WASHINGTON -- The top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee attacked the premise of today's scheduled fifth hearing on radicalization within the Muslim-American community, saying he hoped they "did not perpetuate the notion that the United States is at war with Islam."
In a statement released late Tuesday, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) questioned the need for yet another session on the subject, given that since the first hearing in March 2011, al Qaeda's operations have been dealt massive blows with the killing of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al Awlaki and other terrorist leaders.
"In essence, the world has changed. But despite a changing world, which requires us to look forward, this Committee seems to want to look back," Thompson said. "We are holding today's hearing to discuss the effect of previous hearings. I am not sure we have ever had a hearing to gauge the effects of prior hearings."
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the committee's chairman, announced the hearing, titled "The American Muslim Response to Hearings on Radicalization within their Community," last week. In his statement, King said he had been "vilified by the politically correct media, pandering politicians and radical groups" for staging the hearings and said he planned a fifth to hear from Muslim witnesses on the impact of the previous hearings.
Thompson's office noted that none of the three majority witnesses have law enforcement experience and all support the New York Police Department's controversial surveillance program. Earlier this month, a group of Muslim-Americans filed the first lawsuit challenging the NYPD's program, which they say infringes on their constitutional rights of free speech, religion, assembly and due process.
"Given the challenges the nation faces in homeland security -- the ongoing problems at TSA; the ability of FEMA to meet the needs of disaster survivors; the effect of budget cuts on research and development within Science and Technology, just to name a few -- I am not sure that a hearing to gauge the effects of our hearings is the most effective use of Congressional time and attention," Thompson said.
The hearing is set to begin at 10:15 a.m. and can be seen live at the committee's website.