By Michelle Boorstein
For years, Congressman Peter King’s rhetoric has provoked anger among Muslims in his district. Marvin Joseph / Washington Post
Long Island Congressman Peter King’s plans to hold a hearing about domestic Muslim radicals are attracting more attention, even as the nuts and bolts of the hearings – including who King will even call to testify – remain a mystery.
Eighty faith leaders and activists from Long Island released a letter Thursday urging King to cancel the hearings, saying that singling out one faith group “undermines fundamental American values and is counterproductive to improving national security.”
The letter follows the release Wednesday of a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute showing that a majority – 56 percent – of Americans think the hearing is a good idea. The poll shows how strongly political affiliation and faith identity influence Americans’ beliefs on the subject. Republicans, white evangelicals and Fox News-watchers are strongly in favor of the hearing.
A larger chunk of respondents – 72 percent – said Congress should investigate religious extremism “anywhere it exists in the U.S. and not just focus on the American Muslim community.”
For perspective, 93 percent of people who responded to the poll said they’d heard little (28 percent) or nothing at all (65 percent) about the King plan.
King’s office finally confirmed to me Thursday that there will be a hearing on March 10, but days of reporting has made it appear that a lot of this is still being formulated.
King told the Washington Post Thursday:
“In December, when I was elected Chairman for the 112th Congress, I issued a statement highlighting my top priorities, followed by my Newsday op-ed, in which I made clear my intention to hold hearings on radicalization of the American Muslim community and homegrown terrorism. On March 10, I expect to convene the first hearing. While the witness list has not been finalized, we have interviewed dozens of prospective witnesses. One definite witness will be Dr. Zuhdi Jasser. I have also invited a number of Congressmen to testify including Rep. Keith Ellison. The other witnesses should be determined within the next two weeks.”
Earlier this month King said he had changed his mind and will call only Muslims to testify, and as of today King’s office said the list wasn’t set. However, Phoenix doctor Zuhdi Jasser and Congressman Keith Ellison – both Muslim – said they had been invited. Walid Phares, a commentator and author on extremism, is reportedly also going to be speaking.
The hearing is reportedly going to explore King’s assertion that the Muslim American community does not cooperate with law enforcement, but so far it’s not clear if he will call anyone from the law enforcement community. Major Muslim-American organizations initially appeared to be outside the process but now it seems there are some behind-the-scenes talks going on.
Hearings take place every day on Capitol Hill, most to no impact. Do you think these will be impactful? And if so, in what ways?