U.S. House committee's investigation of Islamic radicalization stirs up controversy

14:18, June 09, 2011      

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by Mark Weisenmiller

The U.S. House Homeland Security Committee will hold another hearing next week on allegations of the radicalization of U.S. Muslims, which has stirred up controversy, especially among Muslim communities.

The first of these hearings held by the committee, chaired by House Representative Peter King took place in early March. The topic of next week's hearing will be purported Islamic radicalization in U.S. prisons, according to King's office.

But ever since the announcement by King last December that the investigation of domestic radicalization of Muslims would commence, it has been the subject of volatile conversations across the country.

Some people support the hearings on the belief that the committee's investigators are working to protect the safety of Americans.

"We think that he (King) is just doing his job as is expected from him. I think it (the hearings) will lead to some level of progress," said Shaikh Shafayat Mohamed, spiritual leader of the Darul Uloom Islamic Training Center in Pembroke Pines, Florida.

Not all Americans agree with Shaikh Mohamed's opinion. Some civil libertarians and Muslims believe that the hearings are nothing but a populist campaign directed against those having unorthodox or unpopular points of view from the majority of Americans.

"Rep. King is attempting to give himself a political boost in certain quarters at the expense of an America religious minority. Rep. King's hearings are a place for him to seek media attention. We do not believe that they contribute to the safety of the American public," stated Corey Saylor, National Legislative Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Ever since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the eastern United States, which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 2,600 to 3,000 people, Muslims living in the United States have had the living of their lives altered.

In 2010 and 2011, for example, anti-Islamic arsonists have burned mosques, or construction sites building mosques, in California, Michigan, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas.

Florida has been host to an unusually large number of anti-Islamic happenings.

In May of 2010, the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida was bombed. Sandlin Matthew Smith, 46, a suspect in the bombing, was shot dead by FBI agents in rural Oklahoma, when he waved a gun as the FBI agents were trying to serve him with an arrest warrant.

The Florida Family Policy Council (FFPC) -- a conservative Christian organization based in Orlando -- claimed that in 2010, its website was attacked and destroyed by a Muslim hacker who left an obscene message, according to the rebuilt FFPC website.

In the Florida Legislature in Tallahassee in March, two Republican lawmakers introduced a bill which desired to outlaw Islamic sharia law, which is a set of legal codes based on the Islamic holy book of the Koran.

Those who oppose Rep. King chairing the House hearings often base their beliefs on a number of things he has said in the past.

Although having claimed that the overwhelming majority of U.S. Muslims are "outstanding citizens," King also said that "80 to 85 percent of the mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists...This is an enemy living among us," without offering any proof to back the claim.

King also did not invite FBI Director Robert S. Mueller to the March hearings to provide verification of his claim that Muslim Americans do not always cooperate with investigators within these communities who are looking for extremists or terrorists.

Mueller testified in the following week before the House Judiciary Committee that, in a number of cases, the Muslim community has either initiated or cooperated with the investigation throughout the course of the investigation, "leading up to a successful disruption of the terrorist plot."

In an e-mail interview with Xinhua, Kathleen Wright, of the FBI National Press Office, said that many of the FBI field offices also partner with community outreach programs run by state and local law enforcement agencies. For example, since 2006, the Dallas (Texas) FBI office and Arlington Police have held joint quarterly meetings with leaders of the Muslim community in Tarrant County, in "a collaborative effort of the FBI and Arlington Police to engage the Muslim community leadership".

Despite such work by the FBI, anti-Islamic incidents are still taking place in the American South.

In early May, an Atlantic Southeast Airlines pilot for a flight from Memphis, Tennessee, to Charlotte, North Carolina, stopped the plane in the process of taxiing away, and returned it to the terminal at the Memphis International Airport. He made the decision after spotting two Muslim passengers onboard the plane: Masudur Rahman, an adjunct instructor of Arabic at the University of Memphis, and Mohamed Zaghloul. Both of them were wearing clothing favored by Muslims, such as white hats and tunics.

Despite twice being cleared by Transportation Security Administration agents, the pilot still refused to fly the airplane to Charlotte. Delta Air Lines, which owns Atlantic Southeast Airlines, apologized to both men and put them on a subsequent flight to Charlotte.

Source: Xinhua
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