Published March 07, 2011
The nation's largest Muslim advocacy group and other organizations are stoking opposition to a hearing planned later this week in Washington which will delve into the threat posed by Islamic radicalization.
But Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee hosting the hearing, said Monday that he's on the same page as the White House when it comes to addressing that threat and engaging moderates in the American Muslim community.
"I'm not going to give into political correctness. I'm going ahead," King told Fox News.
Ahead of Thursday's hearing, hundreds of protesters gathered Sunday in Times Square to accuse King of unfairly targeting Muslims. The event featured celebrities like hip hop mogul Russell Simmons and was backed by a slew of religious organizations and leaders.
King, though, pinned blame for the backlash on the Council on American Islamic Relations. Noting CAIR's history as an "unindicted co-conspirator" in a terrorist funding case, King said CAIR is exactly the kind of group Muslim leaders should "push aside."
CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper acknowledged his organization has been organizing opposition to the hearing "from the very beginning," but said the backlash is broad-based.
"We'd like to take credit for being the sole opposition to his witch hunt, but in fact it's actually, literally hundreds of interfaith and community groups, civil liberties organizations who are opposed to these hearings in their current form," Hooper said, adding that his organization continues to be concerned about "bias" at the upcoming hearing.
With his hearing, the New York congressman said he's simply taking "the logical next step" beyond what the White House has discussed.
Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough gave a speech on Islamic radicalization Sunday at a Virginia mosque. There, McDonough stressed that the country does not practice "guilt by association" and that violent extremism is not unique to any group, but said the responsibility to oppose it rests with everybody.
McDonough's address was an apparent prelude to King's hearing. Though he did not refer to King during the speech, he was quoted afterward saying, "We welcome congressional involvement in the issue."
King, noting he spoke with McDonough Friday night, said once the "window dressing" from Sunday's mosque speech is cleared away, the two of them are saying effectively the same thing.
"I agree with everything he's saying," King told Fox News. "What he is saying is what I'm saying. This is a real threat. Al Qaeda is recruiting in the United States."
King said he's "not generating fear" but just "stating the facts."
He plans to call several witnesses, including the uncle of a Minneapolis man who linked up with a terror group in Somalia and is believed to have been killed. He also plans to call the father of a man alleged to have killed a soldier at an Arkansas military recruiting center in 2009.
There has been a string of terror cases involving U.S. citizens in recent years. Justice Department data obtained by Fox News shows there has been a "class-one" terrorism case -- the highest designation for a terrorism case -- involving a U.S. citizen every two weeks, on average, since January 2009.
An August 2010 background report showed 21 U.S. citizens were charged in such cases in 2009 and another 20 were charged in 2010 between January and August.
The hearing has generated much debate and publicity. The congressman on Sunday squared off against Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to the House, on CNN's "State of the Union."
Ellison said that while it's proper to investigate radicalization, he thinks it is wrong to single out a religious minority.
"If we're going to talk about gang violence, I don't think it's right to talk about, you know, only the Irish community and the Westies. I think we talk about gang violence. I think, if we're going to talk about organized crime, it's not right to just talk about the Russian community," Ellison said Sunday.