THE FURY surrounding New York Representative Peter King’s March hearing on the radicalization of Muslim-American communities was an embarrassment for the House and its Homeland Security Committee. Not a single meaningful recommendation came from the politically charged investigation. The only memorable moment was when Representative Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress, broke down as he spoke of a falsely accused Muslim New York City paramedic who died on Sept. 11, 2001.
Today, King will hold a second hearing that will look at the radicalization of Muslims in US prisons. It lacks the drama and emotion of the first. Indeed, the silence surrounding it is deafening. Likely, after the death of Osama bin Laden, it is more difficult for King to whip up fears that the Obama administration is going soft on terrorism.
But, as with King’s first hearing, there is a germ of truth in his concerns, if not his intensive focus on Muslim-Americans. Radicalization is clearly a growing problem in prisons. A 2008 study by the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice showed a link between prison gangs, radicalization, and violence. Many corrections officers are now trained to identify prisoners who adopt extreme views.
In a statement released after King’s hearing, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said:
“Reasonable people must question why no official with the Federal Bureau of Prisons testified today at Representative King’s agenda-driven hearing. This omission is yet another reason interest in King’s show trials of the American Muslim community diminished significantly after his first hearing.
“The one witness who has conducted extensive academic research on the issue was Professor Bert Useem of Purdue University, whose research was funded by institutions affiliated with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice. In his written testimony, Useem concluded, ‘My core argument, then, is that U.S. prisons are not systematically generating a terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland.’