Entries in Muslim Radicalization (2)


Hearings on Radicalization Among American Muslims Not the First

PeteKing [dot] House [dot] gov(WASHINGTON) -- Thursday's House hearing on "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community's Response" has created a firestorm of criticism by civil rights groups and Democrats who say that Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., is intentionally isolating Muslims.

Democrats and rights groups say he's guilty of "modern-day McCarthyism," and is using religion to divide Americans.

Critics had sought to have the scope of the hearings expanded beyond Islam to consider radical sects of other religious and belief groups too.

Despite the outcry, it should be noted that King’s hearing is not the first or the fifth or even the tenth hearing in Congress to tackle the issue of violent Islamic extremism.

Independent Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman, who is himself a defense hawk, chaired a series of 14 hearings on "Violent Islamic Extremism" from his perch as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. So Did Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Rep. Jane Harmon, D-Calif., who held six similar hearings.

Lieberman's hearings spanned from Sept. 2006 to Feb. 2011.

Sen. Lieberman, I-Conn., says his hearings were different in that they examined the ideology of Islamic terrorism rather than spotlighting the Muslim community, but he called King's hearings "important."

In a statement, Lieberman said: "The problem has gotten worse, and thus there is more awareness of it. Chairman King's focus also appears to be on the responsibility of the Muslim American community for dealing with the threat of homegrown radicalization, whereas our focus was on the ideology that spawns Islamist terrorism," Lieberman said in a statement. "But the questions Chairman King is raising are important ones. Our government needs a more comprehensive approach to combating and preventing homegrown radicalization.  I have been saying that for years," he added. "Law enforcement, intelligence, and local police departments do an increasingly good job. But it's clear that if we're really going to prevent the radicalization of Muslim Americans, people within Muslim American communities must be alert to signs that somebody is beginning to turn in a radical direction and then work with others in the community and law enforcement to stop that person from carrying out an attack."

Lieberman continued: "My own hope is that these House hearings will lead to a better understanding of three things: One is the extremely small percentage of Muslim Americans who represent any threat to this country; the rest are patriotic and law-abiding.  Two, we need the Muslim American community to help us reduce this threat.  And three, the administration must issue a comprehensive strategy that engages the public and private sectors to confront and prevent the radicalization to Islamist extremism of people within the U.S."

While hearings of this nature are nothing new, what's different this time, civil rights groups say, is King's rhetoric. They also point to the title and witness list of the hearings, saying they more specifically target the American Muslim community rather than the threat of extremism itself.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


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.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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