The Islamic radicalization hearings were hotly anticipated. For those expecting a “witch hunt,” the House Homeland Security Committee chairman, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), was a disappointment. His opening statement was measured and included a staunch defense of the hearings:
Let me make it clear today that I remain convinced that these hearings must go forward. And they will. To back down would be a craven surrender to political correctness and an abdication of what I believe to be the main responsibility of this committee -- to protect America from a terrorist attack.
Despite what passes for conventional wisdom in certain circles, there is nothing radical or un-American in holding these hearings. Indeed, congressional investigation of Muslim American radicalization is the logical response to the repeated and urgent warnings which the Obama administration has been making in recent months.
He was respectful and forceful in replying to vicious ad hominem attacks accusing him of everything from racism to McCarthyism:
This committee cannot live in denial, which is what some would have us do when they suggest that this hearing dilute its focus by investigating threats unrelated to al-Qaeda. The Department of Homeland Security and this committee were formed in response to the al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11. There is no equivalency of threat between al-Qaeda and neo-Nazis, environmental extremists or other isolated madmen. Only al-Qaeda and its Islamist affiliates in this country are part of an international threat to our nation. Indeed, by the Justice Department’s own record, not one terror-related case in the last two years involved neo-Nazis, environmental extremists, militias or anti-war groups.
I have repeatedly said the overwhelming majority of Muslim-Americans are outstanding Americans and make enormous contributions to our country. But there are realities we cannot ignore. For instance, a Pew Poll said that 15% of Muslim-American men between the age of 18 and 29 could support suicide bombings. This is the segment of the community al-Qaeda is attempting to recruit.
But he also called out the most vocal group in opposing his hearings:
To combat this threat, moderate leadership must emerge from the Muslim community. As the majority and minority staff of the Senate Homeland Security Committee concluded in its report on “Violent Islamist Extremism and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat,” “Muslim community leaders (and) religious leaders must play a more visible role in discrediting and providing alternatives to violent Islamist ideology.”
This means that responsible Muslim-American leaders must reject discredited groups such as CAIR, the Committee on Islamic-American Relations, which was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the terrorist financing case involving the Holyland Foundation. In the lead-up to this hearing I found it shocking and sad that the mainstream media accepted CAIR’s accusations as if it were a legitimate organization. Thankfully, FBI Director Mueller has ordered the FBI to cease all dealings and contact with CAIR. I would hope that all law enforcement officials would follow the lead of the FBI director
.King’s restraint was not duplicated by many Democrats on the committee. I wasn’t able to watch live, but when I did view the recorded hearing I was amazed. Slack-jawed. The Democrats’ unhinged rhetoric and wild accusations did more to undermine their opposition to the hearings than anything King could possibly have said.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) was among the worst:
“I’m reminded of someone, a proverb, now quoted by Sheila Jackson Lee, cleaning a dirty kitchen, you can’t clean it with dirty water,” Jackson Lee, who has a reputation for being one of the most difficult bosses on the Hill, said at the beginning of her five-minute rant. “There are [sic] no redeeming factual information that we will receive today that can add to the abhorrence that all of us have on terrorism in the United States of America. We don’t disrespect the witnesses, at least I do not, but you see, it has already been tainted, this hearing. There are no loud signs of reasonings [sic] that are coming through this hearing. The reason is because it has already been classified as an effort to demonize and to castigate a whole broad base of human beings. I cannot stand for that.”
Jackson Lee then reached for a copy of the U.S. Constitution.
“I brought with me the Constitution, the living, breathing document. The First Amendment allows us the freedom of religion. The freedom of association and expression,” she said. “But I will tell you today, that this breathing document is in pain.”
You can readily believe that working for her must be a “living hell.”
Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) was no better, carrying on about the hearing’s resemblance to the McCarthy hearings. (No, the Democrats were not very creative in their rants.) Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) asked why they weren’t talking about the KKK. (Because the KKK didn’t kill 3,000 Americans on 9/11?)
And Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), drawing sympathy from the same liberals and pundits who had taunted the speaker of the House for his tears, broke down talking about a Muslim first responder killed on 9-11 by the jihadists whose ideological views Ellison ignored. In fact, he would only refer to them as “violent extemists,” in essence refusing to acknowledge their motivation or the existence of Muslim radicalization. He too misrepresented the hearings’ objective:
Ascribing the evil acts of a few individuals to an entire community is wrong; it is ineffective; and it risks making our country less secure. . . . Targeting the Muslim American community for the actions of a few is unjust. Actually all of us--all communities--are responsible for combating violent extremism. Singling out one community focuses our analysis in the wrong direction.
Yes, but the hearings aren’t targeting the entire community (as King repeatedly stressed) and, while all groups are “responsible” for fighting against radicals whose ideology Ellison can not name, the radicalization recruiters target Muslims. Other than that, he made perfect sense.
Ellison’s background includes his work as a local leader of the Nation of Islam in Minneapolis, an ally of convicted gangster Sharif Willis, an agitator on behalf of cop killers, a supporter of SLA terrorist Sara Jane Olson (the former Kathleen Soliah), and a mouthpiece for the Muslim Brotherhood front group and unindicted Holy Land Foundation co-conspirator CAIR.
It was left to Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), a great friend of the Muslim community (and one of the most virulent anti-Israel members as well) to, in essence, tell his colleagues to put a cork in it. Sure, he made a self-referential comment that he always kept Joe McCarthy’s picture on the wall as a reminder when he was chairman, but he then gave up the critical point: “There is a reason for us to go into this.”
The witnesses, while predictably not all that enlightening, did put a human face on radicalization. Abdirizak Bihi, a Somali immigrant, described how his son was recruited and, as horrifying, how fellow Muslims went after him for co-operating with law enforcement. Perhaps most poignant was the father of the murderer who killed one and injured another at a Little Rock, Ark., military recruiting station. Melvin Bledsoe described how his son Carlos converted to Islam and then was radicalized by Islamic extremists. He told the committee that Yemeni extremists snared Carlos through their “counterparts” in Nashville. Soon, Carlos was off to a terror training school in Yemen and then put in Yemeni political prison, which was “the final stage of his radicalization.” He said simply: “Something is wrong with the Muslim leadership in Nashville. What happened to Carlos at those Nashville mosques isn’t normal.”
But he, too, vouched for peaceful and law-abiding Muslims who are his friends and neighbors. He, like King, distinguished radicals from the whole Muslim community. Still, he was blunt that “political correctness” has prevented us from uncovering how Muslims are recruited. With the pain only a father can know, he implored the committee that “we are losing American babies. Our children are in danger.”
Frankly, the Democrats embarrassed themselves. Ordinary Americans watching their temper tantrums would, I think, readily conclude that the hearings are appropriate and the Democrats’ antics are not. King would now do well to assemble some panels of experts who can discuss the methodology of Islamic recruiters. Thursday, we learned a lot about the Democrats; now it is time to learn about the jihadists.