House committee holds hearings on American Muslim response to its prior hearings on domestic radicalization

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

Yesterday [20 June 2012], the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, chaired by Rep. Peter King, held hearings on The American Muslim Response to Hearings on Radicalization within their Community. The committee’s website makes available a video of the hearing plus transcripts of all the witnesses’ statements. This was the fifth in a series of controversial hearing chaired by Rep. King, and the committee yesterday also released a report (full text) on its findings from the first four hearings. Here is an excerpt from the Executive Summary:

… [T]he Committee held four investigative hearings since 2011 to examine the threat of violent radicalization emanating from within the Muslim-American community, where a small but potentially lethal percentage of that population has plotted severe mass casualty attacks against our homeland.

This is no phantom threat. It shares no equivalency with threats posed by other domestic terrorists who have no foreign ties or any demonstrated capability of organizing themselves for spectacular attacks the homeland.

Only one of the four witnesses appearing before the Committee took serious issue with its findings. Faiza Patel, Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security Program of the Brennan Center for Justice, said in her testimony:

Terrorism is a serious threat to our country. Our response must be equally serious and must be driven by evidence, not assumptions and stereotypes. But this Committee’s recent hearings on radicalization do not, in my view, rest on a firm factual basis. They proceed from a premise – which is contrary to empirical evidence – that “radicalization” is prevalent among American Muslims and poses an existential threat to our country. Moreover, they adopt a view of “radicalization” that treats religious belief as a precursor to terrorism.

These empirically flawed assumptions, when given the imprimatur of a Congressional hearing, have concrete negative impacts. They undermine our safety by alienating the very communities who have helped law enforcement uncover and foil attempts at terrorism.