Representative Peter King’s third installment in a series of hearings examining domestic Muslim radicalization, held Wednesday on Capitol Hill, didn’t have a particularly inflammatory topic—the committee was exploring the real, albeit rather minor, problem of radicalization among Somali-Americans. But ever the showman, King began the hearing by throwing some bloody meat to the packed hearing room and the conservative media that lay beyond.
In Monday’s New York Times, columnist Roger Cohen labeled King an “ideological fellow traveler” of Anders Breivik, the Oslo shooter, because King’s frequent Islamophobia. (Cohen didn’t get specific, but for example, King has said there are “too many mosques in this country.”)
In his opening remarks Wednesday, King tore into the newspaper. “I note that certain elements of the politically correct media, most egregiously the vacuous ideologues at the New York Times, are shamelessly attempting to exploit the horrific tragedy in Norway to cause me to refocus these hearings away from Muslim-American radicalization,” King said.
“If they had even a semblance of intellectual honesty, the Times and the others would know and admit that there is no equivalency in the threat to our homeland from a deranged gunman and the international terror apparatus of Al Qaeda and its affiliates who are recruiting people in this country and have murdered thousands of Americans in their jihad attacks.”
King then went on to characterize his hearings as “liberating and empowering” to “many Muslim-Americans” who “are now able to come forward,” and closed by invoking the victims of the September 11 attacks.
From there, the hearing didn’t have too many fireworks—committee members questioned law enforcement officials and other experts about the recruiting efforts of Al Shabaab, a group fighting to overthrow the Somali government. Al Shabaab has successfully recruited about forty Somalis from the Minneapolis area to join their cause, including Shirwa Ahmed, who drove a truck bomb into a Somali government building in 2008.
Notably, Al Shabaab only seems interested in recruiting Americans to fight the Somali government—not the American one—but it’s at least something the House Committee on Homeland Security might reasonably investigate. This is in contrast to King’s first two hearings; the first one was general enough to potentially indict all Muslim-Americans, and as I reported last month, the second hearing discussed Islamic radicalization in prisons but offered no actual examples of terrorists converted behind bars.
In any case, practical inquiry into Al Shabaab’s efforts frequently devolved into nonsense. With a thick Southern drawl, Representative Jeff Duncan of South Carolina offered his advice for “eye-mams” in American mosques. “In my church, I’m Baptist, we sing patriotic hymns about America, we talk about American greatness, we talk about freedom of religion and separation of that and government, and our founding fathers’ creating of this land,” he said. “That’s what I would hope the imams in the mosque would begin to talk about.”
Later, Texas Democratic Representative Al Green engaged in a protracted exercise of asking the witnesses what they knew about the physical characteristics of Colleen LaRose, a Pennsylvania woman known as “Jihad Jane” for her amateur efforts to join an Islamic resistance movement. Hurried along by a frustrated King, Green cut to the chase and asked each witness to raise his hand if he knew Jihad Jane was white. (Even King hasn’t suggested that only dark-skinned people are subject to Islamic radicalization).
During the hearing, King’s staff released a report into Al Shabaab radicalization efforts, which is useful insofar as it goes. But with Al Shabaab out of the way, where will the committee turn next?
Given his tirade against the New York Times at the start of today’s hearing, perhaps King will aim directly at the liberal media. He does, after all, view them—and liberals “in general”—as complicit with Al Qaeda. In an April interview with National Review Online, King described a “liberal psychological disorder” that actively helps terrorists.
“There’s no doubt that radical Islamists in this country have become a protected force,” he said. “All of the radical Muslim groups such as CAIR, their allies in the media, and liberals in general have just rallied to their defense…. The New York Times trips over itself defending [radical Islamists].” Perhaps Jill Abramson should watch her mailbox for a subpoena.