Republican Rep. Peter King continued his anti-Muslim witch hunt
Wednesday with his congressional hearing on the so-called
"radicalization" of American Muslims. This time the focus of his
hearing was the Somali community.
King’s third such hearing that came five days after the Oslo
Massacre by the right-wing terrorist,
Anders Behring Breivik who was perhaps radicalized by a group of
anti-Muslim and anti-Islam American bloggers and zealots such as
Bat Ye’or, Daniel Pipes, Hugh Fitzgerald, Pamela Geller, Robert
Spencer Walid Shoebat.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, the committee's top Democrat, pointed to the
Norway tragedy as one reason the hearings should not solely focus
on Muslim extremists. "This lone wolf extremist killed nearly 80
people in his anti-Islamic fervor," said Thompson. "It is too
early to say what the people of Norway will take from this
horrific national tragedy. But for me, this incident makes plain
that the madness of terrorism cannot be neatly confined to any one
religion, one people or one nation," Thompson said.
King rejected the criticism, saying the tragedy in Norway had
nothing to do with the focus of the hearings. "I will not back
down from holding these hearings," he said. "I will continue to
hold these hearings so long as I am the chairman of this
Committee Democrats, as they have previously, said King's hearings
unfairly single out the religious group, and called on him to hold
"Before these hearings began, I requested that their focus be
broadened to include a look at the real and present threat of
domestic violent extremism," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.,
the committee's top Democrat.
Thompson also questioned the danger posed by al-Shabab, which
landed on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations
in February 2008. "Al-Shabab does not appear to present any danger
to this homeland," Thompson said, citing vigorous law enforcement
efforts to track the group.
Bennie Thompson, said that so far, al-Shabaab has not targeted the
United States or U.S. interests abroad, and that most of those
recruited in North America carried out terrorist attacks against
other Muslims in Somalia.
Other committee Democrats used recent events to protest the
hearings' focus on Muslims. Several mentioned the anti-Muslim
gunman's bloody rampage in Norway Friday to argue that extremists
come from a variety of backgrounds.
Another held up a front-page newspaper story about the victims of
the famine in Somalia, and asked if it might not be more
constructive to focus on that tragedy.
Hearing On Right-Wing Extremists
Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee thought domestic “hate
groups” should be of concern to the country and should be included
in the Committee’s investigation.
Jackson Lee argued:
“I would add to that, that I would like to have a hearing on
right-wing extremists, ideologues who advocate violence and
advocate, in essence, the terrorizing of certain groups. . . . My
concern with the focus of the hearings that we have had is the
isolation of certain groups.”
pointed out that it might seem that Jackson Lee’s request comes
only in light of the recent Norway attacks, however it turns out
this isn’t the first time she brought up alleged non-Muslim
threats at one of King’s hearings.
month’s hearings, turned the spotlight on “Christian militants” as
she noted that one witness who wrote a letter to the committee
about the dangers of radical Islam in prisons had been arrested
for bombing an abortion clinic.
familiar with the Christian militants?” she asked former New York
Dept. of Correctional Services official Patrick Dunleavy. “Can one
might say that they might possibly want to undermine this country
because right now the right for women to choose is a
Constitutional right but people disagree with it but here is an
individual trying to undermine the protections that are given to
women? Would you suggest that might be compared to trying to
undermine this country? That’s a possibility, is it not?”
think that anyone that goes about killing in the name of God is an
ideologue,” Dunleavy admitted.
In his opening remarks Peter King said: "I note that certain
elements of the politically correct media, most egregiously the
vacuous ideologues at the New York Times—are shamelessly
attempting to exploit the horrific tragedy in Norway to cause me
to refocus these hearings away from Muslim-American
radicalization." "Let me make this clear to the New York Times and
their acolytes in the politically correct, moral equivalency
media, I will not back down from holding these hearings," he
King, who heads the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland
Security, released his
results from an investigation, which found more than 40 Americans
have turned up fighting for Al-Shabab in Somalia, a higher number
than previously reported. Fifteen were killed, and at least 21
remain unaccounted for and pose a "direct threat" to the United
States, according to the report. Many of those cases stem from
Minnesota, where more than 20 Somali youth have disappeared and
later turned up in Somalia with the terror group.
Earlier this month, an al-Shabab member pleaded guilty to
recruiting Muslims at a Minneapolis mosque, King noted. And one
Minnesotan recruited by the group, Shirwa Ahmed, became what King
called "the first confirmed American suicide bomber in our
history" in an attack in Somalia in 2008.
"There is no equivalency in the threat to our homeland from a
deranged gunman and the international terror apparatus of Al-Qaida
and its affiliates, such as Al-Shabab, who are recruiting people
in this country and have murdered thousands of Americans in their
jihad attacks," King said. "I will not back down from holding
Minnesota, home to a large Somali-American community, has been the
focus of federal investigations into radicalization for years.
Just last week, a Minneapolis man pled guilty to recruiting
members of the community to join Al Shabab and helping them travel
to Somalia. He faces up to 15 years in prison.
Ellison denied request to testify
Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, a Democrat who is the first
Muslim to be elected to Congress, was denied a request to testify
before the committee hearing on the so-called Islamic
radicalization. According to Minnesota Post, Ellison sent Rep.
King a letter Monday asking if he could testify at a hearing on
the Al-Shabaab terrorist organization operating in Somalia. King
responded that Wednesday’s hearing is an extension of the first
couple the committee has held, and since Ellison testified at the
first hearing on the issue, in March, he would not be permitted to
has the largest Somali community in the United States.
watched the hearing in the witness box, said all of Wednesday's
witnesses had something useful to contribute to the discussion on
terrorism. But he again questioned King's motives to single out
Muslims. "I really feel it's just extremely bad form, bad
politics, and not within the spirit of our American Constitution
to kind of go after a religious minority group," Ellison said in
an interview after the hearing. "I just think that's totally
Post quoted Ellison as saying that
Wednesday’s hearing threatened to break critical ties with the
Somali-American community, which he called “our strongest allies
in the fight against violent extremism.” “This hearing threatens
to undo vital work done by the Department of Homeland Security,
the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and local officials to build
trust with the community,” he said.
Minnesotans - William Anders Folk, a former Assistant U.S.
Attorney, and St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith - testified at
Ties between al-Shabab and al-Qaida
Anders Folk, a former federal prosecutor who handled al-Shabab
cases in the Minneapolis area, said that groups of men affiliated
with al-Shabab have left Minneapolis in recent years, and that
once overseas, they become difficult to track.
compared al-Shabab to al-Qaida, reminding committee members that
before the 9/11 attacks, many American intelligence officials
underestimated Osama bin Laden's capabilities. "Groups which are
aspirational today could be operational tomorrow," Folk said.
dangerousness and effectiveness of Al-Shabab's rhetoric is clear
from Minnesota's experience with this organization," said Folk.
demonstrate Al-Shabab's recruiting effectiveness, Folk pointed to
an October 2008 bombing in Somalia, when Shirwa Ahmed, of
Minneapolis, became the first U.S. citizen known to carry out a
suicide attack. Within a week, Folk said Wednesday, a group of
Minnesotans left the country to join Al-Shabab in Somalia.
witness before the committee was Tom Smith, the Chief of Police
for St. Paul, Minnesota. He said his precinct has had great
success in reaching out to the large Somali American community in
his city, working in small groups with teens and women, and that
integration into society is the key to making young people less
vulnerable to recruitment by terrorists.
extensively on sports and other programs that have strengthened
ties between police officers in his city and young, disaffected
Somali Americans who might otherwise fall prey to al-Shabab
recruiters. "We have built strong relationships with a community
once isolated," he said.
featured just one Somali witness from Canadia, Ahmed Hussen, who
said that low employment within the Somali diaspora allowed some
to become alienated “and fall victim to a narrative that turns
them against Canada and the United States.” "This dangerous and
constant anti-western narrative is fed to them by radicals in our
community," said Hussen, "who do not hesitate to use these
vulnerable youth as gun fodder in their desire to establish a base
for the Al Qaeda terrorist group in Somalia."
Critics question targeting of one religious group
the Christian Century Wednesday's hearing inspired far less
emotion than the two previous ones held by King. The first, in
March, on the so-called radicalization of American Muslims in
general, prompted heated debates and headlines weeks before it
happened. Protestors lined the corridors outside the hearing room.
The second hearing, in June, on the ‘radicalization’ of Muslims in
the nation's prisons, was less dramatic -- and less well-attended.
first March hearing on Islamic radicalization, critics questioned
the targeting of one religious group, particularly just days after
an anti-Muslim terrorist in Norway killed 93 people.
Critics have long said King’s inquisitions into so-called Islamic
radicalization could not only inflame anti-Muslim sentiment in the
US, but also divert attention from other serious threats like
those posed from violent right-wing extreme ideologies. Some want
the committee to expand their scope.
Several Democrats on the committee Wednesday said Congress should
investigate a broad spectrum of domestic terrorist threats,
including anti-government hate groups and white supremacists. No
current federal officials have testified at the hearings.
Wednesday's and previous hearings, some experts have argued that
helping immigrant communities assimilate is the best way to keep
the United States safe, said Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., arguing
against future hearings on Muslim Americans. "I get it. I get it.
I get it. I get it," Richmond told King.
Clark of Brooklyn said the hearings should've expanded from Muslim
radicalization to all forms of radicalization, including gang
activity in inner cities. "When we become fixated on one type of
people, we take our eyes off the prize," Clark said to King,
adding, "I love you."
According to News Day, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) was perhaps
the harshest critic of those on the panel, saying King's hearing
"reminds me of a visit to the zoo when I saw the one-trick pony"
and suggested that gang activity and other youth problems were
Peter King make us less safe
Commenting on Wednesday’s hearing, Justin Krebs, the founder of
Living Liberally, says King’s Muslim Radicalization hearings make
us less safe. In an article published on
WYNC.ORG blog, Kerbs
suggested that King could have studied home-grown terrorism and
the perverting influences that turn American citizens into violent
actors - but he chose to specifically focus on the threat of
Congressman King is making us less safe by not dedicating
resources and his platform to addressing threats that come from
non-Muslim radical, violent extremists, Kerbs said adding: “And
let's hope the comments of his witnesses, who make false and
inflammatory statements about the nature of Islam and the extent
of the threat of violence among American Muslims, don't
intentionally or unwittingly inflame that imagination of a next
generation of unbalanced individuals, lone gunmen and others who
might really threaten our citizens and our civil society.”
Kerbs also referred to what he called inane and extreme responses
to the attack in Norway by the right wing. “Alternet's round-up of
the worst would be hilarious if it weren't frightening. Because so
many had assumed the bombing was the work of Muslim radicals (as
opposed to an anti-Muslim radical), conservative pundits had to
backpedal with comments that referred to the gunman's act as
"jihad," said "Islamic supremacists" had incited him to violence,
and refused any comparison between the Muslim terrorism and
Of course, these quotes are cherry-picked to be the most absurd
(although many of them were stated in "mainstream" media outlets)
and the majority of conservatives - like all Americans -
recognized that an act of radical right-wing Christian violence is
extreme, but isn't unique. We've seen it in our own country, he
said adding: In fact, the DHS had issued a report about the danger
of right-wing militants during the Bush Administration - before
the Bush Administration suppressed and challenged the findings.
“But it isn't the extreme and sensational right-wing pundits we
should worry about the most, it's our members of Congress. When
Representative King (who, as is often noted, backed the IRA when
they were officially considered a terrorist organization) decided
that his hearings weren't about the greatest threat to America,
but the Muslim threat, he made a choice,” Kerb argued.
Ghazali is the Executive Editor of the online magazine American