Peter King is going for a third round of hearings focused on radicalization in the Muslim community.
King’s first two hearings were handled rather poorly. The first was so broad as to rhetorically indict the entire Muslim community. The second was focused on Islamic radicalization in prison, an issue that has yet to even become a problem.
In fairness, though, King’s third topic is both timely and relevant:
“At this hearing, the third in a series, we will examine Somalia-based terrorist organization al-Shabaab’s ongoing recruitment, radicalization, and training of young Muslim-Americans and al-Shabaab’s linking up with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
“In Minnesota, Ohio, and other states, dozens of young Muslim males have been recruited, radicalized, and then taken from their communities for overseas terrorist training by al-Shabaab. In a number of cases, the men — including both Somali-Americans and other converts — have ended up carrying out suicide bombings or have otherwise been killed, often without their families even knowing where their sons have gone. There has not been sufficient cooperation from mosque leaders. In at least one instance, a Minnesota imam told the desperate family of a missing young man not to cooperate with the FBI.
This is timely because Omer Abdi Mohamed, one of the al Shabaab recruiters, pleaded guilty in federal court to terrorism charges earlier this week. It’s relevant because, frankly, al Shabaab’s success in recruiting Americans is unprecedented, and is a topic worthy of congressional scrutiny. Unlike King’s first hearing, which was so broadly constructed as to be both useless and unfair to the American Muslim community as a whole, and King’s second hearing, which focused on an as yet nonexistent problem, Al Shabaab’s Minnesota recruitment is something that genuinely deserves to be looked at. The Senate Homeland Security Committee held a similar hearing a few years ago.
The question is whether King can do so without smearing American Muslims as a whole, and his initial statement isn’t promising. Contrary to the sentiment expressed in King’s initial statement, cooperation with the Muslim community in Minnesota was key to subsequent prosecutions, and the FBI views the investigation as a model of community engagement to be repeated elsewhere.
Unlike King’s previous hearings, this one can’t be categorically dismissed out of hand. However, much depends on the witnesses King calls and the direction the hearings themselves take. Just because the topic is worthy of discussion doesn’t mean that the hearings will necessarily be constructive. It’s fair for Muslim groups in particular to worry about how King will conduct these hearings, given his previous pattern of expressing wild and unsubstantiated generalizations about American Muslims.