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Interfaith Clerics Criticize Radicalization Hearings


Representative Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 10, 2011

Representative Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 10, 2011

A coalition of interfaith clergy on Thursday said American Muslim leaders are being falsely accused of not helping U.S. law enforcement authorities fight terrorism. The religious leaders criticized a Congressional hearing that purported to investigate radicalization in U.S. mosques.

The rabbis, priests and imams stood, as the name of their coalition says, "shoulder-to-shoulder", in a room down the hall from where the Congressional hearing was held.

The Rev. Michael Kinnamon of the National Council of Churches said the hearing demonized a whole group because of the actions of a few. He said it would only serve al-Qaida's attempts to inspire homegrown terrorists in America. "Violent extremists want Muslim youth to think that this country is anti-Muslim, that American neighbors now view Muslims with suspicion as something not quite part of us," said Kinnamon.

The hearings were led by New York Republican Peter King, whose district on Long Island lost many residents in the September 11, 2001 attacks. King accused American Muslim leaders of not doing enough to prevent radicalization in their communities, and in some cases telling them to refuse to cooperate with police.

Mohamed Hagmagid Ali is president of the Islamic Society of North America. He's also the imam of a Washington area mosque that has collaborated with the FBI.

"Representative King would have been fair if he had really reached out (to present) which mosques have collaborated with law enforcement, how many cases the Muslim community have successfully reported, and led to arrests. That was absent, completely," he said.

The clerics pointed to a Duke University study which found that American Muslims themselves have been the largest source of tip-offs to police that helped prevent attacks.

Asked whether he feels Muslim leaders are doing enough, Rabbi Marc Shneier of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding said they have made great strides lately. "If you had posed that question to me ten years ago I would have had a different response," he said.

Some of the religious leaders here said the hearing would have been acceptable if it had not singled out the Muslim community. But some Muslim commentators outside Congress said it did offer Muslim leaders an opportunity to show the rest of America what they are doing to fight radicalization.

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