Today, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) convenes a Congressional hearing on ‘radicalization’ within the American Muslim community. It is crucial for Americans of all races and religions to ensure that our country does not repeat the mistakes of our past.
This past February marked the 69th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 which led to the internment of over 120,000 Japanese Americans. As Asian Americans – one of us directly affected by the internment, and the other a civil rights advocate addressing the post-September 11 backlash over the past decade – Rep. King’s hearing is a stark reminder of a sad chapter in our country’s history.
When the House of Representatives convened the 112th Congress, members of both parties participated in a historic reading of the United States’ Constitution on the floor of the House chamber. Lawmakers joined together that day to honor the core tenets upon which our democracy stands and to remind ourselves and the nation of the rights given to us by our forefathers.
Only two months later, the Majority of this Congress seems to have already forgotten one of the first and most fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights-- the First Amendment right of all Americans to exercise freedom of religion.
At a time when millions of Americans are out of work, struggling to keep their homes, and facing mounting pressure from Republican cuts to local services, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) believes he’s doing the country a favor by holding a hearing today on whether American Muslims are terrorist sympathizers.
That’s his privilege as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. But by his own admission, this is not exactly the issue of the moment.
The most pressing question before Congress right now is how to fund government operations for the rest of the year. Rep. King believes his own party has failed in that regard. Here’s what he said last Sunday on CNN: “I think that a number of the cuts Republicans have made in the continuing resolution are wrong. They cut port security by two-thirds, they cut transit security by two-thirds. We cannot afford those cuts. They are too dangerous. And one attack on a subway train or one attack in one port will cost us more money going into the future years than any amount, any small amount they’re saving.”
Today, the Homeland Security Committee began hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims and the impact on national security. This is unquestionably a sensitive topic with far reaching implications. That said, the alarming upward trend in homegrown jihad-related terrorism attempts clearly shows the need for an investigation.
The prepared opening statement of Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, for the hearing entitled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response” follows:
Today's hearing will be the first in a series of hearings dealing with the critical issue of the radicalization of Muslim-Americans.
I am well aware that the announcement of these hearings has generated considerable controversy and opposition. Some of this opposition — such as from my colleague and friend Mr. Ellison has been measured and thoughtful. Other opposition — both from special interest groups and the media has ranged from disbelief to paroxysms of rage and hysteria.
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.
In the past week I have often heard variations of the question: “Why would Congress be spending its time with hearings about the attempted radicalization of American Muslim youth?"
For me, that is the wrong question. The proper inquiry is why has it taken so long for the Homeland Security Committee of the House to follow up on the hearings held by one of its subcommittees in Torrance, California in April 2007. That hearing, presided over by then Subcommittee Chair Jane Harman (D-Calif.), concentrated on the narrower issue of the attempted radicalization by Islamic Extremists in our prison population.