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Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has long demonstrated a fear, bordering on paranoia, of Muslims. He is now taking the issue even further, holding congressional hearings about radical Islam in the U.S. this week. Protests about the “McCarthyism” hearings have already begun.
“We see no productive outcome in singling out a particular community for examination in what appears to be little more than a political show trial,” a coalition of 50 liberal groups said in a letter to King on Tuesday.
With Republicans now in charge of the house, King is now chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. He told The Associated Press that radical Islam is a distinct threat that must be investigated regardless of whose sensibilities are offended. The congressman pointed to his support in the 1990s for hearings into right-wing militias, on grounds that they were the danger of that time. He supported the Irish Republican Army’s political wing in the 1980s and 1990s, a time when the IRA was involved in violence in Northern Ireland. He says now that the IRA and al-Qaida are very different and that the IRA never attacked America.
Of the current situation, he said in an interview, “You have a violent enemy from overseas which threatens us and which is recruiting people from a community living in our country. That’s … what this hearing’s going to be.”
Congress has held congressional hearings on violent extremism, mostly focused on radicalized Muslims, since the terrorist attacks in 2001. However, the difference with this hearing is that it is being led by King who, at various times, has said that America has too many mosques and that as many as 85 percent of Muslim leaders were not cooperating with authorities. King has backed off both remarks but asserts Muslim leaders should be doing more to help.
“If we thought the hearings were going to be sober and objective, we wouldn’t have any concerns about them,” Corey Saylor of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in an interview. “But given King’s history of making statements against the Muslim community, I think it raises a concern in reasonable people as to what form the hearings will take.”
Of course, the hearings are less about fact finding and more about finding people to testify to prove what lawmakers already believe. King is bringing forward Muslim Americans who say they saw their relatives slip into extremism when the local Islamic communities might have helped prevent that. Democrats will give examples of Islamic leaders who came to the aid of authorities and helped keep the nation safe.