The Nov. 5, 2009, massacre, in which 29 people were wounded, is one in a growing number of cases of U.S. Muslims allegedly recruited or inspired by al-Qaida, U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., claims.
The House Homeland Security committee, which King chairs, is to convene the first in a series of hearings Thursday targeting alleged U.S. Muslim radicalization and the threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism.
"We're talking about the affiliates of al-Qaida who have been radicalizing, and there's been self-radicalization going on within the Muslim community -- within a very small minority, but it's there. And that's where the threat is coming from at this time," King told CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday.
Al-Qaida has allegedly changed its tactics and strategy and is now "attempting to recruit within the United States ... so it's an international movement with elements here in the United States," King claimed.
King's critics call him a modern-day Sen. Joe McCarthy, R-Wis., for targeting a single religious community when neo-Nazis, anti-abortion activists and other extremists also exist, ABC News reported.
McCarthy was noted in the 1950s for making claims large numbers of Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers were hiding in the United States. The Senate later censured him for his tactics and inability to substantiate his claims.
"The ideology of a bomb maker matters less than the lethal effects of his creation," Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the Homeland Security committee's ranking member, wrote in a February letter urging King to broaden the scope of the hearing.
Thompson and others point out that Jared Lee Loughner, the suspect in the Tucson shooting that wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and killed six others, is not Muslim.
"To single out Muslim Americans as the source of homegrown terrorism and not examine all forms of violence motivated by extremist belief -- that, my friends, is an injustice," Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, said at a "Today I am a Muslim too" rally in New York calling on King to expand his witness list.
A broad coalition of law-enforcement officials and civil liberties, religious and civic organizations will hold a conference call with reporters Tuesday to call King's hearings "divisive" and to contend they'll actually "make America less safe by undermining effective law enforcement," ABC News said.
About 65 percent of Americans hadn't heard about the hearings, but 56 percent said a hearing on American Muslim extremism was a good idea, a Feb. 16 poll indicated. Seventy percent or more of Republicans, people who trust Fox News and white evangelicals supported the hearing, while 50 percent or less of Democrats, people who trust CNN or public television and white mainline Protestants supported it, the PRRI/RNS Religion News Poll indicated.
Sixty-two percent said U.S. Muslims are an important part of the religious community, and 72 percent said Congress should investigate religious extremism anywhere it exists, not just among Muslims, the poll found.
The poll, based on phone interviews with 1,015 U.S. adults Feb. 11-13, had a margin of 3 percentage points.
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