A controversial Congressional hearing on the radicalisation of American Muslims, held here on Thursday, was panned as being short on substance and high on emotion, with criticism heaped on the Chairman of the hearing, Republican Peter King of New York, in particular for “demonising” the Muslim community.
The most scathing criticism in the testimonies for the House of Representatives hearing on “The Extent of Radicalisation in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response”, was by Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who broke down in tears as he described the heroic sacrifice of Salman Hamdani, killed during the attacks of September 11, 2001. Mr. Hamdani, a paramedic who lost his life as a first-responder trying to assist those in the twin towers, ironically faced allegations of extremism before the truth of his patriotism and sacrifice came out. “Mohammed Salman Hamdani was a fellow American who gave his life for other Americans... His life should not be defined as a member of an ethnic group or a member of a religion, but as an American who gave everything for his fellow citizens,” Mr. Ellison said. A member of the hearing reportedly pointed out the irony that Mr. King had a reputation as a sympathiser of the militant Irish Republican Army during its heydays in the 1980s. Earlier this week thousands of protestors marched in New York's Times Square against the proposed hearing.
While the White House supported the hearings, it was equally careful to re-state President Barack Obama's position outlined in his Cairo speech in 2009 when he said: “Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism. It is an important part of promoting peace.” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said: “We have made clear that we welcome congressional engagement on this issue because we think it's an important issue. Our approach is that we do not believe that in America we should practise guilt by association.” Mr. Carney added it was because of the cooperation with the Muslim American community that the government was able to “do the things we are able to do to prevent attacks and it is that very cooperation that we seek going forward and that has been so helpful”.
Yet Mr. King appeared to be unapologetic about conducting the hearing. “I am well aware that these hearings have generated considerable controversy and opposition... But to back down would be a craven surrender to political pressure,” he said.