Why Can't Rep. Peter King Find A Somali-American Witness?

July 26, 2011 9:17 am ET — Matt Gertz

Rep. Peter King

In March, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) held a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on the American Muslim community's purported unwillingness to cooperate with law enforcement to stop Muslim radicalization. Curiously, he decided not to invite any members of the law enforcement community.

Tomorrow, King will hold a hearing on the Somalia-based terror group al-Shabaab's recruitment of Somali-American youth. King has invited one member of the Somali ex-pat community, Ahmed Hussen. He's Canadian.

Hussen may be "one of North America's most prominent and respected Somali community activists," as King says. But it's hard to imagine what he can add to a hearing whose focus is recruitment of youths here in the United States, or why King would hand-select the National President of the Canadian Somali Congress instead of, say, a leader of Minnesota's Somali community, where the bulk of the U.S. recruitment has occurred.

Unless, of course, the leaders of Minnesota's Somali-American community disapprove of King's hearings and won't give him the testimony he wants.

King's first Muslim radicalization hearing featured testimony from Abdirizak Bihi, a Minneapolis Somali-American activist whose nephew was one of the local young men recruited by al-Shabaab. But a recent Washington Post profile makes clear that Bihi, while well-meaning and passionate, lacks both followers and credibility within the community. Numerous local reports establish the fact that that many Somali leaders in the area oppose King's approach.

From the Star Tribune:

About 200 Muslim imams, community leaders and others held a rally at the Capitol Friday to protest last week's congressional hearing led by New York Republican Rep. Peter King on the radicalization of Muslims in the U.S.

Holding and waving signs that said "Muslims are not the enemy" and "Read the Quran, Mr. King," the group marched from the Masjid Dawah on University Avenue in St. Paul and arrived at the Capitol around 1 p.m.

"We're here today to show we Muslims are a peaceful people," Imam Hassan Mohamud, with the Masjid Dawah, told the group of protestors. "Are we extremists? No. Are we terrorists? No. Are we radicalists? No."

From Minnesota Public Radio:

Muslim leaders in Minnesota worry that a congressional hearing Thursday on homegrown Islamic radicalization will further divide them from the broader community and lead to a possible backlash.

Somali-Americans say they're again in the uncomfortable position of being defined by the case of the two dozen young men accused of returning to their homeland to fight with the terrorist group al-Shabab [sic].

Some activists and religious leaders also take umbrage with the Twin Cities Somali man who provided testimony about how he thinks his teen nephew was indoctrinated.

From the Twin Cities Daily Planet:

"It looks like a political move because right now, things are slowly recovering," said Abdisalam Adam, a leader of the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Minneapolis. "To replay the whole story again without any reason for it, I'm really at a loss."

At a gathering of Minnesota Muslims to watch the hearings, Lori Saroya, the president of CAIR-MN-Mn, says that her organization was never contacted by Bihi or any of the families of the missing boys. "We sympathise with him for his loss, but we are not an investigative body. Our responsibilities are to empower the Muslim community."

Other people in the group, which gathered in Minneapolis on March 10, also criticized the King hearings.

Hashi Shafi, the president of the Minnesota-based Somali Action Alliance says, "we are not denying that violent Muslims exist, but that Muslims should not be singled out for the actions of a few." Shafi went on to say that as a Muslim he denounces violence of any kind and is open to work with law enforcement should the need arise. 

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