WASHINGTON, D.C. – From the very start of his hearing on home-grown Islamic terrorism, Long Island Congressman Peter King was on the defensive.
“I remain convinced that these hearings must go forward and they will. To back down would be a craven surrender to political correctness and an abdication of what I believe to be the main responsibility of this committee: To protect America from a terrorist attack,” said Rep. King (R).
Critics say it is wrong – and potentially dangerous – for King to single out a specific religious community for investigation. Indeed, much of the hearing was dominated by debate about whether the hearing should have taken place at all.
“A Muslim is on this panel, a Muslim has testified. And so I question, where are the uncooperative Muslims?” asked Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, (D) Texas.
Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who is Muslim, broke down when talking about a young Muslim first responder who was killed on September 11th. Ellison said initially there was speculation the man was involved in the attack, but later his name was cleared.
“Mohammed Salman Hamdani, was a fellow American who gave his life for other Americans,” said Rep. Ellison (D).
The father of a man who converted to Islam and was charged with killing an Army private in Arkansas says he doesn't think Americans are doing anything to combat radical Islamic extremists at home.
“This is a big elephant in the room. Our society continues not to see it,” said Melvin Bledsoe.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca said that in his experience, Muslim Americans are willing to help law enforcement.
King lashed out at the media after the hearing, saying they are blame for what he says was mindless hysteria surrounding the hearings for the last few weeks.
“The hysteria and madness leading up to this hearing did nobody much good. It certainly didn't reflect well on those reporting it,” said Rep. King.
The Homeland Security Committee is expected to hold additional hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims in the coming months, and like this first one, they are sure to be the subject of some strong debate.