National Focus on Muslim Radicalization Debate
Lawmaker contends Muslims in America aren’t cooperating enough with law enforcement
NEW YORK — The White House on Sunday praised American Muslims for helping fight violent extremism, but a House leader on terrorism issues said they aren’t cooperating enough with law enforcement to counter the radicalization of young followers by al-Qaida-linked groups.
Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough, speaking at an interfaith forum at a Northern Virginia mosque, commended its members for taking “an unequivocal stand against terrorism.”
“You’ve sent a message that those who perpetrate such horrific attacks do not represent you or your faith, and that they will not succeed in pitting believers of different faiths against one another,” McDonough said.
But Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, re-asserted warnings about al-Qaida terrorists targeting Muslim youth in this country.
“The overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding Americans, but at this stage in our history there’s an effort … to radicalize elements within the Muslim community,” he said in a preview of his hearing Thursday on the extent of the problem and the Muslim community’s response.
“It’s there and that’s where the threat is coming from at this time,” King said in an interview broadcast Sunday.
“I don’t believe there is sufficient cooperation” by American Muslims with law enforcement, King said. “Certainly my dealings with the police in New York and FBI and others say they do not believe they get the same — they do not give the level of cooperation that they need.”
In New York City, some 300 people gathered in Times Square to speak out against the hearing, criticizing it as xenophobic and saying that singling out Muslims, rather than extremists, is unfair.
Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and the imam who had led an effort to build an Islamic center near the World Trade Center site were among those who addressed the crowd.
“Our real enemy is not Islam or Muslims,” said the imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf. “The enemy is extremism and radicalism and radical ideology.”
Speakers at the cold and drizzly Times Square rally said King was targeting Muslims unfairly.
“American Muslims are as fully American as any other faith community,” said Rabbi Marc Schneier, founder of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. Singling out Muslim Americans “as the source of homegrown terrorism” is an injustice, he said.
Democratic Congressman Andre Carson of Indiana, one of two Muslims in Congress, said he wanted to say “to the Peter Kings of the world: We will not take your xenophobic behavior.”
Imam Shamsi Ali, the leader of the Islamic Cultural Center on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, said, “We are here today because we love this country. We are here today because we want to see America remain the most powerful and the most beautiful country in the world.”
Simmons promised “to make sure that this rally is taken to the next generation and to a new age” by enlisting entertainers and sports figures to tweet about it, including Kim Kardashian, who tweeted Sunday that she stood with Simmons in “promoting love and compassion.”
A smaller group rallied a few blocks away in support of King’s hearings.
Beth Gilinsky of the Jewish Action Alliance heaped scorn on the Times Square rally’s slogan, “Today I am a Muslim too,” and referenced Rauf, who was given a reduced role in the Islamic center project this year because he had other commitments.
“I want to tell Imam Rauf and Imam Shamsi Ali and all of the rest of them up there that I am not a Muslim today,” Gilinsky said. “Yesterday I wasn’t a Muslim. Today I’m not a Muslim. I’m not going to be a Muslim for even 24 hours, Imam Rauf, and I’m not going to be a Muslim tomorrow. You will not convert me.”
The administration has tried to strike a balance on the thorny issue, working to go after homegrown Islamic extremists without appearing to be at war with the Muslim world. There has been an effort to build stronger relationships with Muslims — internationally and with Islamic leaders in the United States.
At the same time, however, militant Islamic propaganda has factored into recent terrorist attacks and foiled attempts in this country.
Maj. Nidal Hasan, the suspect in 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, is believed to have been inspired by the Internet postings of violent Islamic extremists, as was Faisal Shahzad, who pleaded guilty to terrorism and weapons charges in the attempted car bombing in New York’s Times Square.
The first Muslim elected to the House, Rep. Keith Ellison, said that while it’s proper to investigate radicalization, he thinks it is wrong to single out one religion.
“To say we’re going to investigate a religious minority, and a particular one, I think is the wrong course of action to take,” said Ellison, D-Minn. “I don’t want them to be able to stand up and claim, you know, see, we told you, America is at war with Islam. That’s one of their main recruiting arguments.”
Ellison said Congress needs to be careful about how it addresses the issue in investigative hearings. Appearing with King on CNN’s “State of the Union,” he said it makes sense to speak with people in the Muslim community about efforts by extremists such as radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki to encourage Muslims to wage attacks against the U.S.
But Ellison argued that Muslim-Americans have worked with authorities to report suspected terrorists within their community. It’s important, he said, to engage Muslims, not frighten them. article source