White House to Muslims ahead of Rep. King hearings: Terror threat 'real'

President Obama’s deputy national security adviser told a Muslim audience Sunday that the threat of homegrown terrorism is “real” and that Muslim Americans are part of the solution, not the problem.

In a lengthy speech before a Muslim community group in Virginia, Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughPhotos of the Week: Veterans Day, AstroWorld Festival memorial and COP26 protestors Defense & National Security — Biden marks Veterans Day Biden marks Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery MORE said that as U.S. defenses against al-Qaeda have strengthened, the terrorist group has turned increasingly to “attempting to recruit and radicalize people to terrorism here in the United States.”


“For a long time, many in the U.S. thought that our unique melting pot meant we were immune from this threat – this despite the history of violent extremists of all kinds in the United States,” McDonough said in a speech to the Adams Center, according to prepared remarks released by the White House. “That was false hope, and false comfort. This threat is real, and it is serious.”

He cited a handful of well-known examples of homegrown terrorism during the last two years, including the massacre at Ft. Hood and the attempted Times Square bombing.

McDonough said the administration needed to partner with Muslim communities to combat the threat, and that a crucial element of its efforts is reaching out to Muslim Americans and sending a message that they are not somehow “less American” than non-Muslims.

“We must resolve that, in our determination to protect our nation, we will not stigmatize or demonize entire communities because of the actions of a few,” McDonough said. “In the United States of America, we don’t practice guilt by association. And let’s remember that just as violence and extremism are not unique to any one faith, the responsibility to oppose ignorance and violence rests with us all.”

McDonough’s speech broadly echoed messages that Obama has repeatedly delivered as president, but the White House chose to release his remarks days before the House Homeland Security Committee is scheduled to hold a controversial hearing on the “radicalization” of the American Muslim community.

Muslim groups have denounced the inquiry as divisive and insensitive, and the committee’s chairman, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), and Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Mn.), a Muslim, debated the hearing in a Sunday appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“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 form at this time,” King said in defending his decision to hold the hearing. He compared the investigation to past probes of organized crime in the Russian, Italian and Irish communities, and he reiterated that “the overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding Americans.”

Ellison, who plans to testify at the hearing on Thursday, said that “to say we're going to investigate a religious minority, and a particular one, I think is the wrong course of action to take.”