Radicalization hearing singles out entire Muslim faith

This Thursday, the House Homeland Security Committee plans to hold a hearing on "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response." Chairman Peter King’s plan to hold a Congressional hearing targeting American-Muslims marks the first time in American history that a Congressional inquiry has singled out an entire faith community.

This hearing sets a dangerous precedent. I do not disagree with Chairman King that the radicalization of Islam is a problem; however, I strongly oppose the decision to single out Muslim-Americans for government scrutiny because of their faith, and I strongly oppose any suggestion that the Muslim community in America has failed to support our national effort to secure our homeland against terrorist threats. 

This is divisive, wrong, and most important of all, damages the relationships already built between Muslim-American communities and local law enforcement across the country to combat terror by Muslim extremists.

In past weeks, Chairman King repeatedly stated that law enforcement has not received a high level of cooperation from the Muslim community. This assertion is far from true. Case in point is the district I represent in Orange County, California, where American Muslims have had an impeccable record of working hand in hand in a team effort with law enforcement agencies to keep our community safe. 

A recent study reports that four out of every ten al Qaeda terror plots in the United States have been disrupted due to American-Muslim community’s awareness and outreach to local law enforcement. This report confirms that law enforcement agencies across the country have and continue to build a productive relationship with local Muslim communities.

I am concerned that Chairman King’s hearings will increase government mistrust and weaken the counter terror cooperation that is so crucial to our homeland’s safety, jeopardizing this strong level of cooperation. International terrorism continues to be one of the gravest threats to the  United States. 

Yet, since September 11, 2001, there have been at least 78 terrorist attacks around the world which did not involve Muslim perpetrators. During the same period, there were 45 incidents connected to Islamic radicals. The lesson is clear: while radical Islamic ideology is a significant threat, it cannot be the sole focus of our security efforts. It is my hope that Chairman King broadens his focus to include radicalization among other extremist organizations.

Furthermore, targeted suspicion against a specific religious group is both unjustified and dangerous to our own interests abroad. Our relentless pursuit of terrorist organizations is certainly justified, but we must always make it perfectly clear that we are committed to friendship with the Muslim faith and community, which shares our commitment to peace and democracy. 

If we allow extremists elements to portray our efforts as a mere disguise for persecution of Islam, we will lose valuable allies and play directly into the hands of those radicals who pervert the message of Islam to further terrorist goals. If recent events in the Middle East are any indication, young people in the Middle East are revolting against decade old dictatorships and crying out for democracy and freedoms that are counter to the message of jihad. How would these individuals perceive the United States if we told them to strive for our same values- but they must prove they are not potential terrorists?

In the 1950s, the Committee on Un-American Activities was formed by the House of Representatives to investigate and ensure “the form of government guaranteed by our Constitution” would be kept unchanged and unchallenged by potential communist sympathizers in the United States. 

This was a dark time in American history, and many individuals who loved this country were hounded and unfairly labeled as un-American and un-patriotic. Fifty years later, Chairman King’s hearing on American Muslims will take place in the same hearing room where some of those proceedings were held.

Our nation faces serious threats, both foreign and domestic. The Committee on Homeland Security should focus on keeping us safe, rather than engaging in a misguided and politically charged hearing that distracts us from actual threats and characterizes one group of Americans as less American than the rest. I call on Chairman King to clarify the goals of this hearing, broaden its focus and unequivocally affirm our friendship and trust in the Muslim community.