Washington, DC – U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-08) yesterday stated his strong disagreement with statements made by Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Peter King (R-NY) who expressed his belief that while American Muslims may not support terrorism they are not doing enough as a community to help law enforcement fight terrorism. This exchange occurred during a vital hearing of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing & Terrorism Risk Assessment on the subject: “Reassessing the Threat: the Future of Al Qaeda and Its Implications for Homeland Security.”
During the hearing one of the expert witnesses, Lawrence Wright, a fellow at the NYU Center on Law and Security, posited his belief that agencies such as the CIA, FBI and local law enforcement need to do more to try and “engage” rather than “penetrate” Muslim American communities.
Rep. Pascrell agreed with this sentiment and stated that, “in my mind, we have a thousand miles to go before we can say we are really engaging the Muslim American community in our homeland security effort.”
Mr. Wright responded by expressing that the only way to truly engage the community was to hire Muslims at all levels of law enforcement and use their unique language and background skills to aid in the fight against terrorism.
“America must view the Muslim community as a great asset to our homeland security effort and take real steps to engage them. We cannot risk becoming like Europe where Muslim citizens have been pushed to the margins of society and are looked at as objects of suspicion,” said Pascrell after the hearing.
Rep. Pascrell also took the opportunity at the hearing to rebut Ranking Member King’s criticism of an ad campaign designed to educate the public about Islam to be placed on New York subway cars in September during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The Congressman pointed out during the hearing that the ads merely highlight questions that average Americans have about Islam and provides the website (whyislam.org) where curious individuals could find answers to those questions.
Rep. King is currently urging the Metropolitan Transit Authority to reject the ads, stating earlier that: “I'm calling on the MTA not to have these ads, not to go forward with them, and I don't see this as a free speech issue at all." The New York Post also had a negative response to the ads, running a cover on Monday with the headline "Jihad Train" and posting an article on its Web site with the headline "Train-ing day for jihadists" and the first paragraph saying, "Allah aboard!"
Rep. Pascrell responded to the controversy after the hearing by stating: “I am deeply disappointed in any public official or media outlet that would use harsh rhetoric against this ad campaign which simply seeks to answer people’s questions about Islam. This is exactly the kind of dialogue we need. Instead of making people fear one another, we should bridge the gaps in our collective knowledge. As it says in the ad, whether it comes to questions about Islam or questions about our communal homeland security strategy – ‘you deserve to know.’”