Terror hearing draws strong local criticism

March 10, 2011 7:02:25 PM PST
The House Committee on Homeland Security began looking at the alleged radicalization of American Muslims in a very controversial hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday.

The committee's chairman, New York Republican Peter King, believes American Muslims are being radicalized by al Qaeda via the Internet and that a significant number of young American Muslim men could represent a threat to the nation.

King began the hearing saying the overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans are outstanding citizens, but there are realities the country cannot afford ignore.

"For instance, the Pew poll that said the 15 percent of Muslim-American men between the age of 18 and 29 could support suicide bombings. This is a segment of the community al Qaeda is attempting to recruit," he said.

He added that Islamic organizations in the United States are not doing enough to combat terrorism. He pointed to a poster from a website of the Bay Area Chapter of CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations.

"Responsible Muslim-American leaders must reject discredited groups such as CAIR," said King.

"We're saying don't talk to the FBI without an attorney. We're saying don't talk to the FBI without knowing your rights," said Zahra Billoo, executive director of CAIR's Bay Area chapter. "But also, that poster was taken off the CAIR website because we were concerned that it was in conflict with our policy of constitutionally informed cooperation."

Bay Area Congresswoman Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, told the committee the hearings should take a broader view.

"If we're really going to be complete in this hearing, we should also be investigating the Army of God and their website in which they openly praised Christian terrorists as part of an effort to look at homegrown terrorism in this country," said Speier.

In a heavily Muslim-American neighborhood in Fremont, the hearings in Washington, D.C. are drawing criticism.

"We are not the visitor. We have to live and die in here so we support, nobody likes to ruin their own houses," said Mohammed Majeed of the Taqwa Islamic Center. "Why would you?"

One store owner said the hearings are more about politics than terrorism.

"They want to show their patriotism by bashing Muslims and by creating fear," said Mashi Jalala of Valco Superstore.

ABC7 political analyst Bruce Cain says Republicans are making a risky play.

"It could work against them if it becomes part of a pattern of intolerance linked with their positions on immigration and it mobilizes non-white communities across the country as it did in 2008," said Cain.

King promises this is just the first in a series of hearings on the same topic. But if public opinion goes the other way, don't bet on it.


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