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Posted at 01:05 PM ET, 03/07/2011

Pete King undermines his own case for Muslim hearings

Is Pete King backing away from his own stated reasons for holding hearings on Muslim radicalization this week?

On CNN this weekend, King seemed to quietly do just that, making an interesting admission in an exchange with Dem Rep. Keith Ellison. They were debating King’s decision to focus his hearings solely on Muslims, and King’s argument contained a telling walkback:

“We’re talking about al Qaeda,” King said. “There’s been self radicalization going on within the Muslim community, within a very small minority, but it’s there and that’s where the threat is coming from at this time.”

On the eve of his own hearings, King is finally acknowledging that only a “very small minority” of Muslims actually pose a danger to the U.S. But this statement is exactly the opposite of what King has been saying all along. Recall that King first justified holding these hearings on the basis of a fabricated statistic that “80 percent” of American mosques are radicalized, and that “the Muslim community does not cooperate [with authorities] anywhere near to the extent that it should.” In 2007, he called American Muslims “an enemy living amongst us.” Now he’s saying it’s “a very small minority” that he’s worried about.

Robert Costa obtained the list of witnesses for King’s hearings, and, tellingly, King isn’t calling anyone who will be able to corroborate his years of outrageous allegations, or even the argument he gave for holding the hearings in the first place:

National Review Online has obtained the list of witnesses set to appear at Rep. Peter King’s hearings on radicalization within the American Muslim community: Abdirizak Bihi, the brother of Burhan Hassan’s mother; Melvin Bledsoe, the father of Carlos Bledsoe (Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad); Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, an Arizona physician and military veteran; Lee Baca, the sheriff of Los Angeles County; Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.); Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.).

Carlos Bledsoe shot up a military recruiting center in 2009, killing one recruiter and wounding another, and Burhan Hassan died in Somalia after being recruited by extremist group Al-Shabaab, which has a disturbing track record of being able to recruit American citizens.

The only law enforcement officer on the witness list, however, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, is being called by the Democrats -- Baca has said that “have been pivotal in helping to fight terrorism.” So despite calling the hearings on the basis that American Muslims are full of radicals refusing to cooperate with law enforcement, King isn’t calling a single member of the law enforcement community to corroborate that claim.

There’s probably a reason for that -- according to the Triangle Center on Terrorism at Duke University, 40 percent of domestic terror plots have been foiled with the aid of the Muslim community. That number is as much a sign of cooperation from Muslims as it is an indication of how relatively few domestic terror attacks there have been in comparison to the attention they receive. While domestic radicalization is a serious issue worthy of Congress’s attention, King’s own history of support for violent extremism in the context of Irish nationalism and his record of making broad, unsupported negative generalizations about American Muslims makes him a poor candidate to lead that examination.

As Greg noted this morning, at an event in Virginia over the weekend, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough emphasized this record of cooperation, stating that “The bottom line is this -- when it comes to preventing violent extremism and terrorism in the United States, Muslim Americans are not part of the problem, you’re part of the solution.” There’s a remarkable level of agreement among real counterterrorism experts on this point. Last year former Bush Homeland Security official Charles Allen told me that “the only way I think you’re going to counter” domestic extremism is through cooperation with the Muslim American community.

That relationship though, is harmed by King’s efforts to put an entire religion on trial for the actions of a few.

UPDATE 3:33 p.m: The McDonough event was in VA, not Texas. My mistake.

By Adam Serwer  |  01:05 PM ET, 03/07/2011

 
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