ZAHN: Our “Top Story” coverage moves now to the controversy here in Washington over one key congressman’s claims about Muslims in this country.

Representative Peter King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has said that the vast majority of mosques here in the U.S. are controlled by Muslim extremists. And that’s only the beginning of the charges he’s making, charges that are causing a lot of outrage.

Jason Carroll has more.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It’s the holy month of Ramadan, and this is the image Muslims here say truly reflects who they are: law-abiding, peaceful people, not, as their own congressman claimed in a recent campaign letter, part of an Islamic threat that could cause another 9/11.

And New York Republican Peter King has also said, according to law enforcement sources he spoke with, 85 percent of mosques in the United States, including this one, are run by extremists.

FAROQUE KHAN, MOSQUE MEMBER: Where is this 85 percent? Who did the study? On what basis? What questions were asked? And how did he come up with this number?

CARROLL: Several members of the mosque agreed to speak to us about the claim.

KHAN: It’s very painful to have a senior politic to make those statements, without really having any direct interaction with the community.

ERIC BYASERIC, MOSQUE MEMBER: You have extremists in basically any community, any — any belief system. So what? You deal with them accordingly.

CARROLL: A federal law enforcement official agrees that there are some extremists in American mosques, but dismisses the validity of 85 percent, saying it was much too high.

(on camera): Do you actively try to seek out those who may have extreme thoughts or extreme points of view?

KHAN: Do we conduct interviews with all the people who come in and out? No. But, if we hear something — and I haven’t heard anything yet — believe me, I will be the first to call the FBI.

CARROLL (voice-over): There’s another concern King has raised. He says the mosque fosters 9/11 conspiracy theories that the CIA or Zionists may have been behind the attacks. But, of those we interviewed, just one had reservations about who was behind the terrorist attacks.

MUNIRE TERPIS, MOSQUE MEMBER: How do we know they did it? I mean, it was just — it happened — like, instant, as — as soon as the towers fell, it was, like, Muslims did it. How — how do you clarify? How do you prove that?

CARROLL (on camera): Well, who do you think is responsible for what happened?

TERPIS: I don’t know. I don’t know. To this day, I don’t know.

CARROLL (voice-over): A recent Zogby poll showed 42 percent of all Americans believe the government is covering up something surrounding the attack. So, Muslims here wonder, why focus on them?

The national director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says this is about King trying to win reelection.

NIHAD AWAD, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS: It’s very disturbing to see a member of the United States Congress exploit the anti-Muslim prejudice and fear within the society just to get a few more votes and some money.

CARROLL: So, during this holiest of months for Muslims, some here will be praying for forgiveness and the hope there will be more understanding.

Jason Carroll, CNN, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)


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