As Rep. Peter King (R-NY) gears up this month for controversial hearings on the radicalization of the American Muslim community, a moderate Muslim organization is hosting a forum intended to air a discussion on how Muslim-Americans can work with law enforcement.
Haris Tarin of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) told TPM that while the event isn’t specifically tied to King’s hearings, his organization believed the briefing would be timely given the national conversation that has been happening about Muslim-Americans and law enforcement.
“What we wanted to do is to ensure that this did not become a partisan issue,” Tarin said. “We have people of various political leanings and various perspectives addressing the topic.”
Suhail Khan, the conservative Muslim and former Bush administration official who has been targeted by anti-Muslim groups for his involvement with the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) because they claim (despite the lack of evidence) that he’s a radical member of the Muslim Brotherhood, will be moderating MPAC’s panel.
“We don’t want to diminish the problem, but at the same time we want to put the problem into perspective and provide a nuanced point of view,” Tarin said.
Tarin said that there have been some Muslims who criticize particular FBI tactics, and said that would be a legitimate topic for discussion in a public forum and in partnership with law enforcement.
“I think there’s been some problems when it comes to the community outreach part of the FBI’s operations,” Tarin said. “There are folks within the Muslim community who have questioned some of the tactics that have been used by the FBI in apprehending individuals, specifically the use of informants.”
“It’s important to have that conversation in the open, and that’s why we’re having it in public. Of course the FBI is a law enforcement agency, they’re going to use law enforcement tactics. But there has to exist a robust partnership.”
Tarin said it was important to “get beyond all the politics” and create a “division of labor” between law enforcement and Muslim communities to prevent radicalization.
He said that King’s office had not reached out to MPAC about his forthcoming hearings.
“I think Congressman King has been very open with the fact that he has a specific approach he wants to take with approach to these hearings,” Tarin said.
He said he was concerned with comments that King has made in the past.
“The worry is that if it’s going to continue in the same direction as the claims that have been made, it’s not going to be productive and will result in political theater rather than addressing the problem at hand,” Tarin said.
Meanwhile, Muslim Advocates and 50 other faith, civil rights and human rights groups sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) asking them to object to King’s “divisive” hearings which they said were inconsistent with the vision of America.
“Singling out a group of Americans for government scrutiny based on their faith is
divisive and wrong,” they wrote. “It harkens back to hearings held in the 1950s by then-U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy.”
MPAC, which does not accept foreign funds, has become one of the Muslim organizations of choice for federal law enforcement. The FBI cut ties with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) after they were named as an unindicted coconspirator in a terror funding case, a fact affirmed by the Justice Department in a letter to lawmakers last year.
Others on Monday’s MPAC panel, titled “Muslims, Law Enforcement and National Security,” include Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst and current Director of the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation; Roger Cressey, Former Director for Transnational Threats at the National Security Council (NSC) and professor at Georgetown University; Sheriff Lee Baca, Los Angeles County Sheriff, Founder Muslim American Homeland Security Congress (MAHSC); Michael Downing, Deputy Chief of the Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau of Los Angeles Police Department; and MPAC’s Alejandro J. Beutel, who wrote a policy paper on countering violent extremism.