On Sunday, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough gave a speech at a Muslim center in Virginia, highlighting the Obama administration’s attempts at “engagement” with Muslim communities. On Thursday, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, will hold hearings on the “radicalization” of American Muslims. And while McDonough didn’t mention King, The New York Times calls the timing of the speech “no accident.”
“We must resolve that, in our determination to protect our nation, we will not stigmatize or demonize entire communities because of the actions of a few,” McDonough told those gathered at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) center on Sunday. “In the United States of America, we don’t practice guilt by association. And let’s remember that just as violence and extremism are not unique to any one faith, the responsibility to oppose ignorance and violence rests with us all.”
McDonough acknowledged that radicalization has become a threat in the U.S., but he spoke about working with Muslim communities to fight it, and helping communities “protect themselves,” too. He credited “good intelligence, effective law enforcement and community partnerships” with having thwarted several plots.
“Of course, disrupting plots is dealing with this threat at the back end, after individuals have succumbed to violent extremism,” he said. “Our challenge, and the goal that President Obama has insisted that we also focus on, is on the front end — preventing al Qaeda from recruiting and radicalizing people in America in the first place. And we know this isn’t the job of government alone. It has to be a partnership with you — the communities being targeted most directly by al Qaeda.”
Also on Sunday, protesters gathered in Times Square in New York City for a “Today, I Am A Muslim, Too” rally, opposing King’s hearings.
Back in December, after King first announced his intention to hold the hearings, a spokesperson for Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), then-chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told TPM that King’s idea could “chill collaboration.” King rejected Thompson’s call to widen the scope of the hearings to include non-Muslims as well.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com