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Islam Representative King And The "Prislam" Hearing


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Rep. King and the “Prislam” Hearing

by Sheila Musaji

Prior to todays Threat of Muslim American Radicalization in American Prisons hearing, over 50 civil rights, faith based, Muslim, Arab, South Asian, Sikh and civic organizations, led by Muslim Advocates, came together and sent a clear message to the Committee on Homeland Security: singling out a group of Americans based on religious faith is divisive and wrong, and a distraction to real threats to our national security. These Organizations signed a letter opposing the King Hearing targeting American Muslims.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee told The Hill that “A briefing maybe; but I’m not certain about having a hearing. A briefing would be good for background purposes, but I’m not chair. I’m not certain if the testimony will reflect any nexus to terrorism in prisons. I’m convinced that there are very bad people in prisons, but in terms of an organized effort, with either domestic or international affiliations, beyond the Aryan Brotherhood and a few more … I don’t see a Muslim or an Islamic conflict in the prison system.” Meredith Shiner of Politico reports Rep. Thompson as also saying “I think it is safe to conclude that the risk of terrorism originating from Muslim converts in U.S. prisons is small. Limiting this committee’s oversight of radicalization to one religion ignores threats posed by extremists of all stripes,” Thompson said, adding that his staff consulted representatives from the Bureau of Prisons and state prison representatives across the country.

The JTA reported that

The National Jewish Democratic Council blasted what it said was a Republican “obsession” with Muslims.

An NJDC statement termed as “utterly unnecessary” a second hearing convened Wednesday by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Commitee, on Muslim radicalization.

“Taken together with examples such as Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s and Herman Cain’s deeply disturbing comments in Monday night’s debate, these hearings are a manifestation of an upsetting GOP obsession with American Muslims,” the statement said.

In the GOP presidential debate Monday, Gingrich defended proposed loyalty tests for Muslims by likening them to past loyalty tests aimed at ferreting out communists and Nazis. Cain attempted to explain past comments in which he said he would not be comfortable with including a Muslim in his Cabinet.

“Once again, King has singled out the adherents of the Muslim faith, calling into question the loyalty of an entire community,” NJDC said. “All Americans who treasure the freedom of religion should be concerned with the growing suspicion of Muslim Americans by the Republican Party, which seems to be a requirement among its 2012 contenders.”

Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) spoke out against the second in a series of hearings on radicalization in the Muslim-American community convened by Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security. This hearing is focused on “The Threat of Muslim-American Radicalization in U.S. Prisons.”

Rep. Judy Chu (CA-32), CAPAC Chairwoman:

“Singling out a group of Americans for increased scrutiny based on their religious beliefs disregards the fundamental civil rights of these communities, does nothing to improve our national security, and alienates our partners abroad. As Chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I am troubled by the fact that Rep. King is continuing to use official Congressional resources to conduct targeted hearings on radicalization focused solely on Muslim-Americans. His actions are contributing to a climate of fear and prejudice against those who are, or are perceived to be, Muslim, and this Islamophobic sentiment has already yielded unfortunate consequences. These hearings send the wrong message to the Muslim-American community and to the American people.”

Rep. Mike Honda (CA-15), CAPAC Chair Emeritus:

“There is no question that a congressional hearing, which targets an entire religion, is morally and strategically wrong-headed. First, it is un-American. This is not the America that I know and have helped build as a life-long public servant. The America that I know has always provided refuge for those fleeing persecution, from early settlers to recent refugees. The America that I know, furthermore, does not hate and discriminate base on race, religion or creed. Second, it is counterproductive. Congressman King is undermining his own objective. In hosting these hearings, King, as chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, has declared, erroneously, that the Muslim-American community does not partner actively enough prevent potential acts of violence – or in the case of prisons, extremism. Despite the offensive and fallacious nature of King’s concern, given extensive evidence that contradicts his claim, the Homeland Security chairman’s strategy makes future partnerships unpalatable. In one fell swoop of his discriminatory brush, King, in his apparent attempt to root out radicalization, marginalizes an entire American minority group, making enemies of them all.”

Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-3), CAPAC Civil Rights Taskforce Chair:

“Once again, I am greatly concerned by the tone of the hearings that the Chairman of the Homeland Security has chosen to hold. Singling out one group based on race, ethnicity, religion or national origin does nothing to better protect our country, challenges the fundamental rights of the communities that are the subject of the hearing, and serves to increase inappropriate stereotypes and misperceptions about those communities. It is my hope that Chairman King will reconsider his decision to hold another hearing that singles out Muslim Americans and will instead consider the radicalization of all groups or cancel the hearings altogether.”

Rep. Al Green (TX-9):

“We must proceed with caution as that which is done to one religion in the name of security today; can be done to any religion in the name of security tomorrow.”

Rep. David Wu (OR-1):

“I am outraged that Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King continues to hold these discriminatory hearings that single out a group of Americans solely based on religion rather than on the actual issue of radicalization. Violent extremism in America and the myriad problems within the U.S. prison system absolutely deserve congressional attention; but misguided hearings that perpetuate prejudice against a specific segment of the population have no place in Congress. Chairman King’s hearings fail to protect our country and are an affront to the constitutional ideals for which Congress should stand.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-16):

“I am deeply concerned by the Committee on Homeland Security’s decision to hold a hearing entitled ‘The Threat of Muslim-American Radicalization in U.S. Prisons.’ As with the Committee’s March hearing, ‘The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response,’ I am troubled by the narrow focus of this event, which singles out one community of Americans on the basis of their religious faith. As a former member of this committee, I understand well the importance and challenges of keeping our country safe from violent extremism, but holding hearings that foster fear and mistrust, and target Americans based on their faith, seems counterproductive to both our national security and to the beliefs that this country was founded upon.”

Rep. Pete Stark (CA-13):

“Yet again Rep. King is singling out a community for what he calls ‘homegrown terrorism;’ this time leading a hearing entitled, The Threat of Muslim-American Radicalization in U.S. Prisons. Violent extremism in our prisons may merit investigation, but only by examining such extremism in all its forms. Casting a negative light on an entire community, rather than focusing on actual dangerous fringe groups, will only strain the relationships and trust that Muslim American community leaders and local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have worked hard to develop. Muslim Americans are an integral part of our larger American society and should be treated as such, not viewed with suspicion.”
Additionally, Rep. Michael Honda wrote an article Muslim hearings recall my life in internment camp. As an American Muslim I am grateful to Rep. Honda for standing for what is right. The entire article is worth reading, but here are a few segments.

Who would have thought that my early childhood experience in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II would offer such useful insight, 65 years later, in determining the direction America is headed? In reflecting on this week’s second round of Muslim radicalization hearings, planned by New York Rep. Peter King, I feel as if a mirror is being held up to my life, giving value to lessons learned as a child.

... We know all this, and yet our country is now, within my lifetime, repeating the same mistakes from our past. The interned 4-year-old in me is crying out for a course correction so that we do not do to others what we did unjustly to countless Japanese-Americans.

This time, instead of creating an ethnic enemy, Rep. King is creating a religious enemy. Because of prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of Republican leadership, King is targeting the entire Muslim-American community. Similar to my experience, they are become increasingly marginalized and isolated by our policies.

Never mind that many were born in America and have no allegiance to their ancestors’ native homeland. Never mind that they are patriotic Americans and law-abiding citizens. Never mind that they are constructively contributing to the American economy. Regardless of all this, millions of Americans have become the new enemy, with no cause and no crime.

There is no question that a congressional hearing, which targets an entire religion, is morally and strategically wrong-headed. First, it is un-American. This is not the America that I know and have helped build as a lifelong public servant. The America that I know has always provided refuge for those fleeing persecution, from early settlers to recent refugees. The America that I know does not hate and discriminate based on race, religion or creed.

Second, it is counterproductive. King is undermining his own objective. In hosting these hearings, King, as chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, has declared, erroneously, that the Muslim-American community does not partner actively enough to prevent acts of violence—or in the case of prisons, extremism. Despite the offensive and fallacious nature of King’s concern, given extensive evidence that contradicts his claim, the Homeland Security chairman’s strategy makes future partnerships unpalatable.

In one fell swoop of his discriminatory brush, King, in his apparent attempt to root out radicalization, marginalizes an entire American minority group, making enemies of them all. To add insult to injury, King has quipped (again, speciously) that America has too many mosques and that extremists run 80 percent of them. We can only hope that Rep. King does not completely undermine all the goodwill established across this country between Muslim Americans and law enforcement officials. You can be certain that few will want to work with King going forward.

Don’t get me wrong. I support the Homeland Security Committee examining “radicalization” in this country, and in our prisons, provided it is a comprehensive review, not a discriminatory one that targets only one subgroup of America. I support the committee examining “violent extremism” in this country, including an examination of militias and the 30,000-plus gun-related deaths that happen each year. I support a committee chair that is keen to keep our homeland secure.

This is not the case with King. These hearings do little to keep our country secure and do plenty to increase prejudice, discrimination and hate. I thought we learned a lesson or two from my internment camp experience in Colorado. I hope I am not proven wrong.
Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid of the Majlis Ash-Shura of Metropolitan New York also responded to testimony made at the hearing, and submitted a statement on behalf of the Majlis to the members of Rep. King’s committee. This rebuttal statement is lengthy, but well worth reading in full as it rebuts the testimony of Patrick Dunleavy in detail. Here is the opening

Dear Chairman King:

I , Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid , have been a Muslim Chaplain in New York prisons since 1977. I am the Vice-President of the Muslim Alliance in North America, President of the Islamic Leadership Council of NY, and the imam of The Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, located in New York City. As such, I speak on behalf of their respective constituencies. I am writing with respect to the Committee on Homeland Security’s June 15, 2011 hearing entitled, “The Threat of Muslim-American Radicalization in U.S. Prisons.” In particular, I am addressing the many inaccuracies found in the written submitted testimony of witness Patrick Dunleavy. I do so in the spirit of truth, and in order to correct the public record on his assertions.

Under your leadership, The House Committee on Homeland Security has chosen, as have others bodies before it, to examine the validity of claims of radicalization of Muslims in American prisons. Most expert testimony in similar hearings has identified rare and isolated examples of these phenomena – usually associated with street gangs – as in the classic case of Jam’iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheed (the Assembly of Authentic Islam) or JIS, in New Folsom Prison, in California. The same experts have cited no evidence of broad, community-wide patterns of such criminal behavior cloaked in Islamic garb in the prisons, but all have warned of the possibility of it occurring without certain precautions.

The same can be said of the testimony of Patrick Dunleavy, Deputy Inspector General (Ret.) of the New York State Department of Correctional Services. His submitted testimony is typical of individuals in the post- 9-11 world who are or have been brought before the public in various venues, declaring expert knowledge of Islam and Muslims at home and abroad, but whose assertions belie the authenticity of their claimed expertise. Mr. Dunleavy is not an expert on Islam, Muslims, or the much-discussed idea of “radicalization,” and yet he has submitted testimony which contains a number of fallacious statements worthy of rigorous critique.

The numerous inaccuracies therein are particularly alarming when one considers that Mr. Dunleavy was once a Deputy Inspector General for the Criminal Intelligence Unit of the NYS Dept. of Correctons. His claim to awareness of “individuals and groups that subscribe to radical, and sometimes violent, ideology that have made sustained efforts over several decades to target inmates for indoctrination” and post‐release radicalization programs, is both self-serving and self aggrandizing. He is the author of a forth-coming book on the subject.
In a statement released after King’s hearing today, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said:

“Reasonable people must question why no official with the Federal Bureau of Prisons testified today at Representative King’s agenda-driven hearing. This omission is yet another reason interest in King’s show trials of the American Muslim community diminished significantly after his first hearing.

“The one witness who has conducted extensive academic research on the issue was Professor Bert Useem of Purdue University, whose research was funded by institutions affiliated with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice. In his written testimony, Useem concluded, ‘My core argument, then, is that U.S. prisons are not systematically generating a terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland.’
Stephen Prothero in an article Congressional hearings on Islam betray American values]said said

After Representative Laura Richardson (D-CA) said at today’s hearing that King’s obsession with Islamic radicalization “can be deemed racist and discriminatory,” King said that “the purpose of this Committee is to combat Islamic terrorism because that is the terrorist threat to this country.”

I disagree. I think the purpose of King’s hearings is to call into question the Americanness of U.S. Muslims by branding their religion a threat to the nation. And once again I observe that we have been here before, including in 1855 when Protestants circulated an image of Pope Pius IX crumbling the Constitution in his right hand while plunging a sceptre into an American eagle with his left.

King has said that the threat of Islamic radicalization is a “real issue.” I agree.

But the “real issue” here is not the radicalization of Islam in U.S. prisons. It is the sacrifice of American values of liberty and tolerance on the altar of anti-Islamic prejudice. More specifically, it is the abuse of the coercive power of the federal government (something conservatives used to care about) to attack one religion and one religion only.

His last hearing, held in March, on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response” was an embarrassment to the House and its Homeland Security Committee. But King apparently has no shame. Like the anti-Muslim comments that will doubtless accompany this post, he continues to give voice to the fears and hatred of Americans rather than to what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”

So it looks like these hearings will continue (King has announced a third installment for late July) until either the American public makes it clear that it will not tolerate federal attacks on particular religions or the voters of King’s Long Island district make it clear at the ballot box that they want a representative dedicated to conserving American values rather than undermining them.

In my view, neither outcome could come too soon.
Sound and Fury, but Few Facts, at Rep. King’s ‘Prislam’ Hearing by George Zornick discusses a few of the examples given at today’s hearing

“According to King, Cromitie “was radicalized in a New York State prison.” He is “not alone,” King warned. But in fact, the government has made no claim that Cromitie nor any of his co-conspirators hatched their plot in prison, nor that their prison experience contributed to their crimes. Inmates and chaplains at the New York state prison where Cromitie was incarcerated said he did not take part in any of the Islamic prayer meetings.

... King was equally dishonest when he invoked the case of Jose Padilla, who was convicted of trying to set off a radioactive bomb in the United States. King’s version of events, as described in his opening statement, is that Padilla “converted to Islam in a Florida jail,” and that “while on the inside, Padilla met a fellow inmate who led him to a radical mosque.”

In reality, the Broward County Sheriff said at the time there was no record of Padilla requesting to meet with an imam, attending Islamic classes, or requesting a name change while incarcerated there. A family friend told CNN that he converted to Islam after he married a Muslim woman in 1996 and moved to the Middle East.

King failed to prove statistically or even anecdotally that Islamic radicalization in prisons is a serious problem worthy of a high-profile Congressional hearing. And even if King were right, it would be odd focus solely on that brand of recruitment and not also on the well-documented problem of white supremacist groups who also recruit and radicalize inmates to commit crimes, along with similar efforts by violent street gangs. Several Democrats made this point during the hearing, but were sharply dismissed by Republican colleagues. “The political correctness in this room is astounding,” scolded Representative Dan Lungren

... Bluster in Congress about terror policies also has real-world effects on law enforcement. When the Department of Homeland Security issued an assessment of domestic terrorism threats, and specifically right-wing extremists, Republicans in Congress were enraged. King himself said DHS should instead “be targeting mosques.” King’s rhetoric was highly effective—DHS dismantled the unit investigating non-Islamic domestic terrorism in the wake of Republican outcry.
It is not only American Muslims who have a problem with the singling out of one religious minority as the focus of these hearings. However, Rep. King has called the objections to his singular focus examples of “mindless hysteria”.

This past month, we have seen examples of genuine mindless hysteria and paranoia which is where all of this Muslim bashing leads. Eleana Benador thinks that the marriage of Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin is an example of a Muslim agenda to marry off attractive Muslim women to politicians. David Yerushalmi and Mordechai Kedar of the Mapping Sharia Project published a new report on American Mosques and violence which lists such characteristics as which wrist a man wears his watch, and keeping straight prayer lines (so people don’t bump into each other) as being examples of Sharia compliant behaviors. We have seen GOP Presidential candidates at the New Hampshire debate publically suggest that there should be a loyalty test for American Muslims and that all Muslims should be suspect until they prove their loyalty and they deserve higher scrutiny, like Communists or Nazis. And of course, the infamous Can a Good Muslim Be a Good American? email is going around again, along with all the other What everyone “knows” claims about Islam and Muslims.

I wrote an article some time ago The GOP Anti-Muslim Limbo: How Low Can They Go? I sincerely hope that they have reached bottom.

Peter King can claim that this is not an attack on the entire Muslim community, as he seemed to do in this statement ”“I have repeatedly said the overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans are outstanding Americans”…“Yet, the first radicalization hearing which this committee held in March of this year was met with much mindless hysteria — led by radical groups such as the Council of Islamic Relations and their allies in the liberal media personified by the New York Times.” But, I for one have a hard time believing him. This seems to me to be an attack on Islam and Muslims.

All of this is becoming more frightening every day.



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