Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) much-maligned look into the Muslim threat within continues on Wednesday with a hearing on radicalization in American prisons.
Like King’s previous Homeland Security Committee hearings, his latest effort is already drawing protests from religious leaders who are concerned he’s unfairly stoking paranoia about Muslim Americans’ loyalty to their country. A group of Long Island civic and religious institutions organized a news conference on Tuesday to decry the prison hearing.
“If we found anyone in our community committing an act of terrorism, by the time the police got there the matter would be settled and there would be one less terrorist,” Imam Isa Abdul Kareem, a prison chaplain, told reporters.
Asked about the protests, King told CBS New York, “Unfortunately, these people are living in denial. … Al-Qaida is attempting to recruit in our country and it is a reality we cannot afford to hide from.”
The hearing has also drawn some derision among criminologists, who say that radicalization in prison is a highly complex issue that cuts across religious and cultural lines. The Washington Post’s Jason Ukman noted that a report released last year by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service concluded prisons, while “seen by some as potential hotbeds of radicalization, have not played a large role in producing homegrown terrorists.”
Previous hearings organized by King have produced some memorable moments. At the first of the current radicalization series in March, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), himself Muslim, was brought to tears as he testified about a Muslim 9/11 first responder falsely suspected of working with Al Qaeda after he was killed in the attack.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.