Peter King’s Hearing: What Was the Point?

Peter King’s Hearing: What Was the Point?

by Sheila Musaji

Yesterday I watched a Congressional Hearing called “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.” 

This hearing has been planned for months, raised serious concerns within the American Muslim community, and created a firestorm of controversy before any testimony had been heard.

At the end of the day, there were no actual hard facts that were brought out.  The only witness that had any hard facts was Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.  What we heard were emotional personal stories, opinions, allegations, stereotypes, and innuendo.

There were no law enforcement officers other than Baca, no sociologists, or psychologists, or criminologists, or experts of any kind.  There were no representatives of national American Muslim organizations, or scholars of Islam.

No professional studies or reports were brought forward.  This was pure political and ideological theater, and it was at the expense of the American Muslim community.

We heard personal stories from two family members of individuals who had been radicalized.  Abdirizak Bihi, a Somali American Minnesota said that religious leaders in his local community had discouraged him from going to the authorities with his suspicions.  Melvin Bledsoe from Tennessee blamed the local Muslim community in Nashville for radicalizing his son and the FBI for not warning the family that they were suspicious of his son’s activities.  These were emotional accounts from grieving families, but they did not provide any useful information that might be generalized to the entire Muslim community. 

In fact, Bledsoe’s concern that such things as taking pictures off the wall or no longer wanting to keep a dog, or interest in going on hajj are signs of radicalization is the sort of inaccurate information that just muddies up the water.  And, Zuhdi Jasser’s remarkable statement that encouraging Muslims to have an attorney present when they speak to law enforcement is enabling “political Islam” showed the level of his expertise.  Fortunately Rep. Sanchez corrected him about this important right of all citizens.

We heard from Rep. Cravaack that CAIR was a terrorist organization. (CAIR has a response to this here.) We heard from Rep. Duncan that there was a “threat of Sharia law to the U.S. constitution.”  We heard from Rep. Lungren that there is an equivalency between the American Muslim community and the KKK, militias, or Nazi’s.  We heard from Rep. McCaul that our enemy “is radical Islam”.  And, at the end of the hearing we heard from Rep. Marino that “I have many friends who are Muslims”

We heard from Abdirizak Bihi about some particular religious leaders in Minnesota.  We heard from Melvin Bledsoe about a particular mosque and individuals in Nashville.

These are allegations about individuals, and if there is any evidence of actual wrong doing, then legal proceedings should be brought against those individuals.  If Rep. Cravaack has evidence of his allegations then he ought to bring that to the FBI.  Either way, a Congressional hearing is not the place to air unsubstantiated allegations and personal prejudices.

I was absolutely opposed to these hearings because of their premise (evident in the title itself), focus on one religious community, and what I saw as the very real possibility that this would increase the current climate of Islamophobia in the country.  Since the hearings were going to take place, I did hope that at least we might get answers to some questions that might help to make us safer. 

For example:  - How many Muslims are there in the U.S.?  -  How many mosques?  -  How many violent acts have been carried out by Muslims?  -  How does that compare to violent acts carried out by anyone? - Is the Muslim community any more prone than other communities to radicalization? -  What are the primary methods being used to radicalize young people? - Are there particular techniques most often used?  -  What are the early warning signs of radicalization? -  What are the most effective strategies that have been developed to counter radicalization?  -  What are the root causes of radicalization?  -  Has the American Muslim community cooperated with law enforcement?  -  Has the American Muslim community developed any effective strategies to counter radicalization?  -  Is there any evidence that Muslims are more prone than others to radicalization?  -  Is there any evidence about the number of “radical” mosques -  Is there any more the American Muslim community or law enforcement could do?  -  Is there any evidence of any of the claims that were made prior to these hearings? 

Not a single one of my questions was answered in this hearing. 

What I did learn from this hearing, and the hype leading up to it, is that there is a lot of bigotry out there.  The only positive outcome was that the American Muslim community learned who among our elected representatives see us as aliens and who see us as fellow citizens. 

At the end of the day, a lot of the taxpayers money was spent, the American Muslim community was put through an emotional wringer and unfairly maligned and alienated, we’ve learned nothing useful in countering radicalization, bigotry has been validated and given a Congressional stamp of approval, and al Qaeda was given another propaganda tool to use in it’s “war against Islam” narrative.

It will be interesting to watch the reaction to this hearing over the next few weeks and see what the Islamophobes got out of it.  It will also be interesting to watch the reaction to these hearings overseas.

Good job Rep. King. 


Peter King’s Civics Lesson for American Muslims (includes many bigoted quotes from elected representatives and government officials about Islam and Muslims) **

The American Muslim Community and Rep. Peter King’s “Islamic” Radicalization Hearings (which has a great deal of background on Peter King and these hearings, and an extensive article collection **

Elected Representatives & Government Officials Who HAVE Questioned Islamophobia (with positive quotes about the American Muslim community from todays hearings and prior to the hearings) **




The 6 dumbest things said at Rep. Peter King’s Muslim radicalization hearing, Sahil Kapur
CAIR-Less: Peter King’s mega-hyped hearing on radicalization of American Muslims avoided his biggest targets,  David Weigel
Domestic Terrorism Hearing Opens With Contrasting Views on Dangers (bi-partisan split)
Fear Thy Neighbor on Chris Matthews’ Hardball VIDEO
The Hooey King, Eugene Robinson
Peter King caught falsely denying having said ‘we have too many mosques’ (with video of both statements)
King “Convinced” That Muslim Radicalization Hearings Were A Good Idea
The King hearings: Is CAIR a ‘terrorist organization’?,  Glenn Kessler
King hearings: Was anything accomplished? (with Poll),  Rachel Weiner
Peter King Is Not Sorry (for his support of the IRA), Michael Moynihan
Peter King’s Muslim hearing: Plenty of drama, less substance
Pete King’s Muslim hearings turned out to be relatively sane—thanks to pressure from left, Adam Serwer
Peter King’s Subversive Fantasy, Wajahat Ali
Muslim-Bait and Switch, William Saletan
Muslims on Capitol Hill Find Hearings Dispiriting, Samuel Freedman
The questions Peter King should have asked,  Faiza Patel
Rep. Frank Wolf, Witness In Peter King Hearing On “Radicalization,” Helped Kill Effective Counterterrorism Program


Rep. Peter King’s hearing “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.” took place on March 10, 2011. 

TAM has an article The American Muslim Community and Rep. Peter King’s “Islamic” Radicalization Hearings which has a great deal of background on Peter King and these hearings, and an extensive article collection.  We also have a series of articles breaking down various aspects of the hearings:
Peter King’s Hearing: What Was the Point? discussing the content of the hearings, with a collection of articles written after the hearing ended. 
Peter King’s Civics Lesson for American Muslims which has a collection of anti-Muslim statements by elected representatives and government officials made during and before the hearings. 
Existing reports and studies on radicalization in the American Muslim Community and Polls, Surveys, and Statistics Relating to Islam and Muslims  with actual hard evidence so lacking in the hearing. 
Response of Civic Organizations and Interfaith Community to “Muslim Radicalization” Hearings  
Elected Representatives & Government Officials Who HAVE Questioned Islamophobia with quotes from elected representives and government officials attempting to counter the bias of this hearing both during and before the hearing. 
- Peter King’s hearing: witness testimonies - allegations but no facts
- Zuhdi Jasser and AIFD - Identified by Rep. King as the Ideal American Muslim Leadership
- Does Rep. King’s IRA/Terrorist Connection Matter?
Answers to Peter King’s Claims About the American Muslim Community which lays out all of his claims and allegations and provides detailed answers to each.  (e.g. Do Muslims cooperate with law enforcement?  Do Muslims speak out against terrorism and extremism?  Are most Muslims terrorists?  Are 80 to 85% of mosques run by radicals?  Have American Muslim organizations responded to the issue of radicalization?  Are mosques the source of radicalization?  etc.)
- The scope of Rep. Kings Hearings Creates Homeland “in"Security

All of these articles will be updated as further information comes in, and there will be more articles in this series.