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Daily News: Pete King is right to hold hearings on domestic Islamic extremism, but he must proceed with caution

Daily News
February 9, 2011

The knives are out for Rep. Pete King for planning hearings next month on the radicalization of Americans into violent Islamist extremists.

Given the gravity of the threat, the Republican King has chosen an appropriate topic as Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. Given the sensitivity of inquiring into actions by members of one religion, he must proceed with appropriate care.

It is premature to assert – as an alliance of 51 organizations, including Muslim, interfaith and human rights groups did – that King is "singling out a group of Americans for government scrutiny based on their faith."

And it was simply silly for the committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, to urge King to "broaden the scope" of his examination to include "neo-Nazis, environmental extremists, anti-tax groups and others." Thompson claimed these are "more prevalent in the United States than Islamic extremists."

If so, they have not been more persistent, nor have their destructive ambitions been as high, nor are they aligned with an international movement that propagandizes, recruits and trains.

Responding yesterday to Thompson, King noted that Attorney General Eric Holder has said homegrown radicalization "keeps him awake at night" and has pushed him "to make people aware of the fact that the threat is real, the threat is different and the threat is constant."

So King starts off on solid ground. To stay there, he will have to do much better than he did in once saying, "80 to 85% of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists" or even in declaring yesterday that he would not be deterred by "political correctness."

King will have to stick to exploring conduct – not belief – with carefully documented and nuanced evidence, along with, more importantly, constructive, preventive solutions.