Denis McDonough, deputy national security adviser to President Obama, addressed a largely Muslim audience Sunday, just days before congressional hearings into Islamic terrorism in the United States, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
The hearings will be led by Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
"The bottom line is this: When it comes to preventing violent extremism and terrorism in the United States, Muslim Americans are not part of the problem; you're part of the solution," McDonough told members of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society.
Earlier Sunday, King said on CNN al-Qaida operatives were "attempting to recruit within the United States. People in this country are being self-radicalized."
The Obama administration is concerned that the hearings, which begin Thursday, could cause a rift with Muslim leaders, whose cooperation is needed to foil terrorist recruitment, officials said.
In his speech, McDonough said the Muslim community was vital to a larger strategy of curbing the radicalization of American youths.
"Our challenge, and the goal that President Obama has insisted that we also focus on, is on the front end: preventing al-Qaida from recruiting and radicalizing people in America in the first place," McDonough said. "And we know this isn't the job of government alone. It has to be a partnership with you -- the communities being targeted most directly by al-Qaida."
Imam Mohamed Magid told the Los Angeles Times Congress should not "single out" one segment of society and that Muslim leaders were working to defeat Islamic extremism.
Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., a Muslim, said on CNN investigating a particular religious minority "is the wrong course of action to take. I don't want them to be able to stand up and claim, you know, 'See, we told you, America is at war with Islam.' That's one of their main recruiting arguments."
In New York, between 300 and 500 people protested the hearings, The New York Times reported. Protesters called on King to expand the witness list to include other groups.
"That's absolute nonsense," King told The New York Times in a telephone interview. "The threat is coming from the Muslim community; the radicalization attempts are directed at the Muslim community. Why should I investigate other communities?"