The King Muslim Radicalization Hearings Explained

March 10, 2011 9:03 am ET — Matt Gertz

The basics: The House Homeland Security committee is conducting a hearing today on "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response."

Rep. Peter King

Who is behind the hearing? The committee's chairman, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), a longtime foil of the American Muslim community. He has said that there are "too many mosques in this country" and claimed that 85 percent of American mosques are controlled by "extremist leadership." King says that it's "absolutely insane" to oppose his hearing.

So who opposes the hearing? Dozens of religious organizations, a broad coalition of civil rights groups, at least 28 members of Congress, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), among others. They've argued that the hearing could stigmatize Muslim Americans.

Do other GOP members of the committee have a similar record of anti-Islam statements? Oh yeah. Check out our top ten list here

Is there anything else we should know about King? He's also an unrepentant supporter of the Irish Republican Army.

Wait, seriously? Yes, King became a staunch backer of the IRA in the early 1980s. He appeared at pro-IRA rallies and raised money for Noraid, an Irish-American organization that funneled money to the IRA. In recent interviews, King has excused his support for a terrorist organization by calling the IRA a "legitimate force."

Why is King conducting this hearing? He says that the hearing is a response to law enforcement "constantly telling me how little cooperation they get from Muslim leaders."

Is King calling any of those law enforcement officers to testify? No. The Democrats have called the only law enforcement witness who will testify today, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who has said that "we have as much cooperation as we are capable of acquiring" from American Muslims, and challenged King to produce evidence of his claims.

What do other law enforcement experts say? Is there any hard data on this? Experts including Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI director Robert Mueller have lauded the cooperation of Muslim Americans with law enforcement. Moreover, studies indicate that the American Muslim community has been a crucial resource in helping law enforcement to stop terrorist attacks.

Zuhdi Jasser

So if King isn't calling law enforcement witnesses, who does he want to testify? There's Dr. Zuhdi Jasser. He lacks any credentials in law enforcement or policy, but conservatives love him because he attacks Democrats and mainstream Muslim groups. He was featured in an anti-Islam documentary condemned by the NYPD as "wacky" and "inappropriate," and has been called the "one Muslim that we were all searching for after 9-11" by Glenn Beck.

Who else? Melvin Bledsoe and Abdirizak Bihi, who King describes as "relatives of people who were radicalized" who will speak on "how they were radicalized, and the lack of cooperation" from Muslim leaders. Bledsoe is the father of alleged Little Rock Army recruiting center shooter Abdulhakim Muhammad, while Bihi is the uncle of Burhan Hassan, one of a number of Minneapolis Somali American youths who were recruited by a Somali terror group.

So they're anecdotal witnesses? Yup. King isn't a big fan of data.

Do their anecdotes support King's point? Not really. Muhammad, his lawyer, and the FBI have all reportedly said he was radicalized abroad, while imprisoned in Yemen. Muhammad rarely attended mosques while living in the U.S., and the government was aware that he could be a threat without needing input from the Muslim community: he was repeatedly interviewed by the FBI following his return from Yemen. As for Bihi, the resulting investigation in Minneapolis is considered a breakthrough in law enforcement outreach to the Muslim community that the FBI is reportedly trying to replicate nationwide.

Any other witnesses? Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA). A few years ago, he killed the funding for a program designed to improve outreach between law enforcement and the Muslim community.