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Holder Criticizes Focus of Rep. King Hearings on Muslim Radicalization

Chris Hondros/Getty Image(WASHINGTON) -- The afternoon before House Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., kicks off hearings looking at the issue of radicalization of Muslims in America, Attorney General Eric Holder rebuffed allegations by Rep. King that members of the Muslim community had not been helpful to law enforcement in counterterrorism investigations.

At a Justice Department press conference on Wednesday, Holder said, “The Muslim community…have contributed significantly to the resolution of many things that we have resolved over the course last 12 to 18 months....Tips that we have received, information that has been shared has been critical to our efforts to disrupt plots that otherwise might have occurred.”

“What we have tried to do at the Justice Department is reach out to the Muslim Community, to establish relationships that otherwise might not have existed; to establish a dialogue so that information flows to us; so that information flows from us -- so there is a better understanding in the Muslim community about what the aims are of America’s law enforcement,” Holder said. “I think we’ve been pretty successful in that regard and we have a good relationship.”

Last year in testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III discussed the importance of outreach efforts and said that in 2009 the FBI had created Specialized Community Outreach Teams to work with specific communities in the U.S. Mueller testified that the case of Somali youths who left the Minneapolis area in 2007 and 2008 to fight with the al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab network in Somalia led to the creation of these teams. 

In testimony Mueller said, “The FBI understands that protecting America requires the cooperation and understanding of the public. Since the 9/11 attacks, the FBI has developed an extensive outreach program to Muslim, South Asian, and Sikh communities to develop trust, address concerns, and dispel myths in those communities about the FBI and the U.S. government.”

Rep. King and his committee plans to hear testimony from Abdirizak Bihi, the founder of the Somali Education and Advocacy Center, about the youths who traveled overseas.

Asked if the hearings could polarize Americans -- and asked about Rep. King’s assertion that Holder himself is very concerned about radicalization, keeping him awake at night -- Holder said, “My focus is on individuals as opposed to communities and I think that is what we need to be focused on. What is it that drives individuals to do certain things? We don’t want to stigmatize, we don’t want to alienate entire communities, we need to focus on individuals and groups of individuals who might band together, who would try to harm American interests or American citizens, that is what this Justice Department is doing.”

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