Are Peter King’s Hearings ‘Un-American?’

Jewish religious leaders rap congressional session on radical Islam in U.S.; lawmaker says infiltration threat is real.

02/15/11
Staff Writer
Photo Galleria: 
Rep. Peter King: ‘I don’t have the luxury of feel-good politics.’
Rep. Peter King: ‘I don’t have the luxury of feel-good politics.’

Planned congressional hearings next month exploring the efforts of al Qaeda to recruit Muslims in the United States for terrorist attacks here have sparked widespread criticism among religious leaders, including several Jewish leaders.

“These hearings should be broadened to deal with religious extremism in different communities,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. “But having begun the conversation saying there is an inherent link between Islam per se and terrorism is not helpful to religious tolerance in America, America’s strategic interests or the valid questions that have to be raised.”

Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and a vice president of the World Jewish Congress, said he understood that Muslims are the only ones being invited to testify.

“I find that un-American,” he said. “We have a tradition in this country of bridge building, of ethnic and interfaith alliances, and about one group fighting for the other. It’s not about one community being under attack and having to fight that battle alone. …“Those of us who are actively engaged with the American Muslim community will not have the opportunity to speak out in defense of our brothers and sisters in the Muslim world, and that I find extremely disappointing. The tenor of these hearings will result in greater fear and misunderstanding of the American Muslim community. They need to be tempered by faith leaders extolling the virtues of American Muslims the overwhelming majority of whom are as committed and as dedicated to our country as any other faith community.”

Rep. Peter King (R-L.I.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, which will conduct the hearings, told The Jewish Week that the committee’s objective “is not to demonize the Muslim community but to attempt to find out the extent to which the enemy has infiltrated the community.”

He pointed out that al Qaeda is at war with the United States and “made a conscious decision” to recruit Muslims here.

“They can’t attack from outside, so they are recruiting people under the radar screen,” he explained. “They bring some to Afghanistan for training, and others never leave the country. …[Attorney General] Eric Holder said he can’t sleep at night knowing the large number of young Muslim men willing to take up arms against their country. This is a war-and-peace issue with an enemy who is being recruited in our own country.”

He insisted that were al Qaeda recruiting any other group — be they Jews, Hindus or Irish Catholics — he would have the same hearings with that group in the witness chair. Although the witness list is still being prepared, King said he expected “primarily Muslims” in the first panel.

“There will be Muslims and Arabs, and maybe a witness who is not,” he said. “We’re putting the witness list together, and there will be people with different experiences. This will be a series of hearings that could be a month or two apart; it depends on the issues raised.”

Rabbi Nancy Kreimer, director of Multi-faith Studies at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, said that although she did not know details of the hearing, it doesn’t pass the smell test.

“It doesn’t work to take a particular group of people and put them under a slide and say, ‘You people are likely to be such and such,’” she said. “It reminds me of the red-baiting in the ‘50s, and of an unofficial assumption that a group of people were likely to be that way and think that way. It’s a bad path to go down. And when it is said that [the committee] will be looking into American Muslims who are being recruited by [al Qaeda], it puts a shadow over them and leads other people to be suspicious of them simply because they are Muslim. We all know this doesn’t smell right — that there are probably better ways to go about it.”

Rabbis Kreimer, Schneier and Saperstein are all members of Shoulder to Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims, Upholding American Values. The group, composed of 21 religious groups, was founded last August and gained support in response to protests over plans to build a Muslim community center near Ground Zero and the aborted plans of a Florida preacher to burn the Koran.

The other Jewish member of the group, Rabbi Burton Visotsky, is director of the Louis Finkelstein Institute, the organization at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary that is involved in inter-group activities.

“Given the climate in the U.S., we felt it important to stand with our colleagues,” he said.

Rabbi Visotsky said the proposed hearings “are of deep concern to me because I don’t think it is the place of the U.S. Congress to be singling out a specific religious group and targeting them with concern about terrorism. I don’t like it any more than if Congress were to investigate the Jewish community for dual loyalty with Israel; it’s inappropriate.”

“We have the First Amendment,” he continued. “Congress is enjoined from making any law against the free exercise of religion. Terrorism is one thing, but religion is not in its purview.”

But King insisted that Rabbi Visotsky has it wrong.

“If we were at war with an international Jewish terrorist group and it was recruiting Jews in the United States, we’d look at Jews to see who was cooperating,” King said. “People can’t hide behind a religion. We’re not investigating anyone because of religion. … We’re targeting the group that the threat is coming from. This is life or death we’re talking about.”

Mohamed Elsanousi, director of community outreach for the Islamic Society of North America, an umbrella group of Muslim individuals and groups, said that his organization has not been asked to testify and that “putting the entire Muslim community under a cloud of suspicion is not the American way.”

“There is no question we would love to cooperate with the committee to keep and make our country safe and secure,” he added. “I’m not opposed to investigating terrorism. We are not against the hearing, but we want to address these issues together as an inter-religious community. The real issue here is that we need to be united to protect our nation. We don’t want to single out only the Muslim community.”

Earlier this month, a group of primarily Arab and Muslim organizations sent a letter to the leadership of the House of Representatives to express concern about the upcoming hearing and saying they “hearken back to hearings held in the 1950s by then-U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy.”

“In the course of justifying the focus of the hearings, Chairman King has made broad and unsubstantiated assertions about the American Muslim community,” it said. “For example, he continues to perpetuate the myth that 80 percent of mosques in America are run by extremists, implying that they are hotbeds of extremism. To the contrary, experts have concluded that mosque attendance is a significant factor in the prevention of extremism.

“In addition, during a recent interview, Chairman King made a statement insinuating that American Muslims are not American: ‘When a war begins, we’re all Americans. But in this case, this is not the situation. And whether it’s pressure, whether it’s cultural tradition, whatever, the fact is the Muslim community does not cooperate anywhere near to the extent that it should. The irony is that we’re living in two different worlds.’

“If Chairman King is suggesting that American Muslims are somehow less American — simply by virtue of their faith — then that is an affront to all Americans. … The hearings should
proceed from a clear understanding that individuals are responsible for
their actions, not entire communities.”

At a recent meeting of the newly formed Manhattan Government Relations Committee of UJA-Federation of New York, King spoke about the need for constant vigilance to guard against the threat of Islamic terrorism worldwide. And he said the city, Long Island and Westchester are the biggest targets for Islamic terrorism.


“The threat is real,” he said. “We can’t protect everyone everywhere, so we should go where the greatest threat is.”

He said his priority would be to make sure that security grants are allocated to those with the greatest need, including New York and Jewish groups.

Visotsky said he rejected King’s “characterization of terrorism as Islamic.”

“Terrorism is real, and some terrorists are Muslim and some are not,” he said. “When he makes it sound like terrorism is a tenet of Islam, that is wrong. It’s inappropriate to damn an entire religion of more than one billion people for the acts of crazy terrorists who pretend to speak in the name of that religion.”

King insisted he is not doing that, but he pointed out that in the last two years the FBI has arrested “53 homegrown terrorists … and all have been living here legally. They were either born here or immigrated here.”

Rabbi Schneier said the hearings should be “broadened in such a way that other ethnic communities and faith communities can attest to the tremendous contribution and solidarity that American Muslims have for our country.”

But King rebuffed that suggestion, saying: “We live in the real world. I don’t have the luxury of feel-good politics and everyone saying love one another when people out there are trying to kill us.”

Last Update:

03/11/2011 - 09:01

Comment Guidelines

The Jewish Week feels comments create a valuable conversation and wants to feature your thoughts on our website. To make everyone feel welcome, we won't publish comments that are profane, irrelevant, promotional or make personal attacks.

I am amazed. The democrats/unionists are stating the new legislation was “pushed” through. And making other such accusations, that is, implying it was hurried through in the middle of night. This has been going on for weeks and headlined in the national news.
The Wisconsin state capitol is the forum for conducting the state business of Wisconsin. A large number of the democrats LEFT THE STATE. They choose not participate in the functions of Wisconsin state government. They failed to represent their constituents; they ran from their state and from their duties.
Representative King is doing the right thing. How did an intelligent man like him get elected in New York? All of the 9/11 terrorists were Moslem extremists (not to mention other similar incidents). Would this lead a thinking person to possibly conclude that the issue of Moslem extremism should be investigated?
Some idiot on the news was complaining that the Klu Klux Klan was not being investigated in the same congressional hearing. That would make as much sense as including the Black Panthers. Instead, why not pursue the obvious – just like King is doing.
Let’s see, 5 banks have been robbed. The robber was identified each time as a 6 ft., 200 lb., white male. Does it make sense to look for a 6 ft., 200 lb. white male? Would that be unreasonable? Would looking for Moslem males make any sense?
The 9/11 Commission stated it was not a matter of when terrorists set off a nuclear device in the United States – it was a matter of when. I, for one, am thankful for Congressman King’s investigation.

King is really stubborn and small minded and cannot do this subject justice. It will be counter productive to security. Jewish groups need to do better than Shoulder to SHoulder and certainly better than paranoid groups like ADL and truly engage Muslims in funded programs that share resources and support with Muslim leadership hungry for inclusion in this nation. THere has been some great groundwork but so many of the funders keep a distance and this maintains a power imbalance with Jews perceived as holding all the cards

There are 9 letters in the word MANHATTAN and 11 letters in the name MOHAMED ATTA and the name ATTA is in the word manhATTAn and when the world looks at the word manh-ATTA-n , the world will always REMEMBER the name ATTA and what ATTA did to manhATTAn and The Twin Towers on 9-11-01.
c2001 by the Luba divination artist Mr. Eele
Note: Mohamed Atta was the first pilot to crash a stolen airplane into the twin towers on 9-11-01.

The Luba Memory Board ( 36x 48 inch, oil on canvas painting) titled:"The Atta Page" was copyrighted, divined and painted by. Luba Divination Artist Mr. Eele BEFORE 9-11-01.

NOTE: "The Atta Page" is the only painting (Luba Memory Board) of it's kind worldwide.

Luba Divination Art can be viewed at The Met Museum in NYC and Mr. Eele and his Luba divination art was first written about and published by artist and NYSCA head Danny Simmons in Russell Simmons "One World" magazine in 2001.

Rep.King has never heard of this type of "advanced artistic technology" and he has no idea that any of this is in NYC museums and art galleries.
But his tax dollars pays for Luba divination art to sit in NYC museums.

There's a lot Rep.King and the rest of the political leadership in NYC doesn't know.
"Divination Art" is a solution to many of NYC's problems, but we doubt if Rep.King or any of NYC's political leadership would see it that way.

As a Jewish scholar of Islamic architecture, I find myself disturbingly "on the fence" on this issue. Clearly King is anti-Muslim and should be reviled as such.

However Rabbi, if the hearings are presented as being on the role of RADICAL Islam in relation to the internal safety of this country, I'm afraid he has every right as well as logic on his side. RADICAL Islam in our times is correctly equated with a call to VIOLENCE. It goes way beyond verbal intolerance. (It is not unlike RADICAL anti-abortionists who kill or support the killings of doctors and the bombing of clinics. Congress should hold investigative hearings on them as well.)

But as good Americans we should closely monitor these King hearings and turn out in outrage against even a whiff of bias against Muslim Americans as a group. Let's call King's office and put him on notice.

Read my blog post on King's hearings at http://www.davidemcclean.us/116.html
“To bigotry no sanction, to persecution, no assistance.” “May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. ...” -- Washington's letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, RI, August 17, 1790. Peter King is betraying these sacred commitments. So we urge everyone to call Congressman King's Washington office on TUESDAY, FEB. 22, at 202/225-7896. If you can't get through there, call his home office on Long Island, NY, at 516/541-4225. Tell whoever answers the phone that you want to register your opinion about the hearings in which he plans to revile Islam in America. Identify yourself and when they ask for your views, or if you are put on voicemail, just read them George Washington's words above. Let Freedom Ring! Why do this now? Tuesday is George Washington's birthday. Though -- ignobly ---- he owned slaves, he also left some noble legacies to American freedom. Among the noblest was the words above, written to the "Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island," which had written him to ask what role Jews would have under the new Constitution. Congressman King has called hearings to begin March 7 on the role of Islam in America. He has already stated that there are too many mosques in America and that 80% of American mosques are led by "radical imams." He is doing precisely what Washington promised would not happen: he is sanctioning bigotry and assisting persecution toward the Muslim community who, like Jews, are of the "stock of Abraham." That is why we are asking you to call his office TUESDAY. Let freedom ring his phone! And we encourage you to share this message from The Shalom Center with your friends, co-workers, and fellow-congregants. Shalom, Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Arty, you have a deep ambivalence about your Hebrew background. I remember you standing over on Warren Street.....supporting a Mosque no one believed would be built. All you are is one of those obseqious court Jews. Nothing more, so, Arty, I know they would knock you off no matter how much you wring your hands and tell them you are really not a Jew....Augie

Let the hearings determine if indeed "80% of American mosques are led by "radical imams."

If it is not true then the hearings and evidence will show it.

If it is true then there is something that needs to be done - since we already have had many Islamic terrorists in the US such as the Fort Hood shooter, the Times Square bomber etc. and "radical imams' will mean we are likely to have more. This is a real danger which is what Homeland Security should address before there is more killing.

So let there be an investigation and may the truth be revealed.

To be named an "unindicted co-conspirator" means that even the Bush Dept of "Justice" could find no evidence against CAIR that a grand jury (notoriously susceptible to prosecutor's desires) would find adequate for an indictment of probable cause -- let alone conviction. It is a disgusting way for a prosecutor to smear anyone. There is no way to be "acquitted" because you are not on trial. Using this against CAIR is either malicious or ignorant. -- Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Awaskow@theshalomcenter.org Director, The Shalom Center. http://www.theshalomcenter.org
"Second, CAIR is not known to back extremist views." CAIR was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land charity scheme that funneled cash to terrorist groups in the mid-East - hardly a pacific group of people like they claim to be. If you listen to their saccharine sounding spokesmen, you do not get the impression that they love America, their supposed new land. As far as internment camps go, no one is suggesting the creation of these areas. The only time they have existed in America was during WWI, thanks to Woodrow Wilson - and then again during WWII, courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Both of these Presidents were Progressive socialists like our current Commander-in-Chief. Heads up if you in fact seriously harbor these fears. Congressman King does not espouse this view.
CAIR was an unindicted conspirator in the HOLY Land charity case that saw some Muslims to be guilty in funneling cash to Hamas and Hizbullah. They have NO clean hands, despite not being found guilty themselves. Listen to their spokesmen and tell me they love America. Balderdash! And stop creating strawmen about the Japanese internment comparison. Of course that was wrong and no one is advocating a mass expulsion of Muslims. But it was Woodrow Wilson (WWI) and FDR (WWII) who were behind those evils - both Progressive Democrats, by the way!
King is just talking tough to show how he is so much tougher on terror than Democrats. He is using the American Muslim community as a scapegoat to advance his own political career. His anti-Muslim assertions are based on Islamophobic myths, not facts. Politics as usual.
Honsy, there are a couple of things wrong with your argument. First of all, the viewpoint that you are coming from is all too similar to the one the United States had during the Japanese Internment. Just because we were at war with Japan meant that all Japanese were dangerous and deserved internment? We all know how big of an embarrassment that was. History just repeats itself over and over again, and what King is doing is too similar to the McCarthy era and the Japanese Internment. Second, CAIR is not known to back extremist views. Find me the evidence for that claim. CAIR is known to be the voice for individuals who don't have one, and because of their courage to be politically active, they are being attacked as an extremist organization. Learn to check your facts before you make generalized claims about an organization or a group of people.
"if CAIR backed extremeist shouldn't they be on the terror watch list?" Absolutely! But this administration is too busy condemning Israel for building apartment buildings in her capital of Jerusalem to find the time for that.
By saying that 80% of mosque supports terror how are you not blaming the whole muslim community? Also if CAIR backed extremeist shouldn't they be on the terror watch list?
Mr. anonymous above seems to think that Mr. King will be investigating ALL Muslims. Ridiculous! He only wants to look into groups like CAIR and their ilk who are known to back extremists who have said they want to see a Muslim flag fly over the White House one day - soon - and will do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. Major Hassan of Fort Hood infamy was the type of Muslim who indeed needed to have been investigated - not the NYC cab driver who is merely trying to make a living. This, of course, excludes the Muslim cab driver in Tennessee who ran over his fare when he exited his taxi upon learning that the passenger disagreed with his personal world view of a coming caliphate.
It is Un-American to be picking on a minority group (Muslims) here in our country who live by the rules peacefully. How hypocritical of Peter King, the man who supported terrorist group, IRA?! How dare he say that 80% of mosques in this country are run by radicals without any proof?! It is especially wrong to call on an ex-terrorist, Walid Pharres to testify against Muslims. He's the man who told people that if you kill a Palestinian, you go to heaven. We Muslim Americans have rights too and this ridiculous proposed hearing will isolate us. It's un-American to discriminate against all Muslims just because of a few radicals, haters of US from foreign countries.
So now it's un-American to investigate threats to our country from people who call us the Great Satan - and who vow to bring Sharia law to our nation by whatever means necessary? Who are these dupes who claim that Congressman King does not have America's best interests at heart? Could they be . . . Leftists in the pay of George Soros???
please get your facts straight......i am sure, some where somebody said america is the great satan, and who happen to be muslim. but that is not a tenet of the faith, I know lots of muslims, and i actually been to a mosque....its all about peace and respecting other religions, don't smite the whole religion because of some crazies....listen bro, its the true christian thing to not have such hate in your heart.....believe me,,,, it takes you down the wrong path...

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.