WASHINGTON — House lawmakers split along party lines at a hearing Wednesday (June 20) meant to gauge Muslim responses to earlier hearings on the “radicalization” of American Muslims.
Testimony by four witnesses was overshadowed by Republicans who defended the four prior hearings and Democrats who questioned whether they were misguided or actually harmful to Muslim Americans.
Short on new data but long on rhetoric, lawmakers argued both sides of the same statistics and relied heavily on anecdotes.
“The overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans are outstanding Americans, yet the reality is that the Islamist terror threat comes from the community,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security.
Meanwhile, the ranking Democratic member, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said he hoped the hearings did not increase hate crimes or religious profiling, and worried that America’s image abroad is of a nation at war with Islam.
GOP Rep. Peter King on Wednesday defended hearings on the so-called radicalization of American Muslims and how that potentially leads to terrorism – amid continued arguments about the need and appropriateness of such hearings.
The meeting was the fifth such for the House Committee on Homeland Security — led by the New York congressman and created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee raised some eyebrows at Republican Congressman Peter King’s Muslim Radicalization hearings. While King and the other members of the House Committee were focused on the threat of the potential radicalization of American Muslims, Jackson Lee thought other groups were just as dangerous and should be included in the Committee’s investigation.
Jackson Lee argued:
“I would add to that, that I would like to have a hearing on right-wing extremists, ideologues who advocate violence and advocate, in essence, the terrorizing of certain groups. . . . My concern with the focus of the hearings that we have had is the isolation of certain groups.”
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said at a congressional hearing Wednesday, that the terrorist threat to the United States may be at its most “heightened state” since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and al-Qaeda and its affiliates are placing increased emphasis on recruiting Americans and other Westerners to carry out attacks.
Napolitano spoke before the House Committee on Homeland Security, whose chairman, Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), is planning hearings on the threat posed by domestic radicalization and a growing incidence of U.S. citizens or legal residents involved in terrorist plots.
While Napolitano addressed the growing threat of homegrown terrorism, Michael E. Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said al-Qaeda’s leadership, based in Pakistan, is “at one of its weakest points in the past decade.”