Group: Expand or cancel hearing on Muslims

Feb 2, 2011 Issues: Domestic Radicalization / Radicalization Hearings

By Tom Brune
Newsday
February 2, 2011

WASHINGTON - A coalition of 51 Islamic and human rights groups Tuesday asked House leaders to press Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford) either to cancel or expand his hearing on the radicalization of the American Muslim community.

In the letter sent Tuesday, the groups compare King's hearing to the Communist witch-hunts of the 1950s led by Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.), who brought people before his committee and to ask if they were loyal Americans.

"Singling out a group of Americans for government scrutiny based on their faith is divisive and wrong," said the letter, sent by the legal group Muslim Advocates and signed by Amnesty International USA, Human Rights First and U.S. Muslim groups.

But the letter made little headway with Republicans who control the House.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declined to comment.

King, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, dismissed the letter in a statement. He said he would move ahead with a hearing focused on the radicalization of the American Muslim community and the threat of homegrown terrorists.

"I don't believe it warrants an answer" he said of the letter. "I am too busy preparing for the hearings."

The letter, however, prompted the committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, to again urge King to broaden the scope of the hearing, as he did earlier this month.

"This committee's exploration of the current and emerging threat environment should be a broad-based examination of domestic extremist groups, regardless of their respective ideological underpinnings," Thompson said in a letter to King Tuesday.

King defended the hearing, saying homegrown terrorists are the fastest-growing threat to the United States.