US lawmaker probing Islam is new ‘McCarthy’: groups

Peter King
© AFP/Getty Images/File Spencer Platt


WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Muslims and rights groups launched a pre-emptive strike Wednesday on a lawmaker set to open hearings on the threat of radical Islam to America, accusing him of xenophobic McCarthyism.

Representative Peter King, the Republican who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, will begin hearings Thursday on whether American Muslims are being radicalized, setting the stage for one of the most controversial congressional debates since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Muslim groups and other rights defenders blasted King for deploying “fear-mongering” tactics in his hearings, which they say will put the entire American Muslim community on trial — and potentially drive more disaffected youth toward extremism.

“The seven million Americans (who are Muslim)… deserve more than collective guilt by suspicion,” Shahid Buttar, who heads the non-denominational and non-partisan Bill of Rights Defense Committee, told a news conference.

Buttar likened the hearings’ “bias and xenophobia” to those of the former House Un-American Activities Committee, and formed “a central ingredient in the McCarthyism that Representative King now aims to replicate.”

“Representative King aims to essentially be the (Joseph) McCarthy of the 21st century,” he said.

McCarthyism refers to allegations of treason or subversion without proof, and was coined after the former US senator’s anti-communist witch-hunts from the late 1940s to the 1950s.

King has said Muslim leaders and mosque imams are doing too little to stop the radicalization of young Americans and are not cooperating with law enforcement, and that most US mosques are controlled by extremists.

The charges have alarmed US Muslim communities — the very ones which the White House insists have been crucial to helping reduce the extremist threat.

Imam Johari Abdul-Malik of the Council of Muslim Organizations insisted that King was launching a modern-day “witch-hunt.”

But he and others acknowledged that some American Muslims, while the numbers are small, had indeed been radicalized in the United States.

“We’re not in denial as a community that something is going on,” the imam said.

King is “on to something, but he’s moving in the wrong direction,” Abdul-Malik said, voicing a frustration held by several Muslim leaders that they have been a “faithful partner with law-enforcement, while at the same time being the subject of investigations.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) denounced the King hearings as dangerous and inflammatory.

“From the way he is composing this hearing, the way he has been singling out and stigmatizing the American Muslim community raises a lot of concern,” CAIR director Nihad Awad said.

On Thursday, “it is really up to him to show that he is the McCarthy of the 21st century or he is not,” Awad said, warning that King’s “approach is going to radicalize young people.

With the battle lines drawn, the congressman at the center of the storm said he “will not back down” from investigating the Islamic community.

“You look where the evidence is,” he told Fox News on Wednesday.

“The overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding Americans, but the reality is that the threat is coming from within that community.”

The hearings have divided US lawmakers. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Tuesday reiterated his support for them, but fellow Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner has been mute on the issue, essentially distancing himself from King.

“Chairman King is the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said when asked about the controversy.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered a critical view.

“I am deeply concerned about these hearings, which demonize law-abiding American Muslims who make important contributions to our society, as I would be about Congressional hearings to investigate Catholics, Jews or people of any other faith based solely on their religion,” he said in a statement.

CAIR cited a recent study by Duke University which said 11 Muslim Americans have committed domestic terror attacks since 9/11, killing 33 people. By comparison it said there have been about 150,000 murders in the country over the same period.

CAIR also stressed that US Muslims provided authorities with information that helped thwart terrorist plots in 48 of 120 cases involving Muslim Americans.

The Muslim leaders spoke at a news conference given by 11 groups critical of the hearings, including some of the largest US Muslim organizations.

None of them had been invited to participate in the hearings, Awad told AFP.

© AFP — Published at Activist Post with license

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