Congressional Committee Studies ‘Muslim Radicalization’ in US

Posted June 15th, 2011 at 7:20 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

A U.S. congressional committee has met once again to investigate what one lawmaker calls Islamic radicalization in the United States – a topic that has drawn criticism from Muslims and other groups.

The congressman who heads the panel, New York Republican Peter King, says he called the hearings because al-Qaida is actively trying to radicalize young Muslims in the United States. He says the danger is “real and present.”

Wednesday's session, the second meeting on the topic, focused on Muslims in U.S. prisons, with testimony from law enforcement officials and others.

Several state and local law enforcement officials told the panel that radical Islamic groups abroad are targeting the U.S. prison population for recruits to carry out terrorist attacks against Americans.

Some Democrats on the committee, however, protested the narrow focus of the hearing on one religious group. They say Congress should investigate a broad spectrum of domestic terrorist threats, including anti-government hate groups and white supremacists.

The committee's top Democrat, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, said it appears that instances of Islamic radicalization in prison are few, and that threats such as those posed by gangs, lone individuals, and right wing radicals should be pursued.

Michael Downing, a top official in the Los Angeles Police Department, described the prison conversions to radical Islam as a low-volume occurrence, but said it is of consequence considering the size of the U.S. prison population, the largest in the world.

He said prisoners are susceptible to recruitment by extremist groups because of their isolation, their violent tendencies and their cultural discontent.

When King's committee met three months ago for its first hearing on Muslim radicalization, emotions ran high on Capitol Hill. Testifying before a large crowd of reporters, activists and spectators, the first Muslim American elected to Congress, Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, broke down in tears as he spoke.

King on Wednesday dismissed the protests and criticism in March over the first hearing as “mindless hysteria.”