Long Island Rep. Peter King's announcement that he will hold hearings on the alleged "radicalization" of American Muslims has sent a shudder through our community.
But understand: This response is not because of opposition to the concept of holding hearings on growing political and religious extremism of all stripes. We would support such hearings, provided they were balanced and fair.
We would support such hearings, if they were broadened to also examine what led someone to plant an IED on the parade route of this year's Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane, Wash., and what caused U.S. hate groups to top 1,000 for the first time, according to Southern Poverty Law Center - then they would gain our support.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member on the committee King chairs, asked him to expand the hearings to include "a broad-based examination of domestic extremist groups regardless of their ideological underpinnings." King refused.
In fact, our community's response to King's planned hearings is reasonable given his record of irresponsible and factually inaccurate remarks regarding America's Muslims.
King justifies his call for hearings with two often-repeated talking points: 1) that law enforcement officials tell him they received little or no cooperation from "Muslim leaders and imams," and 2) that "85%" of mosques in his state and nationwide are run by "radicals" who constitute "an enemy living amongst us."
Expert testimony and actual research paint a different picture.
In April 2008, FBI Director Robert Mueller told the U.S. House Judiciary Committee: "I reaffirm the fact that 99.9% of Muslim-Americans ... are every bit as patriotic as anybody else in this room, and that many of our cases are a result of the cooperation from the Muslim community in the United States."
Brian Michael Jenkins, a senior adviser at the nonpartisan RAND Corp., finds "an American [Muslim] population that remains hostile to jihadist ideology and its exhortations to violence."
A December 2010 Congressional Research Service report cites numerous examples of partnership between federal authorities and American Muslim communities.
Quintan Wiktorowicz, the new senior director for global engagement at the White House National Security Council, shattered stereotypes when his research found that very religious Muslims were in fact the most resistant to radicalization.
These are sources anyone can verify. On the other hand, King's "85%" claim is based solely on a comment made by one person speaking at a 1999 State Department forum. That individual never produced any evidence to back up his bizarre claim. (More)