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On Thursday, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) will hold his much-anticipated first hearing on terrorism and U.S. Muslims, or, as it’s officially titled, “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.”
In advance of the hearing, King is making the media rounds, and he made a telling comment to the New York Daily News over the weekend:
Muslims, he said, have a “misguided” belief that they were victimized by a backlash of hatred after the Sept. 11 attacks. The congressman argues the hate they feel is imagined, and Muslims need to put aside any fears they have towards official America and police.
“I think a lot of that is a self-imposed fear they have, and that seemed to put them underground, put then in a sense of non-cooperation,” King said. “I’m hoping that the hearing will bring this out, and encourage people in the Muslim community to come forward and realize that they should cooperate.”
The notion that “radicalization” hearings led by King — who has a lengthy history of making inflammatory and bogus accusations about Muslims — are going to encourage better cooperation between police and this community is a fantasy.
King is a man who has repeatedly cited the baseless “statistic” that “80 percent” of mosques in America are controlled by “radical imams.” He also once told Politico that “there are too many mosques in this country” — the type of statement that, if it had been made about a different religious group, would have ended King’s career. Meanwhile, the names of a few anti-Muslim activists have been floated as witnesses for the hearing — though the final composition of the witness list is not clear.
All of this suggests that most American Muslims will not see in King a reason to have cozier feelings about the government or law enforcement (which, the Washington Monthly recently reported, often gets bigoted and ignorant training about Islam).
Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustinMore Justin Elliott.