Peter King Hearing 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON - Al Qaida is targeting Muslim Americans for recruits to terrorism and the community must do more to combat Islamic radicalization, a US lawmaker said on Thursday as he opened hearings that have been criticized as a witch hunt.
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Peter King, the chairman of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee who called the hearings, has accused the Muslim community of refusing to cooperate with law enforcement and charged that preaching in some US mosques was leading to radicalization.
"To combat this threat, moderate leadership must emerge from the Muslim community," King said. "Today, we must be fully aware that homegrown radicalization is part of al Qaida's strategy to continue attacking the United States."
King denied accusations that the hearings were "radical or un-American"
and said there was no comparison between the threat by al Qaida and
neo-Nazis, environmental extremists and other "isolated madmen."
The New York congressman has been criticized by religious and civil
rights leaders as going on a witch hunt for focusing on a single
community, but he has defended the hearings, citing the open attempts by
al Qaida militants to recruit its members to launch attacks.
He has pointed to some individuals who have gone overseas to try to join
militant groups, the attempt by a Saudi student caught in Texas as he
was trying to build bombs and the failed attempt by a Pakistani-born US
citizen to detonate a car bomb in New York's bustling Times Square last
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Democratic Representative Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to serve in
the House, castigated the committee for its approach and broke down
crying as he recounted the story of a 23-year-old Muslim paramedic who
died when he responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York City.
"After the tragedy, some people tried to smear his character solely
because of his Islamic faith," he said. "Some people spread false rumors
and speculated that he was really with the attackers because he was a
He said that the young man should be identified as someone "who gave
everything for his fellow Americans" rather than solely as a member of a
religion or ethnic group. Ellison tried to hide his tears behind his
papers and quickly left the room after his remarks.
The senior Democrat in the House, Michigan Representative John Dingell,
urged King and the committee to ensure that their investigation would
not "blot the good name or the loyalty or raise questions about the
decency of Arabs or Muslims or other Americans."
The focus of the hearings have also raised concerns within the Obama
administration to the point that a senior White House official was
dispatched to speak to Muslim leaders in Virginia where he told them
they were "not part of the problem."
In addition, US Attorney General Eric Holder took a veiled swipe at King
on Wednesday, saying the focus by law enforcement was on individuals
rather than an entire community because "we don't want to stigmatize, we
don't want to alienate entire communities."
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