Dear Rep. King, Let's Meet to Discuss Muslim Americans Efforts to Combat Radicalization

January 7, 2011

Leading up to officially taking the helm of the House Homeland Security Committee this week, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has stirred up national attention and heated emotions around his stated plans to hold hearings about the “radicalization of the American Muslim community and homegrown terrorism.”

There is no doubt we as a nation are continuously facing threats to our national security, which has led civic groups and federal agencies to work hand in hand to ensure our collective safety. King’s proposed hearings – as they are currently being framed – would do little to solve the problem and would instead create an ugly political circus.

A hearing on radicalization is not a new concept. Sen. Joe Lieberman and Rep. Jane Harmon have both held such hearings in recent years and featured mainstream Muslim American voices as witnesses, including from MPAC. No one is arguing against further hearings on the issue of radicalization, but it is the purpose of the hearings, as described by King, that causes serious concern.

In an opinion column in Newsday, King wrote, “Federal and local law enforcement officials throughout the country told me they received little or - in most cases - no cooperation from Muslim leaders and imams.” King ignores the documented reality that Muslim American communities have been instrumental in ensuring the safety of our nation. In fact, MPAC found that seven of the last 10 plots since 9/11 have been foiled with the assistance of Muslim American community members and leaders.  

In the wise words of the New York Times editorial printed last week, “Mr. King, a New York Republican, is no stranger to bluster, but his sweeping slur on Muslim citizens is unacceptable… We hope that if Mr. King insists on going ahead, he at least calls a true cross section of law enforcement officials, who, we are sure, will rebut that hype.”

In reality, numerous high level officials have recognized the contributions Muslim Americans have made in keeping our country safe. From former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan, many have commended the Muslim Americans for their constant support and integral role in keeping our nation safe.

In July, FBI Director Robert Mueller testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that “there are segments in the Muslim community who do not necessarily want the relationship (with the FBI) to work out, but ever since Sept. 12, 2001, we've reached out to the Muslim community, and if you talk to leaders in that community, you will find that relationships are very good."

Sadly, King has a history of pointing fingers and peddling false statistics that paint the Muslim American community with a broad brush. "There are too many mosques in this country," King told Politico in 2007. "There are too many people who are sympathetic to radical Islam. We should be looking at them more carefully and finding out how we can infiltrate them." He has also claimed, without any proof, that 85 percent of American mosques are led by extremists, saying "this is an enemy living among us." However, King has failed to provide a reliable source for the statistics and wild claims he throws out about the Muslim American community. Such sweeping generalizations about communities we need to engage, not alienate, is a reckless and dangerous approach for a decision-maker heading the homeland security committee.

Rather than pointing fingers or chasing a red herring, we believe it is important we work together to guarantee the safety of our country. This is why we at MPAC call for a meeting with King to discuss his initiatives, the proposed hearings, and the efforts of the Muslim American community in fighting radicalization. We certainly hope that Congressman King is serious enough about wanting to fight radicalization that he will take us up on this request in the coming days and weeks.

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