said added security was coming from the Nassau County Police Department and the New York City Police Department. “Whatever threat analysis police have done, they believe I warrant security,” he told the Hill. “I don’t ask for it and I certainly don’t turn away any security that police think I should have. I leave it up to them.”
“We’re supportive of the examination of radicalization as a whole,” says his spokeswoman, Dena Graziano. “The dialogue is important, but the way Mr. King is going about it with this narrow Muslim extremism does the nation and the issue a disservice.”
Further hearings will examine the increasing threat of Islamic radicalization; the role that mosques, prisons, and the Internet play in facilitating radicalization; and the role that the community plays in helping to avert terrorist attacks.
“It’s not surprising to me that the list of witnesses is not representative of the [Muslim] community,” says Ahmed Rohab, a spokesman for the Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR). "We’ve seen a cottage industry emerge that is ripe with Islamophobic rhetoric and demonizes the Islamic community, rather than the individuals who commit the acts of terror or extremist rhetoric,” he adds. CAIR is one of the organizations expected to be criticized by witnesses for discouraging Arab-Americans from talking to the FBI.